The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 28
Judah is to be blamed for her own destruction. Judah has been warned repeatedly that her continued rebellion and idolatry will bring about her destruction. She refuses to repent; therefore God raises up the Babylonians to destroy the temple and take Judah into captivity.
The Edomites, Judah’s distant cousins, are not responsible for Judah’s spiritual infidelity, but they are responsible for exploiting Judah’s situation, “For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side–in the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, even you were as one of them” (Obad. 10-11, emphasis added).
The Edomites watch Judah’s trouble and do nothing except benefit from Judah’s captivity. And God promises to punish them. No nation will escape His judgment, “For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; as you have done, it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return on your own head” (15). God will restore Judah, but He makes no such promise to other nations (17-18).
God uses the Babylonians, who were more than willing to strike Judah, to chastise Judah, but He will also punish them for striking His beloved. He also holds the Edomites responsible for their lack of care for and their exploitation of their distant cousins.
God punishes those whom He uses to chastise His people. God simply removed His wall of protection from around Judah, which allowed the Babylonians and the Edomites to do their worst. They were not puppets on God\’92s string; they were simply released to do what was already in their hearts.
How does Judah’s situation and Obadiah’s prophecy apply to us today?
Standing idly by while others suffer (apathy) and then taking advantage of their suffering (exploitation) attracts the judgment of God.
No nation is big or strong enough to escape the judgment of God.
It matters to God how nations treat other nations.
No nation is invulnerable to God: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (4).
Apathy overflows from a contented and calloused heart, while entitlement and power drive exploitation.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Lam. 5:1-22; Obadiah; 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jer. 40:7-41:18): Edom, Israel’s distant relative through Esau son of Isaac, rejoiced when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians attracted the judgment of God. How does Obadiah describe their attitude toward Jerusalem? While promise regarding Jerusalem does Obadiah include in his prophecy against Edom? Describe life in Judah after the fall of Jerusalem. What does this reveal about opportunists?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 27
Jeremiah wouldn’t have made it behind the “celebrity” pulpits of today’s churches. Nor would he have been invited on anyone’s talk show. His was not a message for itching ears; no publisher would have been interested in publishing his writings. Nope. Jeremiah was God’s man during the darkest period of Israel’s history. It wasn’t popular. And it wasn’t easy!
Jeremiah is incarcerated for his messages of judgment and thrown into a pit because of his refusal to back down from proclaiming truth. Jeremiah’s ministry takes its toll on him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jeremiah cries, “He has aged my flesh and my skin, and broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and woe. He has set me in dark places like the dead of long ago. He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out; He has made my chain heavy. Even when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer” (Lam. 3:4-8).
People write songs ridiculing Jeremiah, “I have become the ridicule of all my people—their taunting song all the day . . . . Look at their sitting down and their rising up; I am their taunting song” (3:14, 63).
He battles depression with a disciplined mind and sound theology, “My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him’” (3:20-24).
Mental discipline and sound theology push back the darkness of depression as Jeremiah declares, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (3:25-26). Both enable Jeremiah to sit “alone and keep silent” (3:28), to “give his cheek to the one who strikes him” (3:30), and to receive from the LORD’s hand “grief” and “compassion” (3:32).
Jeremiah waits on the LORD, and he is not disappointed, “I called on your name, O LORD, from the lowest pit. You have heard my voice: ‘Do not hide Your ear from my sighing, from my cry for help.’ You drew near on the day I called on You, and said, ‘Do not fear!’” (3:55-57).
Jeremiah records one of the saddest days in Israel’s history, “Thus Judah was carried away captive from its own land” (Jer. 52:27). This sad scene in Judah’s history reveals a number of truths about God and man:
God demonstrates tough love by using harsh enemies and circumstances to discipline His people and to get their attention.
The wickedness of Judah would have provoked their total destruction, had not God promised beforehand that the Messiah would come through Judah’s descendants (Gen. 49:10) and that David’s descendants would never cease sitting on Israel’s throne (2 Sam. 7:12-17). Instead of total destruction, Judah goes into captivity—for her preservation.
