The Today's Light Bible reading for Monday, March 19, 2018 is Ezekiel 22:1-23:49
"Learn from others' mistakes" is wise counsel. But it is often ignored. There's something about human nature that convinces us we won't endure the terrible consequences that other people face because of bad choices and foolish actions when we make the same bad choices and do the same foolish things. Picturing them as two sisters, one for the Northern Kingdom ...and one for the Southern Kingdom, God warned His people that they would suffer His wrath if they persisted in their idolatry. But they would not listen. In time, the Northern Kingdom was defeated and destroyed by the Assyrians. The Lord warned the people of the Southern Kingdom that they would face the same fate if they would not turn away from their idols. Their response was foolish. "Her sister Oholibah [i.e., the Southern Kingdom] saw this, yet in her lust and prostitution she was more depraved than her sister … I saw that she too defiled herself; both of them went the same way" (Ezek. 23:11-13). We see the foolishness of the Southern Kingdom for not learning from the Northern Kingdom's mistakes, but how often have we done the same thing? We see the terrible consequences of sin, but we look past it to the deceptive allure of temptations and are snared by our evil desires. We should have to face the full consequences of our foolishness just as Judah was told, "You will drink your sister's cup, a cup large and deep" (Ezek. 23:32). But we have been spared from the fate that we deserve. Rather than "drink our sister's cup," we have a Brother who has drunk that cup for us. Although He had no sin of His own, but was pure and undefiled, He became sin for us. Jesus was handed over to His enemies, stripped, taken away, and killed for our adultery and prostitution -- for all of the "mistakes" that we have made because we did not learn from the mistakes of others. However, through His selfless sacrifice we have learned of something far better: His incredible mercy, grace, and love.
This week is Week 64 in the Today's Light Bible reading schedule. Our readings in Ezekiel are great reminders to us that all of the Prophets were sent by the Lord to point us to the Christ. We often find overt references to and vivid descriptions of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection in the prophets. As Martin Luther has been quoted as saying, "Christ is on every page of the Old Testament." May you encounter Him in this week's readings.
Monday, March 19, 2018
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Friday, March 23, 2018
Saturday, March 24, 2018
The Today's Light Bible reading for Friday, March 16, 2018 is Ezekiel 18:1-19:14
We value fairness, at least fairness as we understand it. We consider it fair that each person should bear the consequences of their own actions and decisions and not expect someone else to bear them. Yet, as a nation we have accumulated trillions of dollars of debt that we have no way of paying off in our lifetime and will leave it for our children and grand...children to deal with. That's not fair. What we've done with money, the people of Israel did spiritually. They sinned against the Lord and expected to escape the judgments with which He had threatened them. Given God's track record, they weren't afraid of God doing anything quickly and they concluded that their children or grandchildren would end paying their debt. They mistook God's patience for inaction. They didn't understand that the Lord takes "no delight in the death of anyone" (Ezek. 18:32). They also didn't understand God's justice. "Every living soul belongs to Me … The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Ezek. 18:4) makes it clear that we all belong to the Lord and we are all accountable to Him. Whoever falls short of complete obedience to His Law accumulates a sin debt that must be paid. Under God's justice, no debt goes unpaid and passed down to others. As a result, no one is righteous before Him. But there is a Righteous Man who has kept the Law perfectly: Jesus Christ. On the Cross of Calvary, Jesus took our debt upon Himself and gave us the righteousness of His obedience. He paid our debt with His life to satisfy God's justice. It was grossly unfair, but it was the only way to deliver us from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. "Are My ways unjust?" the Lord asks His people (Ezek. 18:29). No, they are not. God is always just, but thankfully He chose to be unfair to us in Christ Jesus.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Thursday, March 15, 2018 is Ezekiel 16:1-17:24
God used a vivid allegory to tell the story of Israel so that they would remember what they were before He made them great and realize how they had abused God's favor. He pictured the nation as an unwanted child discarded at birth. Helpless and hopeless, this child would have certainly perished had the Lord not shown compassion on her. He adopted her, gave ...her life, and filled her life with every good thing. Yet this child rebelled against her Savior and chose the way of sin, destruction, and death. This was the story of Israel. It was too late for her to repent, even if she would. Her punishment was set. But this is also the story for each one of us. We were born into certain spiritual death. We were helpless and hopeless until the Lord showed us His compassion. He adopted us as His children, gave us life in Christ, and filled our lives with every good thing. What has been your response to God's love and compassion? What have you done with the life that He has given to you? How have you made use of the good things that He has entrusted to you? Most of us have to confess that we have not responded as we should and that we have misused God's gifts. Like unfaithful Israel, we deserve to be punished for our unfaithfulness. But we will not be punished for our unfaithfulness because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Through His obedient life and sacrificial death, we have been made the heirs of God's promise to "establish an everlasting covenant" with His people (Ezek. 16:60). In this covenant He has bathed us with the water of Holy Baptism, washed us in His blood, clothed us in His righteousness, and adorned us with His splendor.
