Joshua 18:1-10

“Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.” Joshua 18:1

“The whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled…”

There is definitely something to say about the power of working together. The Israelites were given a promise. God had promised them the Promised Land, the land of “milk and honey”, and though it took them many years, they held onto that promise and worked towards it in faith. The church as a whole and each church individually is given a task that is attached to a promise. Does your church know what that promise is? Do you know what your churches promise is? Are you working together with your other church members to see that God’s promise for your church comes true?

“…set up the tent of meeting there…”

The people of Israel got together and put the tent of meeting up. They worked together to accomplish a common goal. They did what they needed to do in order to properly serve the Lord. Many of our churches today require “setting up”. Each person has different skills that could largely benefit the “setting up” of every church. The church needs skilled hands that are willing to devote the time and effort necessary to accomplish a common goal. What are you good at? In what way could you help the church? What can God use you for?

“The land lay subdued before them.”

The Israelites gathered together and worked together for an identical cause. This resulted in a successful attaining of the goal that was promised by God. God’s promises are by no means a freebie. We will have to work towards them. Our devotion of time and effort plays a part in how our stories unfold; however, once we put the devotion in, we receive the joy of fulfilling God’s promise for our lives. In essence, “you reap what you sow”. Are we as a church truly “gathered together” and are we working together towards a common goal, a common vision?

God has a plan for each church and each individual. That realization of that plan/promise is contingent upon our willingness to devote the necessary resources required. Your time, money, and energy will inevitably be used. Discover your purpose. Discover your passion. Master your performance.

Ezekiel 7:1-13

1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: “‘The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land!
3 The end is now upon you, and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.
4 I will not look on you with pity; I will not spare you. I will surely repay you for your conduct and for the detestable practices among you. “‘Then you will know that I am the LORD.’
5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘Disaster! Unheard-of disaster! See, it comes!
6 The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. See, it comes!
7 Doom has come upon you, upon you who dwell in the land. The time has come! The day is near! There is panic, not you, on the mountains.
8 I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.
9 I will not look on you with pity; I will not spare you. I will repay you for your conduct and for the detestable practices among you. “‘Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes you.
10 “‘See, the day! See, it comes! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed!
11 Violence has arisen, a rod to punish the wicked. None of the people will be left, none of that crowd–none of their wealth, nothing of value.
12 The time has come! The day has arrived! Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for my wrath is on the whole crowd.
13 The seller will not recover the property that was sold–as long as both buyer and seller live. For the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve their life.

The fear of the Lord has been lost. We no longer fear the righteousness of our God. We expect him to endlessly look past our sins and care for us anyway. However, because he loves us, he will not allow us to continue to sin. Because he loves us, he will discipline us so that we walk down the proper path.

God forgives and God is willing to forget, however, God is just. Sins have consequences. The consequences should be feared. If there is a sin that we struggle with in our life or if there is a sin that we repeatedly commit we need to turn away from that sin and repent sooner rather than later. Our sins are a very serious matter. Especially for those of us who say we are Christian it is all the more so. We must continue to confess our sins to the Lord and turn away from them and seek his righteousness. We must strive to be holy and do all that we can do be more like Christ.

We cannot accomplish this on our own accord. We are sinful and we are human. We trip over our own feet and stumble even in the light of day. However, our loving God promised to help us. If we reside in him, there is nothing that we cannot do. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [Phil 4:13] If we desire to get rid of our sins and if we solely rely upon Jesus Christ to help us, he promises that he will help us and he promises that we can overcome sin.

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” [1 John 1:7]

Turn away from your sins. Confess to God. Ask for forgiveness. Desire his healing touch. Walk in the light. Be strong. And in all these things, remember that God loves you.