Man’s rejection of God precedes His rejection of man. He simply responds to the continued hardness of a man’s heart.
Jeremiah’s walk with the LORD sustains him during 40-plus years of unpopular ministry. Jeremiah thus teaches us that successful ministry isn’t a celebrity pulpit or the endorsement of a well-known publisher, but knowing God in the midst of ministry “failure.” Jeremiah’s greatest accolade does not come in his day; generations later, when Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” one of their answers is, “Some say . . . Jeremiah” (Mt. 16:13-14).
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Lam. 2:1-4:22): How does Jeremiah describe Jerusalem in the funeral dirge that he writes to mourn the death of this great city? What does the lament reveal about God?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 26
Just as governments place operatives undercover, so the Lord places His operatives undercover to work on His behalf.
Ebed-Melech is an unlikely candidate, from man’s point of view, but not from God’s. The king’s irate officials had thrown Jeremiah into a deep well that was mostly mud because they had rejected God’s word through him. He was rescued by Ebed-Melech.
Ebed-Melech is a Cushite, a North African. His name is not given, only his ethnicity. He is a foreigner living and working in Jerusalem.
Ebed-Melech is an official in King Zedekiah’s household. He is no more than a servant to others. He has no authority; he carries out the bidding of others.
Ebed-Melech is a eunuch. Typically, men brought to serve within the king’s household were made eunuchs to prevent them from sexual engagement with those in the king’s household. He is unable to have a relationship with a woman or to reproduce.
Instead of copping an attitude, Ebed-Melech makes the best of his position. Like Joseph of old, Ebed-Melech serves faithfully; therefore, he is in a position to intercede for Jeremiah to the king.
Ebed-Melech’s rescue of Jeremiah does not go unrewarded. After Jerusalem falls into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, he appoints Nebuzaradan to look after Jeremiah. The word of the LORD comes to Jeremiah while he waits for his release,
“Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you.’ But I will deliver you in that day,” says the LORD, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the LORD (Jer. 39:16-18).
Ebed-Melech has been singled out by God for blessing! God addresses his fears and assures him of deliverance.
Four truths gleaned from Ebed-Melech’s life:
Ethnicity, lowly position, and social condition do not prevent usefulness to God; they often enhance usefulness. Ebed-Melech is simply a part of the palace scenery and machinery—not on anyone’s radar but God’s.
Those who have the most to lose (vulnerable) are often the first to take a stand for others who are in the right. Ebed-Melech’s service position gives him access to the king; he uses that position to intercede for Jeremiah.
The LORD sees the plight of those who trust Him, even though they are invisible to the wealthy and powerful.
The LORD rewards those who trust in Him and speaks on behalf of the righteous.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Jer. 39:11-18; 40:1-6; 52:12-27; 2 Kings 25:8-21; Lamentations 1:1-1:22): Where was Jeremiah when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians? Describe Nebuchadnezzar’s treatment of Jeremiah. What do the Babylonians recognize about Jeremiah? Describe the extent of Jerusalem’s destruction. What reason does the writer of 2 Chronicles 36:15-21 provide for Jerusalem’s destruction?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 25
The tiny nation of Tyre touched the world through its shipping yards, “Tarshish was your merchant because of your many luxury goods. They gave you silver, iron, tin, and lead for your goods. Javan, Tubal, and Meshech were your traders . . . those from the house of Togarmah traded for your wares . . . the men of Dedan were your traders . . . Syria was your merchant . . . Judah and the land of Israel were your traders” (Ez. 27:12-17). Many other nations joined in: Damascus, Dan, Arabia, Sheba and Raamah, Haran, Canneh and Eden. The world came to Tyre’s docks to trade. No wonder the ruler had such an exalted opinion of himself and his nation.
The ruler of Tyre ascribes the success of his tiny nation to his wisdom: “‘Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god” (Ez. 28:6). Little does he know that he is simply a puppet ruler of a spiritual king. The LORD therefore instructs Ezekiel to pronounce judgment against Tyre’s ruler, “The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, ‘Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, “Thus says the LORD God: ‘Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas . . .”’”’” (Ez. 28:1-2).
