Saturday, December 20, 2014


For the week beginning Sunday December 21, 2014

(A funeral song for Israel’s kings)
Ezekiel 18-19

In Ezekiel 18 the prophet Ezekiel receives yet another message from GOD, this time regarding HIS sovereignty and righteousness in judgment, and how we are all, as individuals, responsible for our own actions and behavior. In chapters 15-17 Ezekiel had already delivered three other messages, or parables that were designed to convict the nation of Judah of her sins against GOD. Here in this chapter, the prophet’s message returns to the bluntness necessary to drive home to Judah, their personal, individual responsibility for their own iniquities.
He begins this chapter with a proverb that must have been very familiar to Israel, because it had also been quoted by the prophet Jeremiah, just a few years earlier (Jeremiah 31:29). Here GOD asks Ezekiel about this proverb since it had been circulating among the Israelites for some time now. The proverb states that, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children’s mouths pucker at the taste” (Ezekiel 18:2 - NLT).
The point of this proverb was that, the children of Israel believed that they were suffering because of the sins of their parents. In other words, the Israelites felt that GOD was punishing them because of the sins of their ancestors, and not because of any fault of their own, and this of course, was ridiculous. In fact, the very thought of this proverb depicts GOD as being “unjust”. GOD saw a great need to refute this false doctrine, and so HE called it to the attention of HIS prophet Ezekiel. Like most false doctrine, a trace of truth is used in order to make it sound plausible, and this particular proverb was no exception.
In the “Decalogue” (Ten Commandments) of GOD’s Word (Exodus 20:5, 34:6-7, & Deuteronomy 5:9), we see a few examples of where GOD talks about punishing the children of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate HIM. However, the whole point of these passages is that “the effects of sin are serious and long-lasting”, not that GOD punishes the innocent for their ancestors evils literally. There is always a chance that our iniquities and mistakes will affect others at some future date, but that backlash lies with us as responsible human beings, not with GOD. GOD gives us wills that are free (freedom of choice), and our choices always, invariably, will affect someone else, be they family members or not, in the future.
Here in this passage, GOD presents us three hypothetical case examples to show how we as individuals are responsible for our own choices in life:

·         In case number one HE presents to us, the example of a righteous man who does what is lawful and right under GOD. He does not worships idols, or engage in forbidden sexual activities such as adultery, homosexuality, etc. He is merciful to his creditors, does not rob the poor, he gives food to the hungry and provides clothing to those in need. He gives loans without interest, stays away from injustice, and faithfully considers at all times, what is right by GOD. This particular person is just, and will be honored, and be allowed to live with GOD in eternity.
·         In case number two GOD presents us with another supposition. Suppose the son of that same righteous man grew up to be a robber, or a murderer and just refuses to do right, in fact, he does exactly the opposite of the father. Should such a sinful person go unpunished because of the reputation of his father? No! GOD says, that person must be punished according to his own iniquities, and not spared because of his father’s righteous behavior.
·         In the third case scenario GOD says, “Suppose that sinful son, in turn, has a son, who sees his father’s wickedness and decides against that kind of lifestyle” for himself. He, instead, chooses to live the righteous lifestyle of his grandfather. That son will not be punished because of his father’s sins, but rather will be blessed as his grandfather was. And bear in mind, it is not because of his grandfather’s righteous choices and decisions that he is blessed, but rather, it will be because he himself personally made the right choices under GOD.