Ezekiel 6:1-14

1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 “Son of man, set your face against the mountains of Israel; prophesy against them
3 and say: ‘You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places.
4 Your altars will be demolished and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will slay your people in front of your idols.
5 I will lay the dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars.
6 Wherever you live, the towns will be laid waste and the high places demolished, so that your altars will be laid waste and devastated, your idols smashed and ruined, your incense altars broken down, and what you have made wiped out.
7 Your peoples will fall slain among you, and you will know that I am the LORD.
8 “But I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered amoung the lands and nations.
9 Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me–how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts. which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices.
10 And they will know that I am the LORD; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.
11 “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Strike your hands together and stamp your feet and cry out “Alas!” because of all the wicked and detestable practices of the people of Israel, for they will fall by the sword, famine and plague.
12 One who is far away will die of the plague, and one who is near will fall by the sword, and anyone who survives and is spared will die of famine. So will I pour out my wrath on them.
13 And they will know that I am the LORD, when their people lie slain among their idols around their altars, on every high hill and on all the mountaintops, under every spreading tree and every leafy oak–places where they offered fragrant incense to all their idols.
14 And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land a desolate waste from the desert to Diblah–wherever they live. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'”

The Lord hates idols. When someone who is to represent the Lord (i.e. Christians) has idols it provokes the Lord to anger. It can lead to the Lord destroying the idol and the person who worships the idol.

In today’s world we rarely, if ever, portray the Lord as a being with anger or fury. We only describe him in a positive light, focusing on his love, mercy, care, guidance, and forgiveness. We try to make it seem as though God is incapable of anger. Some of us are at the point where we believe that God should not have anger at all. Why is this the case? It is because we want to serve a God who serves our purpose. We want God to be full of love and mercy so that our sins are covered and forgiven but we don’t want to face the consequences of our sin. However, this is not how it works. Every sin must be accounted for and every sin will be judged accordingly.

Have we been forgiven? Yes. However, that does not relieve us from the receipt of consequences. Consequences are the result of any action that we take, whether good or bad. Just because our sins were forgiven does not mean that we don’t have to face the result of our actions. If we overeat and live like a glutton then we will have to deal will obesity and its health problems. If we drink excessively we will have to deal with the resulting health problems. If we smoke, we will have to deal with the resulting health problems. On the positive side of things, if we exercise, we will enjoy the benefits of a healthy, good-looking body. If we work hard, we will reap the fruit of our labor. If we study hard, we will gain more knowledge that may benefit our futures. Whether good or bad, each action will have a result.

This is what the Israelites faced. They sinned. They committed a very severe sin against God. Not just once, but for hundreds of years they repeated the same sin over and over. God finally decided to give them their judgement. Imagine that you have a young child, whom you’ve taught to clean their room. They know it is their responsibility to clean their room, and in the beginning their room is always clean. As time goes by, however it begins to get dirty. You patiently wait to see if they clean it. More time has passed so you decide to give them a warning. They say, “Okay” and go along with their day. You come the next day and their room is still not cleaned. This pattern continues and you get more and more frustrated. Why are you frustrated? Because you asked them to clean their room, not only once but many times. Because they disobeyed your command for them to clean their room. They disobeyed your instruction, disregarded your warnings, and purposefully chose not to do as you asked. On top of that, the only reason you asked them to keep their room clean is so that they become adults who know how to take care of their responsibilities. The only reason you asked them to do this is to benefit them in the future. If it continues you cannot help but to discipline your child. This is what the sins of Israel has resulted in. It has reached a point in which God has no choice but to discipline them so that they return to “cleaning their room”.

God surely does love you. He loves you enough to send his son to this earth to die for your sins. He loves you enough to raise his son from the dead and show you that you no longer have to be chained down by sin. However, if you disobey his commands repeatedly and purposefully you will have to face the consequences of your actions. Your actions determine the outcome. Do good, love God, obey his commands, and live a fruitful life. If you have had warnings, heed them, turn back, repent, and follow God once again. He punishes because he loves you and wants the best for you. He knows you best.

Ezekiel 3:1-15

1 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.”
2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it taste as sweet as honey in my mouth.
4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them.
5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel–
6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.
7 But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate.
8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.
9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.
11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says, ‘whether they listen or fail to listen.”
12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the LORD rose from the place where it was standing.
13 It was the sound of the sings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound.
14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD on me.
15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days–deeply distressed.

God gave each of us a task. That task is different for everyone. Ezekiel’s task was to tell the rebellious people of Israel what God had said. The people were stubborn and it was not going to be an easy task. For Ezekiel alone, it was daunting and likely dangerous, however, God gave him the means and the strength to do this task.

