Friday, August 22, 2014

Ezekiel 20-21: Constrain Me, Oh Lord

Ezekiel 20:37-38
Amplified Bible (AMP)

37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod [as the shepherd does his sheep when he counts them, and I will count you as Mine and I will constrain you] and bring you into the covenant to which you are permanently bound.

38 And I will purge out and separate from among you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they temporarily dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you shall know, understand, and realize that I am the Lord.

Years ago, the Lord gave me a personal promise that "My rod and staff will comfort you."  Of course, I thought of Psalm 23 where God offers this promise to all of His kids.

Psalm 23:4
Amplified Bible (AMP)

Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.
I understood God my Shepherd to be my Protector, and an excellent Protector is He!  What I didn't understand at the time of His promise was the methods God uses in order to accomplish protection.
In verse 37 above, the shepherd counts his sheep be having them pass, one by one, under his rod.  God promises that He will count His kids and He will constrain them.  Constrain is an intense verb!

Definition of constrain (vt)

  • con·strain
  • [ kən stráyn ]
  1. force somebody to act: to force somebody to do something, especially through pressure of circumstances or a sense of obligation
  2. restrict somebody or something: to limit or restrict somebody or something, especially to prevent the free expression of something
  3. restrain somebody or something: to hold somebody or something back from an action

Sheep don't have the understanding of the shepherd.  They may not understand if they wander from the field under the shepherd's protection, that a wild animal may attack and devour them.  A shepherd may "force" the sheep to remain within his ability to protect.

I have often been like a sheep!  As a matter of fact, my Shepherd calls me His sheep!  Looking back over my life, evaluating difficult circumstances, I can see how my Shepherd was working to protect me. 

We can't separate this verse from the context of the whole book of Ezekiel!  Our God is a passionate God!!!  He loves us with an eternal and sometimes violent love.  He sees, not only this world, but eternity.  His will fight against any "thing" which may damage our eternity with Him.  Just like He used Babylonian attack and captivity to discipline his kids, to constrain them. 

We cannot become offended by God's ways.  He understands eternity, we do not!  Not even the most gifted prophet understands eternity the way God does!

I don't want to struggle against God's constraint!  He sees eternity in me; He sees Jesus in me!  He understands what could hurt and damage for eternity!

Part of the way my Shepherd leads, protects, constrains me, is by dreams.  Recently, He has given me a dream, which I believe contains significant direction and warning.

Dream #1:

I was outside walking when a lady rushed up behind me.  I felt uncomfortable that she was within my personal space because she was a stranger.  I looked over my right shoulder to see the face of this woman.  She had a smile, but it wasn't genuine.  I had knowledge in the dream that her intentions towards me were evil.  Suddenly, she reached out to grab my purse.  As she yanked, I turned around to face her.  I had a key in my hand, which I used to jab her in the breastbone. The incident cause great anxiety!

I believe the woman in this dream was symbolic for anxiety, which attempts to steal my purse.  My purse contains forms of identification.  Anxiety seeks to steal my identity in the Lord.  I had a key, which I used to protect myself.  I believe the key is the power of His Spirit within my, His word spoken to my heart and written in the Bible. 

I need to listen to His direction and obey His leading.  Empower me always, Lord.  In Jesus' name, AMEN!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ezekiel 18 & 19: Accountability for Sin

Ezekiel 18:19-20
Amplified Bible (AMP)

 19 Yet do you say, Why does not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son has done that which is lawful and right and has kept all My statutes and has done them, he shall surely live.

20 The soul that sins, it [is the one that] shall die. The son shall not bear and be punished for the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear and be punished for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him only, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon the wicked only.

Ancient tradition held that the sins of the fathers (or mothers) were passed onto their children.  These children paid the price of their parents' indiscretion.  I think about the verse in Deuteronomy 5:9, which specifically says that the sins of the father will be passed onto the third and fourth generations. 

The verses in Ezekiel and Deuteronomy seem to contradict each other, but do they? 

We all have sinned and fallen short of the perfection of our Holy (set apart from imperfection) God.  Jesus came to take our mistakes, sins, missed marks, bent and crooked nature upon Himself, so they we would not die separated from God.

Isaiah 53:11
Amplified Bible (AMP)

11 He shall see [the fruit] of the travail of His soul and be satisfied; by His knowledge of Himself [which He possesses and imparts to others] shall My [uncompromisingly] righteous One, My Servant, justify many and make many righteous (upright and in right standing with God), for He shall bear their iniquities and their guilt [with the consequences, says the Lord].
So no matter how sin comes upon us, Jesus is the Remedy!

There is no doubt in my mind that the sins of the father do set his son (or daughter) up for potential temptation with that same sin.  There is an unseen world at work.  Spiritual forces are allowed access to a family line because of the choices of the parent for right standing with God or not. 

But laying aside the spiritual realm, think about behavior and think about how a child learns from his/her parent.

A parent models either righteous or unrighteous behavior for a child, and children watch then mimic what they have experienced. 

Think about the parent who loses his temper when feeling overwhelmed.  The child watches and learns how to react when faced with overwhelm...temper tantrum.  A child's behavior then can be reinforced or punished to increase or decrease its occurrence. 

So spiritual forces, good or evil go hand in hand with natural means of learning behavior. 

The sins of the father or mother are passed to their children in this way, BUT Jesus breaks the cycle IF we give Him access to our baggage (sin issues). 

The slate is clean, a fresh start awaits!  It doesn't matter how good or evil our parents' behavior.  What matters is that sin is washed away because of Jesus, and grace is released in order to empower us against the temptation to follow in the unrighteous footsteps of our parent or to live empowered to walk out the right behavior of our mom and dad!

Ultimately, each person decides his own fate...accept Jesus gift of grace or not.  Jesus loves us; that's why he died to make this grace available.

Do we still mess up?  Yes, but a heart after God will continue to ask for and require the grace made available by Jesus, transforming our behavior moment by moment.  It's a process we ALL go through. 

What's awesome is if we accept Jesus gift of grace, we are now seen by God as righteous, even as we are being formed into righteousness.

It's a beautifully, powerful mystery! 

Thank You, Jesus, for not holding us accountable for the sins of others.  Thank You for empowering us to say, "No" to all forms of unrighteousness.  You are AWESOME!!!