The Today's Light Biblw reading for Wednesday, March 14, 2018 is Ezekiel 14:1-15:8
The Lord was angry with His people for setting up idols and worshiping them. He rebuked them for setting up their idols under trees and on the high places. He removed His glory from the Temple because they had even set up idols in the Holy Place. But the most destructive place in which the people of Judah had set up idols was in their hearts. "Son of man," ...the Lord spoke to Ezekiel, "these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces." Then He asked His prophet, "Should I let them inquire of Me at all?" (Ezek. 14:3). Because He is merciful, the Lord allowed His idolatrous people to inquire of Him. His answer to their inquiries was consistently "Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!" (Ezek. 14:6). It's a message that is as urgent today as ever, especially because people today reject the idea that they have set up idols. They think of idols as carved images or sacred statues. They can't see that the things of the world that they love and trust in instead of God are idols. They don't understand that they have set up idols in the most destructive place of all: in their hearts. It is only by God's grace that we have been rescued from that same damning idolatry. He torn down the idols of our hearts when He gave us new hearts; hearts in which He alone is enthroned forever.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Tuesday, March 13, 2018 is Ezekiel 12:1-13:23
The Lord gave instructions to Ezekiel to demonstrate His Word to the people of Jerusalem. "During the daytime, while they watch, bring out your belongings packed for exile … for I have made you a sign to the house of Israel" (Ezek. 12:4,6). God made Ezekiel to be a "sign," which is different than being an example. An example would have showed the people of J...erusalem how to do something. A sign showed them what the Lord was doing and how it would affect them. Ezekiel's exercise was of little value as an example, but was a powerful sign to the people whom God called rebellious and described as those who "have eyes but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear" (Ezek. 12:2). In much the same way, we are called to be signs rather than simply examples to the rebellious people of our age. When we fail to realize that we are signs and live only as examples, the people around us can't see the impact that Christ has had in our lives. In fact, our example may even give them cause to question if Christ has made any difference in us. But because we are signs of God's love, our experiences as those who have received forgiveness, life, and salvation through Christ is a powerful testimony that even those who are rebellious, spiritually blind, and spiritually deaf can find comfort, peace, and joy in the God who gave Himself as a sign of His grace and mercy.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Monday, March 12, 2018 is Ezekiel 10:1-11:25
The people of Judah had become so hardened against the Lord and His Word that He withdrew His presence from them. It's not that they were entirely without God's presence, after all He is present everywhere in His creation and "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). No human being living in our world knows what it is like to be without God's... presence. What the people lost wasn't God's presence entirely, but His presence as their God and Savior. They had chosen to worship idols instead of Him. They had refused to listen to His urgent appeal to repent and to return to Him. They even defiled His sanctuary, the place of His Presence. So God gave them over to their hardened hearts. We were no less deserving of God withholding His Presence from us and giving us over to our sinful hearts. But rather than withdraw from us, God came near to us. He took on human flesh to live and die for us. By His grace, we have been joined to Christ in Holy Baptism through which God has circumcised our hearts (see Colossians 2:11-12). We have experienced the fulfillment of God's promise to "give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 11:19). And we are confident of His presence with us because He has assured us "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20) and "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
It's Week 63 in the Today's Light Bible reading schedule. This week we'll continue reading our readings in Ezekiel.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Friday, March 16, 2018
Saturday, March 17, 2018
The Today's Light Bible reading for Saturday, March 10, 2018 is Ezekiel 8:1-9:11
The Lord repeats the phrase "you will see still greater abominations" several times as He shows the prophet Ezekiel the various ways in which His people were being unfaithful to Him. And then He shows Ezekiel the "greater abominations." Compared to the horrible things that happen in our world today, the spiritual unfaithfulness of the people of Israel doesn't... strike us as particularly "abominable." Mass shootings, human trafficking, increased homelessness, abortion-on-demand, and a host of other terrible things that flood our daily lives seem a lot more "abominable" than worshipping something other than the true God. We've grown callous to the offense of idolatry and indifferent to the plight of those who practice it. With horror we read of the terrible fate of those who rejected the Lord at the hands of the destroyers He sends. At the same time, we turn a deaf ear to the pleas of the people around us who are perishing apart from faith in Jesus Christ. If only we could see what Ezekiel saw in this vision. Instead we are often blind to the many different " abominations" of our age that hold people captive to sin and death. How will they escape the terrible judgment that awaits them? Only in the same way that we have escaped it. We've been marked in the waters of Baptism and sealed as the people of God. Joined to Christ by grace through faith, we have been spared from the punishments that we deserved because of our idolatry. And we have been sent to bring the Good News of Jesus to those who are perishing. We have seen "greater abominations," but we have also been blessed to see the greater mercy and grace of God.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Friday, March 9, 2018 is Ezekiel 6:1-7:27