God first instructed Ezekiel to eat the scroll (remember this is a vision). The scroll was full of words front and back. He commanded to eat the scroll and fill your stomach with it. We must be filled with the word, we must study our Bibles before we can go out and teach others. God’s word must permeate our lives before we go out to do his work. When we seek to fill ourselves with his Word, his words will be “as sweet as honey” to us and will give us the ‘nutrition’ required to do his task.

He then commands Ezekiel to go and deliver is word. Notice in verse 12, “Then the Spirit lifted me up..” God gives us a task, feeds us strength, gives us the words, and he even picks us up and takes us to where we need to be. The only thing we actually need to do is maintain an obedient attitude. God does the rest.

God doesn’t just tell us to do something and sit and watch us to see if we fail or not. He gives us the necessary resources, he encourages us, he strengthens us; he gives us every tool that we need to do the job. The only thing he looks for is an obedient attitude. A heart that desires to do his work is all that he looks for. Do you desire to do God’s work? or are you caught up in your own self and have only selfish desires?

Ezekiel 2:1-10

1 He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.”
2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day.
4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’
5 And whether they listen or fair to listen–for they are a rebellious people–they will know that a prophet has been among them.
6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among the scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them. though they are a rebellious people.
7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.
8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll,
10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

These verses contain so many comforting words that it is important for us to remember them.

First chapter two begins with, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” God first calls us. We do not seek out God first. He comes to us, finds us, and speaks to us. Just as he loved us first, he chooses us before we choose him.

Verse 2, “the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” When God calls us, so long as we have the desire to listen, God will give us the strength to stand and listen. Ezekiel was in a very difficult situation. Sometimes we too are found in difficult situations in which we don’t even have the strength to stand up. But God raises us up to our feet and speaks to us.

Verses 3-5. God gives Ezekiel his mission. God tells Ezekiel what he is to do and why he is to do it. God calls us, raises us up, and gives us a mission. God gives us our purpose. Our purpose of existence lies in the command of God. It is obedience that accomplishes our goal.

Verses 6-7. Do not be afraid, do not be afraid, do not be afraid. God tells Ezekiel three times consecutively not to be afraid. The world is a rebellious world. Any mention of God and you become an outcast. Christianity has been persecuted since its inception and even before it even had the name of “Christianity”. The world persecuted Jesus. As Christians, we realize and we know that we cannot escape persecution by the world. Spreading the gospel is difficult. People are stubborn. God reminds us not to be afraid because he is with us. Whether they listen or fail to listen is not our responsibility. Our job, our task is to speak the words that God has given us to speak. We need not be afraid when doing the work of God.

Verses 8-10. “But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you…. open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Before we can do what God has commanded us to do, we must be full ourselves. We must know the words that God wants us to say. We must study the word, know the word, and understand the word. If we are not filled with the word, how can we fill others with it? We can’t. We must first listen to God before we can tell others what he said.

God is calling us. He calls us and gives us the strength to respond. He directs us and instructs us in our purpose. He comforts and promises to protect us so we need not be afraid. He feeds us his words so that we do not stumble. With his strength, protection, guidance, and instruction we can accomplish the task given to us. Desire God. Desire his words. Accomplish his mission.

Ezekiel 1:15-28

15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces.
16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparked like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.
17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went.
18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.
19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.
20 Where the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22 Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome.
23 Under the vault their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings coverings its body.
24 When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.
25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings.
26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man.
27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him.
28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel’s vision continues. He now sees wheels full of eyes next to the creatures. He also sees a vault above the creatures with a throne of lapis lazuli above the vault. The creatures are meant to signify God’s reign and control over all directions of the earth. They face four separate directions and they move about very quickly. Next to these creatures are wheels that are covered in eyes. The wheels of eyes signify God’s all knowing nature. He sees everything. He knows everything. There is no where that we can hide from God.

The fire and the radiance above the creatures help us picture the glory of God and his son Jesus Christ. The glory of God was so great that Ezekiel fell facedown when he saw it. Such is the attitude that we must have. In today’s world we have turned God into an icon that is meant to help humans. We turn to him only when we need help, only in our times of trouble. When asked to serve him, expecting nothing in return, we shy away and come up with excuses. We have turned Christianity into a religion of convenience.

