Disclaimer: This one is a longer post, but hopefully worth the read!
Outta the gate I’ve got to say, I’m not a big fan of prophecy.
Truth be told: I find prophetic books in the Bible unsettling. A lot of them are weird, and other-worldly, and confusing. But, God! He had given me the book of Ezekiel to read, and man, oh man, was it an eye-opener.
I’ve been going to The Healing Journey classes offered in my area this year, you knew that, right? The class facilitator recently proposed a new and different way for reading through God’s Word. What was suggested was that we ladies write the names of the books of the Bible on slips of paper and cut them into tabs, one Bible name for each tab of paper, then deposit said tabs in a glass jar for safe keeping.
My amazingly awesome group leader, Berny A, gave us all a jar she made for us. My jar is so pretty.
Thank you, Berny!
Once we were alone with our jars, we ladies were instructed to bow our heads and prayed for the Lord’s guidance in picking our next book of the Bible to study. Once we had prayed, we were asked to draw a name from the can or jar in which the tabs had been stored. In this way, God would be put in charge of my Bible reading and devotional times. Easy, right?!
My first draw: Philemon!
I rejoiced, because Philemon is a small book of the Bible and an encouraging one. I dove in, read it quickly, and then journaled my significant thoughts about its message to me (a tool I learned to use in The Healing Journey class, so helpful).
In Philemon, I found a message of motivation and forgiveness, and encouragement to always be looking for God’s purpose in the things that happen in life. Philemon suggested that I hold everything in life with a loose fist. It also reminded me that the things I enjoy most in life have the most power to sway me toward personal pride and accomplishments. Reading Philemon reminded me that God’s greatest blessings come from surrendering everything I have to Him. I was off to a great start with this new reading method.
My next draw ended in personal astonishment–the book of The Revelation!
Really, God? Revelations!? I’m only two books into this thing and you want me to read that? I was stunned. Like I said at the onset of this post, I’m not drawn to prophetic utterances.
I read The Revelation of Jesus Christ with as open a mind as I could. Here is what I learned: No matter how kind, loving, or forgiving God is, some people will not love Him back. Also, no matter how punitive his approach to mankind, no matter the harshness of His touch or the terrible circumstances that are brought about by our sinful conditions, some people will not relent from sinning. They will not stop. Will not reach for a life saver. Won’t. Can’t. Refuse! The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ showed me what lengths God is willing to go in order to save us from ourselves. Wow! Especially wow are those letters to the churches in this book. If you haven’t read them in a while (or ever), do it now. They are relevant to our lives in the church today.
It was time to draw again, and what do you think fell out of that jar? Ezekiel!!!!!
Yep—another prophetic book, and I was being asked to see this as God’s will for me at this time! I hesitated. I did not want to do it. Ezekiel?! Really? Have you read the book of Ezekiel? Have you tried to absorb what’s written there about creatures that have four faces, and 2 sets of wings, and movements that are stiff and awkward, and eyes all over them and their accompanying wheels within wheels? Have you tried?
Eyes, folks. Tons of eyes, everywhere! My significant thoughts on Ezekiel were these:
Ezekiel’s record of life with God is weird. Can you imagine receiving this stuff in the form of visions from God every day, or a couple times a year, or ever?
Ezekiel’s record of life with God is sad. His beloved wife was taken from him to make a point with God’s people, and he was forbidden to mourn her. Hard stuff. Tragic stuff. Difficult to understand stuff! Prophecy.
Ezekiel’s record of life with God is frightening. The prophet was asked to tell sinner and saint alike that national destruction was on its way. A mighty enemy army was marching toward the great city and it would rob them of all the blessings they had enjoyed. A cruel and unforgiving force was barking at their door, howling to get in, and the oppressors would be given an advantage (by God!), helping them scale walls and peel back gates of security, in order to enter the holy city.
Ezekiel’s record of life with God proves God is good to His word! Fueled by holy integrity, God will create circumstances that leave people broken in every way. It’s done out of love, but it hurts just the same. Again and again in this book God is recorded as having said, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
Thankfully, Ezekiel ends with a promise that the people of God, after their punishment is completed and they are ready to return to their Lord, will return. They will rise again to become a mighty nation. Out of obscurity, they will become famous once more. They will once again be gathered to His holy city. Boundaries will again be laid. Protections will again be put in place. They will testify to God’s miraculous love for them once more.
I needed to read Ezekiel’s prophecies now, at this point in my life, because I needed to be encouraged. I needed to understand that our God is willing to go to any lengths to preserve men’s souls and set them back on the path of righteousness. I needed to understand that Love will deliver a punishment so painful that God himself will cringe as the destruction begins. Because He must. Because He cares that much. Because left to ourselves, we would rot from the inside out. The good news: After the pain is over, God’s healing prevails.
Philemon…Revelations…Ezekiel. Powerful books. Powerful messages to me.
This weekend I picked another slip of paper from the jar. This weekend, God spoke again to my waiting heart. This weekend, He once again directed my reading.
When I pulled this weekend, Esther was the tab that popped out of my reading jar!
Esther: a book I love! Esther: a record of evil wanting to have God’s children, and God making sure it doesn’t. Esther: For a time such as this. Bring it on, Holy Spirit. Bring it on!!!
What is your favorite book of the Bible? What is the one book that you would quickly say is not one of your favorites?