Ezekiel sees both the ruler of Tyre—the puppet governor—and the king and kingdom behind Tyre’s greatness, “The world of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him: “Thus says the LORD God: ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God’”’” (28:11-13). Behind Tyre’s worldwide influence stands the masquerader himself, the clever serpent who entered the garden of Eden to take, by trickery, the dominion God had given to man. He now disburses that dominion to whomever He pleases—to rulers join forces with him in pride.
Since the Fall, two sources of wisdom have been revealed in Scripture: the serpent’s wisdom, offered through the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and God’s wisdom, manifested through His promise of redemption and the substitutionary death of the innocent on behalf of the guilty. God’s wisdom was especially highlighted during the Kingdom Era under Solomon’s reign, when the world came to Jerusalem to see the place where God had bestowed His Name and glory, and to marvel at the wisdom God had granted Solomon. Sadly, Solomon’s idolatry diminished the worldwide influence of his wisdom and his nation. The world was bereft of that wisdom until God’s wisdom was revealed, exalted, and incarnated in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, “who became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).
Behind every proud man who thinks that he may do as he pleases stands a tyrant-king and a powerful spiritual kingdom. That king, however, will “become a horror, and shall be no more forever” (28:19).
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 26:15-28:26; 2 Kings 25:3-7; Jer. 52:6-11; 32:2-10): What does the pronounced judgment against Trye reveal about God and arrogant nations? What does the LORD promise Ezekiel that He will do for the house of Israel? Review Deuteronomy 28:49-59. Describe the conditions in Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege. How does the king of Babylon treat the king of Judah when Jerusalem finally fell into his hands?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 24
God’s stubborn love for His people continues in spite of Israel’s chronic rebellion. As they face their final deportation, the LORD promises only good toward Israel once their seventy years of exile are complete. In Jeremiah 32:36-44 and 33:1-36, God makes at least twenty-three “I will” statements of determined good toward His people.
He promises to “gather them out of all countries” where He drove them in His anger (32:37)
He promises to bring them back to their land, where they will dwell safely (32:37)
He promises to be their God and to give them singleness of heart and action so that they fear Him (32:39)
He promises to bring them back from captivity, rebuild them and rejoice over them (32:41)
He promises to bring healing and health (33:6)
He promises to pardon their iniquities and raise up a “Branch of Righteousness” in their midst, who will “execute judgment and righteousness in the earth” (33:8, 15)
God bases His stubborn love on promises that He made in the garden of Eden, to Abraham, and to King David many years before, when He promised them a redeemer, an eternal king and priest. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus fulfills that very promise as He intercedes for humanity as their High Priest, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” And the Apostle John describes Jesus as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 19:16).
Somehow in the economy of God, the foolishness and rebellion of humanity don’t prohibit God from fulfilling His promises made in previous generations. God promises that He “will bring on them all the good that [He has] promised them” (Jer. 32:42). Though Israel has provoked the LORD to anger through their idol worship and rebellion, God promises that “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life” (Ps. 30:5).
What stubborn love! He will not relinquish His people. He pursues them with an everlasting love.
How quickly we give up on those whose hearts are bent away from God. No individual has been more rebellious than God’s covenant people, yet nothing has swayed the heart of God from pursuing His people. Peter captures this aspect of God’s character when he declares, “The LORD is not slack concerning His promises, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
Israel learns one thing well during their captivity–they learn not to worship idols. Captivity cure them of that idolatry once and for all.
God’s stubborn love breaks them, only because He seeks to bless them.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Jer. 32:1-33:26; Ez. 26:1-14): Why does the Lord instruct Jeremiah to purchase land prior to Israel’s captivity? What does Jeremiah’s prayer after the land purchase reveal about Jeremiah’s faith? How does the LORD respond to his prayer? How does the LORD demonstrate His covenant love for Israel? How does the LORD respond to Tyre’s jubilation over Jerusalem’s being laid waste? What does this reveal about God?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 23
In 586 BC, the king of Babylon invades Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Judah, and takes many of the Jews captive to his capitol city in Babylon. In the midst of this turmoil, God raises up and speaks through prophets to lead His people.
