Ezekiel 7-12 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides a sanctuary for His people – anywhere.

The prisoner slowly makes his way to the execution chamber with the knowledge that all will be over soon.  Appeal after appeal has been denied, and now the end is in sight.  It’s 11:59 p.m. and the straps have been tightened, the hood is in place and….a telephone rings. The Governor has issued a reprieve, and the prisoner will live!  Dramatic I know, but I would imagine the exiles in Babylon felt a similar rush of relief at the news from the prophet Ezekiel, a reprieve if you will, that God would be with them in Babylon!

@ Ezekiel 11
Tragic prophecies had repeatedly been given to the Exiles about Jerusalem, their homeland, and all hope was gone in their minds for restoration because they were far from God’s Temple presence.  Now, God was issuing a reprieve for those who had turned their hearts toward Him.  “I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile.” (16)

Just like the Israelites, sometimes we find ourselves in a place that seems far from what we desire.  Perhaps we’ve arrived there through no fault of our own, or maybe our deeds have put us there.  Regardless, when we turn our hearts to God, He will provide a sanctuary where we can fellowship with Him.  I like the way the KJV says it, “Yet I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.”

Most believe that little sanctuary is referring to a short period of time while in captivity rather than space, but I think of it also as a place where we can meet with Him, wherever we may be, whether in a huge church or in a tiny closet far from home.  It doesn’t matter – He will be for us a little sanctuary while in the prison cell, on the hospital bed or in the work cubicle.  “I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!” (Psalm 139:7) God is omnipresent, everywhere, waiting for our cry for help, expecting to be our safe haven, our sanctuary.

“And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.” (19-20)  Some situations in life may harden our hearts, not only toward God but towards others as well.  It is in His sanctuary where He softens us and makes our hearts tender like His heart.

Within this prophetic dream from Ezekiel is a promise to Israel as a nation, “I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.” (17)  The Jews have lived in Israel periodically throughout history, but in 1948, it was recognized politically as a nation.

While nations around the world have fought hard to destroy this tiny nation, it remains!  It is a testimony of God’s blessing on it and His miraculous power.  However, this prophecy of Ezekiel will not be fully realized until the Second Coming of Christ, when the end-time believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, will inhabit the New Jerusalem.  What a day it will be!

For all who follow God, both Jew and Gentle, He longs to give us one heart, undivided, tender and fleshy that is responsive to Him and one that follows His Word.  “Then,” He says, “they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.” (20) 

Moving Forward: I will enter His sanctuary today, wherever I am, with a tender heart and with a prayer on my lips for the nation of Israel. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 13-14

Psalms 72-74 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He leads us to our glorious destiny regardless of how things may seem

@ Psalm 73
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph who was a Levite appointed by David to direct the choirs, and in this role, he composed psalms, songs and played the cymbals.  He was one that we would say “grew up in the church,” and as a Levite, he more than likely understood the sacrifice involved in serving the Lord.

By the manner he began his psalm, we can sense his love for God and his desire to view God and His goodness in the proper perspective, but it didn’t take him long to get to the heart of the issue that was troubling him.  “For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.  They seem to live such painless lives…they don’t have troubles like other people.” (3-5)

When I read this Psalm, I immediately wanted to remind Asaph that things are not always how they seem to be.  I’ve lived on the planet long enough to see that “He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)  We should never judge an individual’s trouble factor by how things appear. In fact, prosperity often brings greater, more serious troubles.  We seldom are aware of the family issues, health problems and immense stress levels that those around us are facing.  I’ve known many wealthy parents who would trade all they owned for the salvation of their children.  Everyone has trouble.

“Camp’s not fair!  Camp’s not fair!” was the slogan at one of our youth camps.  A camper had expressed to the camp director that camp was not fair because of something that had happened that he didn’t like.  Well, camp wasn’t always fair, but then neither is life, and the director grabbed that comment and turned it into a chant for the week.  We laughed at the injustice of it all, and we also learned that things were not always as unjust as they seemed.  Most importantly, we learned to roll with it.

However, Asaph was not rolling with it. “Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.  Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?… I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.  But what a difficult task it is!” (13-16)  Asaph even began to question His walk with God and the injustice of it all, something that can happen regardless of how long we know Him.

How do we move past injustice?  “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” (17)  A trip to His sanctuary was the answer!  He now viewed life through the enlightened eyes of grace, no longer through eyes of envy.

The presence of the Lord changes everything.  It opens our eyes to the truth, removes bitterness and resentment, floods us with His peace and moves our understanding to the eternal side of living.  “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant…Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” (21-24) Well, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Life may not seem fair, but He is always fair and just. When we focus on the eternal side of living, rather than the here and now, our thoughts and deeds are influenced by those things with eternal value, and we find that a trip to His sanctuary is a worthwhile journey. 

Moving Forward: Regardless of the injustice in this world that surrounds me today, I will focus on those things of eternal value.  Life may not seem fair, but He is! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 5-6