When we blame others for our faults and misfortunes, we inevitably deny our own guilt, and, through human ingenuity, claim innocence and perfection, that, in our own minds, justify our sinful behavior against GOD. In this passage of scripture, GOD is clearly saying, in no uncertain terms, that, “the person who sins is the person who pays the consequences”, not our children, and, not anyone else.
Every human being has to make an account for the deeds done in his or her lifetime. GOD will judge each of us according to our own actions, good or bad, and so we must turn away from our sins and be drawn instead to the more GODly things in life, lest we allow our sins to destroy us. We have to put our rebellious ways behind us, in order that we may grasp and obtain “a new heart” (new GODly way of thinking), and “a new SPIRIT” (new GODly influence), walking in “the newness of life”, that is, CHRIST JESUS. When we make the right and GODly decisions, GOD’s mercy towards us will “win out” over HIS judgment against us (James 2:13b).
GOD does not wish to see any of us perish by permanently separating ourselves from HIM through our sins. Instead, HE wishes for us live eternally with HIM through our new found relationship with CHRIST JESUS. GOD does not enjoy punishing us for sins, but rather HE relishes in the thought that we will choose to be blessed by HIM for our obedience.
GOD’s wish has always been that all men will be saved by their freedom to choose CHRIST JESUS over the lure of satan, who wishes for us to lose our hearts to the temporal pleasures of this world, and thereby, follow him into the pits of Hell.
In Ezekiel 19 we see a “dirge”, “lament”, or, “funeral song” composed especially for the kings of Israel (who are actually referred to as “princes” in this passage) who had led the nation into sin and rebellion against GOD. This is the first of five funeral songs in the book of Ezekiel, the one here directed against Israel, three others that were directed against Tyre (26:17-18, 27:32-36, 28:12-19), and a fourth directed against Egypt (32:1-16).
These songs are usually recited in honor of the dead, and they expressed the good qualities of that person, and the tragedy felt by their death. Israel’s last human hope was that Zedekiah would be able to free them from the yoke of oppression that was put on them, in their minds, by Nebuchadnazzer. They still hadn’t accepted the fact that it was GOD, not Babylon, who was in control of their destiny.
Here in chapter 19 Ezekiel dashes Israel’s false hopes in a funeral lament that is chanted over Israel’s leaders, specifically, Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, the last three “cubs of the lioness”, in “the Davidic Line of kings”. Jehoahaz had been captured and taken to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco, where he later died. Jehoiachin had already been captured by the Babylonians in their first invasion in 605 B.C., and now Zedekiah, was destined to be taken into captivity in Babylon in less than five years (586 B.C.). And so Israel’s obituary is written well before the ultimate fall of Jerusalem, and it was being sung here for the Davidic Dynasty, and the end of its rule (Vs.1-9).
In verse 10-14, we see encrypted into this funeral song, the fourth of the Old Testament’s five “Vineyard Analogies” that GOD uses to depict the nation of Israel.

10“Your mother was like a vine
    planted by the water’s edge.
It had lush, green foliage
    because of the abundant water.
11 Its branches became strong—
    strong enough to be a ruler’s scepter.
It grew very tall,
    towering above all others.
It stood out because of its height
    and its many lush branches.
12 But the vine was uprooted in fury
    and thrown down to the ground.
The desert wind dried up its fruit
    and tore off its strong branches,
so that it withered
    and was destroyed by fire.
13 Now the vine is transplanted to the wilderness,
    where the ground is hard and dry.
14 A fire has burst out from its branches
    and devoured its fruit.
Its remaining limbs are not
    strong enough to be a ruler’s scepter.
“This is a funeral song, and it will be used in a funeral.” (NLT)
Ezekiel had already stated in chapters 16 and 17 just why Israel went from a state of blessings, to a state of disaster. Israel (the vine) had forgotten the source of her blessing, and here in this analogy, we can clearly see how Israel’s past glory contrasted sharply with the condition that she now appears to be in, in the final years leading up to the Babylonian invasion and destruction, at the hands of Nebuchadnazzer, the worker of GOD’s judgment.
We know now that ultimately, Israel fell to Babylon, and GOD’s judgment also affected the royal Davidic line of kings. These prophecies against Judah, all focus on her history and that history now records, that, after Zedekiah, no king from the Davidic line ever replaced him. In fact, it will not be until CHRIST returns, that a ROYAL KING, in the line of David (JESUS) will come to reign, not only over Israel, but indeed, over the whole world. 