This is not how the relationship between God and human was intended to be. Humans are the creation of God. Therefore our purpose is determined by God. Our sole responsibility is to fulfill the task that he created us for. When we see God, our reaction should be, metaphorically, to fall facedown because of his holiness and our unworthiness. Our attitude should be one of reverence. Remember that God is our creator. Remember that we are his creation.

Ezekiel 1:1-14

1 In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin–
3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was on him.
4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north–and immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal,
5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human,
6 but each of them had four faces and four wings.
7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze.
8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings,
9 and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.
10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle.
11 Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body.
12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.
13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth amount the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it.
14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God during the time of the second Babylonian takeover. Israel had been taken over by Babylon and many were enslaved during that time. Ezekiel was down by the river, likely beat, dirty, unkempt, and simply in a pathetic state. But God came to Ezekiel.

God showed Ezekiel something. He saw creatures in a cloud. The creatures described are difficult for us to understand or imagine, but they signify something important. Together they signify God’s protection; they signify some of his characteristics that give us hope while in his care.

Ezekiel was in a tough spot. His life was far from grandeur. He was the priest of a country that had been destroyed and robbed of everything it has, even its people. He was walking among the exiles, probably attempting to re-instill hope in their lives, even though his own was fading. But God came and called him. God found him in his place of need. God showed Ezekiel that he is still there.

Life is difficult. We run in to rough patches all the time. We get stuck, frustrated, beat, and depressed. The struggle never seems to stop. Where is God in all of this? Where is he when I need him most? Why doesn’t he help me? We ask these questions to ourselves all the time. Just as he showed and told Ezekiel, God reminds us today that he is with us. Through thick and through thin, he is there. Through trials and difficulties, he is there. When you are broken and have lost hope, he is there. He is there ready to pick you up and give you the strength to go on. God loves you. He loves you so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins. He loves you so much that he took your place on the cross. When life becomes unbearable, remember… God is there for you. You just need to lean on him and rely on him to help you and to support you. Let him do the work for you. Humble yourself and trust in God.

Philippians 4:14-23

14 Yet it was good for you to share in my troubles.
15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;
16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.
17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.
18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be the glory for ever and every. Amen.
21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings.
22 All God’s people here send you greetings. especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

— Philippians 4:14-23

The church of Philippi did much to help Paul in his ministry. They sent aid when he was in Macedonia and when he was in Thessalonica. And they sent aid to him in his current troubles as well. Paul blesses the Philippians and prays that God would fulfill their every need. He glorifies God and tells the church that their work is for the glory of God as well.

How often do we think that the people doing God’s work are the people like Paul? We think that it is the pastors and the missionaries who are truly doing God’s work, spreading the gospel across the world. This thought process leads many of us to conclude that we are not doing God’s will and/or that we are not capable of doing God’s will. We struggle inside wondering how we will ever be “good” Christians if we cant go out and preach the gospel to people.

This section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians tells us that this is not the case. In verses 14-18 we see the acts of generosity, humility, and willingness on the part of the Philippians. They gave to Paul freely with a loving heart because he was going out to spread the gospel. In his time of difficulty, they sent aid to help him overcome his troubles. When he struggled, they supported him.

In verses 18-20, we see God’s response. Paul’s needs were fully taken care of. He was “amply supplied” through the “gifts” that Epaphroditus delivered. And these gifts were deemed a “fragrant offering” and an “acceptable sacrifice” which were “pleasing to God”.

Doing God’s will and doing his work is what pleases God. The Philippians supported Paul in his missionary endeavors. They did not all run out and become missionaries. They did not all become pastors planting churches. They did what they could in the place that they were. They supported Paul. They supported each other. Most of all they did all of this with a love for Christ. This is what pleased God. This is what God wanted.

Paul continues in verse 19, “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” When you bring glory to God, God will bless you with so much more. This is not to say that you will become rich or that you will never have troubles in your life. This is to say that the more you use for his Kingdom, the more he will give you to use for his Kingdom.

Do you often feel that you have nothing to offer to God? God is telling us today that he doesn’t just appreciate the work of pastors and missionaries. He appreciates the work of all of his children who work with a heart of love and dedication for Jesus Christ. It isn’t about the amount that we give. It is about the intentions of the heart behind the giving. God looks at the heart.

Where is your heart? What can you give to God today?

Give all that you have to God and God will give you all that he has.