Among the captives of Babylon, Ezekiel prophesies about God’s return to His people.
In the royal courts of Babylon and, later, Persia, Daniel prophesies about the Son of Man who will rule in Heaven.
In Judah, Jeremiah prophesies that God’s people will return to their land after 70 years. He calls the people to trust God and not to run away to Egypt. Jeremiah tells the people that God has plans of peace for them rather than calamity, to give them a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11). They are to go willingly into captivity. Sadly, King Zedekiah and those in Jerusalem ignore Jeremiah to their own destruction. Those remaining after the temple’s destruction flee to Egypt.
Ezekiel prophesies against Egypt for their arrogance and for their embracing the remnant of Israelites who fled from the Babylonians. God promises to “diminish them so that they will not rule over the nations anymore” (Ez. 29:15) and to give them over to the Babylonians, “I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor, because they worked for Me” (29:20). His rule over the nations will demonstrate to Israel that Yahweh is the LORD (30:8).
What does the captivity of Judah reveal about God?
God warns His people about the consequences of disobedience nearly a thousand years earlier.
God promises to bless those who surrender to the Babylonians and to bring them back to Judah after seventy years.
God promises to punish all three nations, Judah, Babylon and Egypt, for their pride.
God raises up prophets who faithfully warn Israel (and the nations) of imminent judgment.
God sends a remnant from Judah to Babylon to preserve them.
God raises up Babylon as the sword that He will use against His disobedient people.
God keeps His promises of judgment.
God shows mercy to His people even in the midst of judgment.
God does not forget His people; rather, He sends prophets to speak to them and give them comfort.
God rules over all the nations of the earth, including rogue pagan nations.
God will resolve man’s problem by replacing his heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
Out of the darkest days of Israel’s history come some of the brightest promises of redemption and restoration. Jeremiah speaks of Judah’s return. Ezekiel speaks of the new covenant. Daniel speaks of the destruction of the nations and lives to see the demise of Babylon and the return of a remnant of the Jews to their land.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 24:15-25:17; 29:1-16; 30:20-31:18; Jer. 34:1-22; 21:1-14): Throughout Ezekiel’s ministry the LORD instructs him to use visuals as teaching tools. What do the death of Ezekiel’s wife and his response reveal to Israel? Review Exodus 21:2, 3, 7-8. Ezekiel reminds Israel of God’s command regarding enslaving their brethren for longer than seven years. What does their disobedience cost them? What does the LORD do to prevent Zedekiah from avoiding captivity by aligning Judah with Egypt?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 22
In the beginning, God creates man in His image, gives him dominion over the world, and walks with him in the cool of the day. Sadly, Adam and Eve choose the fruit of the forbidden tree over union with God. Since that day all humanity struggles with unfaithfulness to God—spiritual adultery. One commentator even describes this behavior as spiritual nymphomania—uncontrollable and excessive sexual behavior. This insatiable appetite for anything other than God accurately describes Israel and Judah, as well as people today.
The activities of Oholah (Israel) and Oholibah (Judah) picture the heart of all humanity, “Therefore thus says the LORD God: ‘Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, therefore you shall bear the penalty of your lewdness and your harlotry” (Ez. 23:35). Pride, stubbornness, an independent attitude, and distrust—all characteristics that, left unchecked, lead to unfaithfulness—to spiritual adultery.
Proud people think, “I can do what I want to do and have what I want to have, and no one can tell me otherwise.” They resist being under authority.Stubborn people think, “I don’t want anyone to say that I can’t have whatever I want.” They ignore possible consequences to their actions.Independent people think, “I don’t have to consider how what I do affects others.” They disregard the needs of others. Distrusting people think, “God is keeping something good from me.” They yield to pessimism and negativity.
