November 14, 2011
Ezekiel 29:1-30:26; Hebrews 11:32-12:13;
Psalm 112:1-10; Proverbs 27:17
Our Bible reading has seen Egypt as a major player in God's story. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt and were introduced to idolatry through this nation. Although rescued by God from slavery in Egypt, Israel turned to Egypt numerous times for help when faced with enemies. Now, God informs Ezekiel that He intends to use Babylon to judge Egypt's idolatry. Remember that God judged Egypt's worship of bugs, beasts, and birds by sending the plagues to Egypt through the pronouncements of Moses. The Egyptians worshipped frogs and then were overwhelmed by them in one of the plagues. God has a sense of humor and shows that He appreciates irony.
Now, Ezekiel informs the world that Egypt will eventually be taken into captivity by Babylon for forty years. After that time, all of Egypt's great cities will fall into ruin and Egypt will never again be a powerful nation in the world. All these years later, we can see that God's predictions were true. Egypt was held in captivity by Babylon for forty years. To this day, Egypt has never been a great world power. Just within this last year there was an uprising of the people of Egypt to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, but it doesn't really affect world economies or the balance of power within our world system. God was right.
With God's prophesies of judgments, He includes a lamentation for the nations who become desolate. God is not heartless. He understands the sorrow associated with defeat and destruction. The sinfulness of the earth is a sorrow to Him. The great cities of Egypt like Memphis, Thebes, and Pelusium, which were decorated profusely with Egyptian idols are laid waste. The idols are buried beneath the sands of time. God's fury and wrath are satisfied. In addition to destroying the idols, God breaks the arms of the Pharaoh (not literally), causing him to be powerless against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
All of these prophesies are a means for God to reveal Himself to the peoples of the earth. He is the ruler of the universe. He is the author of creation and the potentate of the nations. History is in His hands.
Have you humbled yourself before our great and mighty God?
Having studied the Bible this year, the Hebrews Hall of Faith is a look back to some of our favorite characters in the Bible. Gideon, Barak, Samson, David, and Samuel are just some of the people highlighted. Because we have read, we know these people. They are important to God and should be important to us. Many exciting stories reflect the faith and courage these people possessed. Even women receiving their loved ones back from death make the cut in the hall of faith!
Does faith guarantee an easy life? Just the opposite. We see torture, mockings, whips, dungeons, chains, stonings, being sawed in half, and believers being killed by the sword. People of faith went about in rough clothing, hungry, oppressed and mistreated. Yet, God approves of their lives because of their faith.
And now these people of faith are a cloud of witnesses, who watch our race of faith. What are we enduring on earth because of our faith? What are we able to endure because of our faith in God? Jesus' faith led him to die on a cross for our sins. He knew that he would have joy afterwards. Now, indeed, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father.
The trials we have in this life are often disciplines given to us by our loving Father. What father does not correct his children to make them righteous people? With this divine discipline, we learn to share in His holiness. Let us reap a divine harvest of righteous living through suffering.
With tired hands, we must make a firm grip. With shaky legs, we must stand up and mark a straight path. Following the example of those who have gone before in toil and struggle, and guided by our faith in God, we will become strong.
Are you inspired by these words found in Hebrews? Have you struggled in your life, having to rely on God to get through? You are in good company, my friend!
Faith brings confidence and trust.
Iron sharpens iron, and as we study together, friends sharpen each other.
What did you notice today?