Sometimes a problem is so extensive that we can't see that it’s a problem. It takes someone from the outside, someone who can see what we can't see, to point it out to us. The people of Israel and the people of Judah had a problem like this. God could see their problem and knew what the consequences of it would be for His people. He sent prophets to point out th...e problem to them, but they wouldn't listen to them. After much patience and longsuffering, God sent Ezekiel to proclaim that "The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come!" (Ezek. 7:6). They would now bear the consequences of the problem that they would not acknowledge and continued to practice. What is particularly troubling is that we have the same problem that they did and, like them, we don't see it as a problem. What is this persistent and destructive problem? It is idolatry. While it takes many forms and is expressed in different ways, idolatry continues to be an extensive problem for us. Our pursuit of worldly wealth, status, property, security, influence, etc. in place of wholehearted dedication to the Lord is a deceptive and destructive idolatry. The Lord could say of us what He said of His people of long ago "I have been grieved by the adulterous hearts, which have turned away from Me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols" (Ezekiel 6:9). Instead, He has redeemed us from our idolatry, washed away our adultery, and established us as His people by His love, grace, and mercy. We have a great and serious problem, but we have an answer to our problem that is far greater: Jesus.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Thursday, March 8, 2018 is Ezekiel 3:1-5:17
Many people today dismiss the idea that God will judge and punish them. They've constructed for themselves a lop-sided god of love-without-justice and worship it as an idol. But their idol is not a god of love at all, only a god of permissiveness. The true God is the God of love, even when it's hard to love and the love must be tough. For the sake of preservi...ng His people and to keep the promises that He had made to Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc., God acted decisively in order to prevent the nation from destroying itself. It's significant that God repeatedly tells His people that He was the one acting against them. "I Myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you … I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the wind … I Myself will withdraw My favor; I will not look on you with pity or spare you … I will shoot to destroy you … I will bring the sword against you" (Ezek. 5:8, 10, 11, 16, 17). God justly acts against those who defile Him. He punishes them for their sins and unfaithfulness. The only one way to escape the righteous wrath of the Lord is to satisfy His justice. But there is nothing that we are capable of doing that can appease Him and there is nothing that we can pay to redeem ourselves. This is why God Himself did what it took to appease Himself and paid the price of our redemption. Through the blood of Jesus, and only through His blood, we are spared from God's justice and live in His love, mercy, and grace. Jesus has acted on our behalf to take our punishment, die our death, and suffer the hell that we deserved. God did it … in justice and in love.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Wednesday, March 7, 2018 is Ezekiel 1:1-2:10
The vision of the Lord that came to Ezekiel was so glorious that he couldn't really describe it. Using rich and descriptive symbols, he portrayed what no human being can imagine. But more importantly than what he saw, Ezekiel heard the Lord speak to him. "I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me" (Ezek. 2:3). Eze...kiel may have had trouble understanding what he saw, but God's Word to him was clear. This is important for us, because we tend to speculate about the things that we cannot see or explain while neglecting those things that God has made plain. Like He did Ezekiel, He has sent us to an "obstinate and stubborn" people with His Word. He tells us, just as He did Ezekiel, "Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them … You must speak My word to them" (Ezek. 2:6-7). The vision that Ezekiel received before God sent him was meant to assure him that the Lord was with him, protecting him, and sending him. We are assured of the same things. There's no reason to be afraid of the people to whom He sends us and we don't have to concern ourselves with what they will say about us or about our message, because the Lord who defies description sends us and goes with us so that "whether they listen or fail to listen … they will know that a prophet has been among them" (Ezek. 2:6). We pray that they would listen and come to know the indescribable grace of our indescribable God just as we have.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Tuesday, March 6, 2018 is Lamentations 4:1-5:22
The wealth, power, and prestige of the nation led people to believe that they would live in peace and prosperity forever. So when the nation fell into the hands of the Babylonians and their king was taken captive the people were shocked. "The Lord's anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps. We thought that under his shadow we would live am...ong the nations" (Lam. 4:20). Everything that they had taken for granted was gone and everything that they valued was worthless. "How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered at the head of every street" (Lam. 4:1). People accustomed to plenty were reduced to cooking their own children for food (Lam. 4:10) and they recognized that "The Lord has given full vent to His wrath; He has poured out His fierce anger" (Lam. 4:11). There are so many parallels between 6th Century BC Judah and 21st Century AD America. But one things sets the people of God living now from the people of God who lived then: the full vent of God's wrath and His fierce anger over our sin and unfaithfulness has been poured out, not on us who deserve it, but on His Son for our redemption. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ we will never experience the righteous judgments of our God but will live in true peace and prosperity forever.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Monday, March 5, 2018 is Lamentations 2:1-3:66
For forty years Jeremiah warned the people of Judah that God would punish them if they did not repent. They mistook God's patience as inaction and considered His warnings as idle threats. But they were dead wrong. In due time, the judgment and punishment of which they were warned, and which they could have avoided, came upon them. And it was terrible. Jerem...iah summed it up well, "The Lord has done what He planned; He has fulfilled His Word, which He decreed long ago. He has overthrown you without pity" (Lam. 2:17). Hopelessness and despair gripped the people who had refused to repent. God had turned against them in His justice. He was punishing them as they deserved. There didn't seem to be any way that God would relent. "Even when I call out or cry for help, He shuts out my prayer" (Lam. 3:8) was their despondent cry. But in the midst of God's righteous wrath Jeremiah speaks of the Lord's mercy and grace. "For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love" (Lam. 3:31). He has shown us His compassion by freeing us from the punishments that we deserve. In His great love, He came to bear our sins and spare us from His just wrath. "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail" (Lam. 3:22). Great is His faithfulness!