Since her inception Israel has resisted the covenant faithfulness of God. She has served and worshiped foreign gods; she has refused to listen to the prophets God has sent to warn her to return to God; she has neglected to consider the effect the sin of one generation has had on future generations; and she has doubted the good heart of God toward His people. Ezekiel ascribes Israel’s waywardness to her heart of adultery:
“Those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols” (Ezekiel 6:9, emphasis added).
Proud people reject authority, demand personal autonomy, and absolutely fail to understand that sin grieves the heart of God. They pursue everything but God. That is the essence of spiritual adultery
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 22:17-23:49; 2 Kings 25:1-2; Jer. 52:4-5; 39:1; Ez. 24:1-14): What imagery does Ezekiel use to describe the house of Israel in today’s reading? What do the three imageries have in common? Describe the leaders, both spiritual and political, in Israel. What type of leader did the Lord fail to find in Israel?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 21
God has called Abraham’s descendants to be a distinct people with whom He can dwell, and He has given them a well developed land filled with houses and plowed fields. They have chosen, however, to blend in with the people and nations around them and to defile the land with idolatry and sexual sin, “We will be like the Gentiles, like the families of other countries, serving wood and stone” (Ez. 20:32). Israel openly rebels against the LORD, and their capital becomes “infamous, full of tumult” where:
Princes use their power to shed blood (22:6)
Fathers and mothers are treated with contempt (22:7)
The alien is oppressed and the fatherless and widows mistreated (22:7)
The Sabbath is desecrated and the holy things despised (22:8)
Slanderous men are bent on bloodshed (22:9)
Lewd acts are committed at the mountain shrines (22:9)
Men are without self-control and sexual sin of every sort is committed (22:10-11)
Greed becomes pervasive (22:12)
The Sovereign LORD is forgotten (22:12)
The priests do violence to His law and profane His holy things; “they have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them” (22:26).
The Lord compares Judah’s impurity to dross that is worthless and cast out. He declares the land and her people as ruined, “Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown!” (21:27). Even in the midst of his pronouncement of judgment He includes a messianic allusion: “It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to him” (21:27, emphasis added). Whose right it is. The blessing conferred upon Judah’s head by his father Jacob uses the same words, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, not a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:10, emphasis added). The Hebrew word Shiloh may be rendered, “that which belongs to him” or “the one to whom it belongs.”
Shiloh is not the offspring of a famous actor and actress. Shiloh is Jesus, who was born in a land ruined by sin and sinners. He lived, healed people, and died there as the substitute for man’s ruined condition. From there He was raised from the dead. He ascended to the Father in heaven from that ruined land. Now man has hope and redemption. Ruined no more!
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 20:1-22:16): God calls Ezekiel to an unusual and difficult ministry. How does the LORD instruct Ezekiel to respond to the inquiry of Israel’s elders? What does His answer to their inquiry reveal about God? What’s the identity of the sword that God intends to use to judge His people? What does this reveal about God and the tools that He uses? List the sins for which Israel is judged in chapter 22. How do these sins compare with those of 21st century America?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 20
Perhaps the most common rationale this generation employs for their wrong actions and ungodly attitudes is that their parents were too __________ (choose one or more: selfish, indulgent, violent, passive, bitter, nice, religious, atheistic, hypocritical, sincere). In other words, this generation would be righteous were it not for their parents. The Word of God, however, rejects this argument.
God’s Word says that each generation is fully responsible for the choices they make.
Each generation must take responsibility for its own sin and is judged for its own sin. Ezekiel faithfully records the truth, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ez. 18:4). A number of truths become immediately clear:
No son may piggyback his father’s righteousness. Verses 10-13 describe a righteous man who has a violent son who doesn’t follow in his steps, but disobeys God. The father’s righteousness will not be applied to the son at death. The son will die for his own sin.
No son may blame his father for his own rebellion; he is responsible for the choices that he makes. A son who, observing his father’s wickedness, walks uprightly, keeps God’s laws, and followed His decrees will not pay for his father’s sins. He will pay for his own sins. Further, the son is also not accountable for his father’s unrighteousness (18:14-19).