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, December 5, 2014


For the week beginning Sunday December 7, 2014

(GOD’s judgment on her prostitution)
Ezekiel 16-17

Being “chosen” was never supposed to be used by the Jewish people as a source of “pride”, but rather, it was supposed to be a reminder of how gracious GOD was to them when HE took something that had rendered itself to be useless and unwanted (the useless vine in chapter 15), gave it life, and then, made it into something beautiful, powerful, and respected, throughout the world.
In Ezekiel 16, GOD gave HIS prophet Ezekiel a message that strongly depicts Jerusalem as “an unfaithful wife” who prostituted herself at “no charge” to her clients. Here GOD says that the Israelites were acting no different than the Canaanite people, that HE had replaced with them, and that, they were acting as if their father were an Amorite, and their mother a Hittite (Vs.1-3).
In ancient times, female off springs were often unwanted, and were sometimes abandoned and left to die (Vs.4-5). Here GOD uses this unpleasant fact of life to depict the way HE found Israel. HE says they were abandoned at birth and no one took the slightest interest in their welfare. GOD found them, gave them life, and helped them to thrive as they grew into “a beautiful jewel”. GOD clothed them, nourished them, adorned them, made a covenant with them, and made them HIS own (Vs.6-14).
Taking up at verse 15, against the backdrop of all of GOD’s grace, Israel suddenly decided that she could live without having GOD fully involved in her life, and her pride slowly led her from under the protection of GOD, and into the vulnerable atmosphere of the world. She became like a prostitute who wouldn’t collect her fee, because she had become blinded to the fact of her own immorality. In fact, she was now actually paying the pagan partners of her “spiritual prostitution”, by using the very jewels, silver, and gold that GOD had given her, to build statutes and shrines for the men she grew to worship in the world (Vs.15-19).
The orphaned child (Israel) that GOD had saved and enriched beyond measure, was now abandoning HIM, becoming a spiritual and moral prostitute, who was exhibiting unbridled passion for the world around her. And the fact that GOD had raised her up to the highest pinnacle possible in life (GOD’s chosen people), made her actions all the more reprehensible, and her judgment, all the more certain.
Beginning in verse 35 Ezekiel delivers this resounding message of judgment against Judah for her immoral acts against the GOD WHO raised her up and gave her hope:

“Therefore, you prostitute, listen to this message from the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you have poured out your lust and exposed yourself in prostitution to all your lovers, and because you have worshiped detestable idols, and because you have slaughtered your children as sacrifices to your gods,  this is what I am going to do. I will gather together all your allies—the lovers with whom you have sinned, both those you loved and those you hated—and I will strip you naked in front of them so they can stare at you.  I will punish you for your murder and adultery. I will cover you with blood in my jealous fury.  Then I will give you to these many nations who are your lovers, and they will destroy you. They will knock down your pagan shrines and the altars to your idols.  They will strip you and take your beautiful jewels, leaving you stark naked. They will band together in a mob to stone you and cut you up with swords.  They will burn your homes and punish you in front of many women. I will stop your prostitution and end your payments to your many lovers” (Vs.35-41-NLT).

GOD’s judgment upon Judah would put an end to her prostitution, and only after her destruction would the LORD’s jealous anger be satisfied. And don’t think that GOD is being petty or vindictive in HIS actions against Jerusalem. GOD meting out judgment is a very essential part of HIS holiness.
Starting in verse 46, we see the second part of Ezekiel’s parable being laid out. It is an analogy between Jerusalem and her sisters, Samaria and Sodom. Whereas Jerusalem already had a proverb concerning her fate, here GOD gives her another one, which says, “Like mother, like daughter” (v.44). It meant that “the traits of the parent were seen in the children”, and that Judah’s actions were characteristic of her heritage. Here GOD tells Judah, through Ezekiel, that;

“Your older sister was Samaria, who lived with her daughters in the north.  Your younger sister was Sodom, who lived with her daughters in the south. But you have not merely sinned as they did. You quickly surpassed them in corruption.  As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters.  Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.  She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.  “Even Samaria did not commit half your sins. You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did. They seem righteous compared to you.  Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.  “But someday I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and Samaria, and I will restore you, too.  Then you will be truly ashamed of everything you have done, for your sins make them feel good in comparison.  Yes, your sisters, Sodom and Samaria, and all their people will be restored, and at that time you also will be restored.  In your proud days you held Sodom in contempt.  But now your greater wickedness has been exposed to all the world, and you are the one who is scorned—by Edom and all her neighbors and by Philistia.  This is your punishment for all your lewdness and detestable sins, says the Lord” (Vs. 46-58 – NLT).