Week 62 of the Today's Light Bible reading schedule takes us through the book of Lamentations and into the book of Ezekiel. Reading Lamentations is a good way to reflect on God's mercy toward us, especially during this season of Lent. May your readings this week bring you the assurance of God's love and grace.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Friday, March 9, 2018
Saturday, March 10, 2018
The Today's Light Bible reading for Saturday, March 3, 2018 is Lamentations 1:1-2:10
It's increasingly popular among us to dismiss the idea of judgment and eternal condemnation. People comfort one another by twisting the truth that "God is love" to mean that He will never punish people. Hell is regarded as an outdated myth meant to scare people into behaving in certain ways. People who have no use for God are quite confident that He will ...never do any harm to them. The people of Jerusalem had harbored similar thoughts about God. Despite the many warnings of His prophets, they were convinced that the Lord would never destroy their city. They considered Jerusalem untouchable because the Temple was there. God would never allow His Temple to be destroyed, they reasoned, therefore we are always safe. They failed to understand that as much as God is love He is also just. He rightly demands that sin be punished. By ignoring God's justice the people of Judah had set themselves up for a mighty fall. The Lord says of Jerusalem, "she took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible" (Lam. .1:9). There is no doubt that the destruction of Jerusalem was the work of the Lord. Over and over again, Lamentations 2 cites the ruin of the city as having been done by God. "The Lord has done what he purposed; he has carried out his word" (Lam 2:17) sums it up. And it also gives us hope. The Lord always carries out His Word. Even in the midst of our sin and the destruction that follows it because we "take no thought of our future," His Word of promise remains. He is just and must punish sin, so He has done what He had purposed from the very beginning by sending His Son to endure the punishment, devastation, and ruin that we deserved. His justice was satisfied on the Cross of Christ. His love, mercy, and grace reign over us. Now we can give thought to a future free of judgment and punishment. And now we can bring a message of genuine hope to those who have embraced the popular deceptions of our day and are heading toward disaster.
The Today's Light Bible reading for Friday, March 2, 2018 is Jeremiah 52:1-34
The closing chapter of the book of Jeremiah recounts what came about after Jeremiah risked his life to be faithful to his calling to proclaim God's Word. It doesn't recount that Jeremiah stirred people to repentance or that he convinced an evil king to embrace the ways of the Lord. It doesn't point to a glorious happy ending after years of struggle and effort to... turn things around. Instead, this chapter recounts the total destruction of Jerusalem including the demolition of the Temple of the Lord. Despite Jeremiah's faithful proclamation of God's Word, the people of Judah persisted in their rebellion against God and endured the consequences of their sins. It serves as a stark and vivid reminder to us that we must not measure the impact of our work as Christ's witnesses by the results that we can see. We may labor for a lifetime to bring the Word of the Lord to people in our lives only to see them persist in their unbelief and perish in their sin. We cannot control the results. We can only be faithful to what Christ has called us to do. But our efforts are not in vain. There will be some who will listen. There will be some who will believe. There will be some who are saved from the judgment that we all rightfully deserve. We can picture from Jehoiachin's experience the hope that we have in Christ: "And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison" (Jer. 52:31–32). Our King, our good and kind King Jesus, has graciously freed us and brought us out of the prison of sin and death. What He's done for us He's done for all people. As long as we have life in this world we have good news to proclaim those who have been taken captive by the evil one and are enslaved by him. That good news is that there remains a King who has paid the price for their release and seeks to graciously free them. The closing chapter of Jeremiah was death and destruction. The closing chapter of the Bible speaks of life and salvation and it is, by God's grace, the closing chapter of our story.