Every man will be accountable for his own sin and judged for his own sin (18:20).
If a wicked man turns from his wickedness and keeps God’s decrees and walks uprightly, he will not die for the sins that he had formerly committed (18:21-23).
If a righteous man turns from walking uprightly and embraces a wicked lifestyle, his former righteousness will not save him; he will die in his sin (18:24-26).
Each man will stand before God, not based on how his life began, but on how his life ended; not based on the righteousness or wickedness of the previous generation, but on the righteousness or wickedness of his own generation. No excuses will be accepted; blaming parents for personal wickedness will not fool the God who sees the innermost being and knows the secrets of the heart. Henry Blackaby stated at a conference in Kenya in 1994, “My life is the result of choices that I make.” Therefore, every man standing before God will be responsible for his own sin.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 17:1-19:14): Both visuals and stories possess the potential to communicate truths powerfully. Ezekiel utilizes both. What truths does he communicate through the story of the two eagles? Who do the two lions in Ezekiel 19:1-9 refer to? How does Ezekiel use the analogy of the vine (19:10-14)? What has Israel’s destruction cost her?
The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 19
“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit” (Ez. 16:49-50).
Pride, prosperity, abundance of free time, and hardness toward the plight of others create a powerful chemistry for spiritual decay and the demise of any people.
Prosperity has a way of numbing the heart toward spiritual matters. Nations that have become wealthy and powerful tend to take credit for their prosperity; they begin to believe that they are invincible and can do whatever they please without suffering any consequences. Every nation that has succumbed to that notion has eventually collapsed. Babel, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome . . . the list encompasses once-great nations whose former glory is eclipsed by their present insignificance. Each embraced the pride, idleness, and fullness of bread that destroyed Sodom. Idolatry and sexual abominations overflowed those nations prior to their destruction.
Oswald Chambers declared that sin is a disposition long before it is a deed. Israel’s proud disposition, prosperity, and disdain for the less fortunate have kindled self-centered living, which most always leads to sexual sin. Many think that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sexual sin. Their sexual sin, however, was merely a symptom of living independently of God. Prosperity allows for personal freedom that poverty doesn’t offer. More money means more things, more opportunities for personal expression, and more time for self-gratification. The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah would have happily worn the popular “Life is good,” t-shirts which capture the attitude and culture of those who live outside of the presence of God.
The wisdom writer recorded a prayer regarding prosperity and poverty, ”Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches—feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Prov. 30:8-9). Prosperity and poverty are a trust from God. Those with excess will answer for how they used their resources and those who lack will answer for how they managed their shortage. Both must trust God in the midst of their prosperity and their poverty.
This description of Sodom reveals a number of important truths about pride and prosperity:
Wealth becomes a problem for those who use it strictly for personal gratification without any thought of how those resources could relieve the suffering of others.
Proud people exist in both the communities of wealth and the communities of poverty. Poor people often become bitter toward those who have, rather than cry out to God to meet their needs. Wealthy people often ignore the responsibility that accompanies wealth and fail to pray about how to manage their wealth for the glory of God and the good of others.
Both the wealthy and the poor may use their “spare” time for personal gratification (the poor: theft and sexual immorality; the wealthy: hoarding and sexual immorality). Both groups answer to God for how they live their lives.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ez. 14:1-16:63):
What instructions does the LORD give Ezekiel for dealing with the hypocrisy of the elders of Israel? The LORD illustrates the wickedness of Israel by declaring that, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in Israel during this period, He would rescue them, but would still punish Israel. What does this reveal about the depth to which Israel has stooped? About God? Review Judges 2:17. Nearly a thousand years have passed since the LORD first used “harlotry” to describe His people. Ezekiel uses this term throughout his description of Israel’s relationship with God in chapter 16. What does this reveal about human nature? What hope does he offer Israel at the end of this description? What does this reveal about God?