All three of the cities mentioned, Samaria, Sodom, and Jerusalem could be likened to each other, because all three had chosen the lifestyle of a prostitute against GOD, by way of their idolatry and other sins. Sodom was destroyed by fire from Heaven (Genesis 18-19), and Samaria, at one time, the capital city of Northern Israel, was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and so, how could Jerusalem, whom GOD says had done much worse than those  other two, expect to fare any better than they did?
And even though the people of Israel never showed any real commitment to GOD’s covenant, GOD certainly did show HE was committed to them. That is why the restoration of Jerusalem would be assured, and GOD would actually go beyond this mess with HIS wife, Israel, and make an atonement so great, that it would not only reclaim HIS chosen people, but would also draw to HIMSELF, all the Gentile nations of the world, as well.
In Ezekiel 17 we find the parable, or the “allegory” (hidah) of the two eagles. These parables depict the rebellion of King Zedekiah of Jerusalem, against King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king whom GOD appointed to ultimately destroy Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
In verse 2 Ezekiel is told by GOD to deliver this message (Vs.3-10), in the form of a riddle, to the people of Israel;

“A great eagle with broad wings and long feathers,
    covered with many-colored plumage,
    came to Lebanon.
He seized the top of a cedar tree
     and plucked off its highest branch.
He carried it away to a city filled with merchants.
    He planted it in a city of traders.
 He also took a seedling from the land
    and planted it in fertile soil.
He placed it beside a broad river,
    where it could grow like a willow tree.
 It took root there and
    grew into a low, spreading vine.
Its branches turned up toward the eagle,
    and its roots grew down into the ground.
It produced strong branches
    and put out shoots.
 But then another great eagle came
    with broad wings and full plumage.
So the vine now sent its roots and branches
    toward him for water,
even though it was already planted in good soil
    and had plenty of water
so it could grow into a splendid vine
    and produce rich leaves and luscious fruit.
 “So now the Sovereign Lord asks:
Will this vine grow and prosper?
    No! I will pull it up, roots and all!
I will cut off its fruit
    and let its leaves wither and die.
I will pull it up easily
    without a strong arm or a large army.
 But when the vine is transplanted,
    will it thrive?
No, it will wither away
    when the east wind blows against it.
It will die in the same good soil
    where it had grown so well.”

In this enigmatic verse of scripture, “the first eagle” represents Nebuchadnezzar, and “Lebanon” (the land of great cedars) represents Jerusalem. The eagle goes to Lebanon (Jerusalem) and clips “the top of a cedar tree” (King Jehoiachin), and replants the bough in a city known for trade (Babylon). This referred to Nebuchadnezzar’s previous attack on Jerusalem in 597 B.C., when he re-established his control over the city, and then, deposed King Jehoiachin, carrying him back to Babylon in chains.
Nebuchadnezzar was not totally heartless in his siege, however, as he also took with him several young Jewish nobles (some of the seeds of the land) who could carry on in their tradition of worshipping the Almighty GOD of Heaven WHO sent him. And although he had greatly weakened Jerusalem, he did not totally destroy it at this time. Instead, he placed Zedekiah (a low spreading vine) in charge of Jerusalem as a “Vassal King”, and had him to “swear by the GOD of Israel” to be loyal to him.  
Then another eagle (Egypt) came along and influenced Zedekiah to break his oath, join them, and rebel against Babylon, and the plan of GOD. The results of Zedekiah’s rebellion, of course, were a disaster and “the low spreading vine” (Zedekiah) was stripped of its fruit.
In verses 22-24, in order to keep the people from becoming totally dejected and without hope, GOD promises through HIS prophet Ezekiel, that HE will take “another tender shoot” (JESUS) from “the top of a tall cedar” (the Davidic Line), and plant it on the top of Israel’s highest mountain. It (JESUS) will become a noble cedar, sending forth branches and producing seed. “Birds of every sort” (Jews and Gentiles) will come to rest in it, finding shelter in its branches. And all the trees will know that it is HE, the LORD, WHO cuts down the tall tree, and helps the short tree, to grow tall. It is GOD WHO makes the green tree wither, and HE has the power to make the dead tree, live again.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website