Saturday, September 01, 2012

September 1, 2012 … Refinement By the Fire of Destruction

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 245

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Ezekiel 21-22 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passage: Ezekiel 21: 1-5; 24-28; 31-32 : [NLT] … 1 Then this message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Son of man, look toward Jerusalem and prophesy against Israel and her sanctuaries. 3 Give her this message from the LORD: I am your enemy, O Israel, and I am about to unsheath my sword to destroy your people—the righteous and the wicked alike. 4 Yes, I will not spare even the righteous! I will make a clean sweep throughout the land from south to north. 5 All the world will know that I am the LORD. My sword is in my hand, and it will not return to its sheath until its work is finished. … 
24 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Again and again your guilt cries out against you, for you are not ashamed of your sin. You don’t even try to hide it! Wherever you go, whatever you do, all your actions are filled with sin. So now the time of your punishment has come! 25 “O you corrupt and wicked prince of Israel, your final day of reckoning is here! 26 Take off your jeweled crown, says the Sovereign LORD. The old order changes—now the lowly are exalted, and the mighty are brought low. 27 Destruction! Destruction! I will surely destroy the kingdom. And it will not be restored until the One appears who has the right to judge it. Then I will hand it over to Him. … 
31 I will pour out my fury on you and blow on you [both Judah and Ammon, who had allied with one another against Babylon] with the fire of my anger. I will hand you over to cruel men who are skilled in destruction. 32 You are fuel for the fire, and your blood will be spilled in your own land. You will be utterly wiped out, your memory lost to history. I, the LORD, have spoken!”  
Highlight Passage: Ezekiel 22: 1-4: 6; 17-22; 26; : [NLT] … 1 Now this message came to me from the LORD: 2 “Son of man, are you ready to judge Jerusalem? Are you ready to judge this city of murderers? Denounce her terrible deeds in public, 3 and give her this message from the Sovereign LORD: O city of murderers, doomed and damned—city of idols, filthy and foul — 4 you are guilty of both murder and idolatry. Your day of destruction has come! You have reached the end of your years. I will make you an object of mockery throughout the world. … 
 6 [God’s condemnation ot the Elders/Leaders in Jerusalem] … “Every leader in Israel who lives within your walls is bent on murder.” … 
17 Then this message came to me from the LORD: 18 “Son of man, the people of Israel are the worthless slag that remains after silver is smelted. They are the dross that is left over —a useless mixture of copper, tin, iron, and lead. 19 So give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: Because you are all worthless slag, I will bring you to my crucible in Jerusalem. 20 I will melt you down in the heat of my fury, just as copper, tin, iron, and lead are melted down in a furnace. 21 I will gather you together and blow the fire of my anger upon you, 22 and you will melt like silver in fierce heat. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have poured out my fury on you.” … 
26 Your priests have violated my laws and defiled my holy things. To them there is no difference between what is holy and what is not. … 
30 “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one. 31 So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them in the fire of my anger. I will heap on them the full penalty for all their sins, says the Sovereign LORD.”  

Cross Reference Passage: Proverbs 17: 3 : [NLT] … Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.  
Cross Reference Passage: James 3: 1 : [NLT] … Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers [i.e., leaders] in the church, for we who teach [i.e., lead] will be judged by God with greater strictness. 

My Journal for Today: Having just completed my study of these two chapters in the book of Ezekiel in my chronological Bible study for today, I’m humbled to the core. Reading of God’s decree of the destruction of the holy city of David, Jerusalem, because of the desecration of the Temple and worship practices there, is downright scary stuff!

Because the word-picture and image God uses, through the Prophet Ezekiel, to His people in Jerusalem was the process of the refinement of metals in those days. If you’re a Bible student, this image is used often in scripture to describe the process God uses to purify the hearts and minds of His children (i.e., disciples). It is the picture of Proverbs 17: 3, cited above as a cross reference passage today. In those days, and even today, metallurgists would throw metals into a fire to burn off the “dross,” or the impurities, which would bubble to the top of the heated, but impure metals, leaving the purified, precious metal, possibly gold or silver, to be skimmed off as pure.

The scriptural image is that our impure hearts are thrown, by God, into the fires of life (i.e., our trials and tribulations) so that our hearts can be purified from the impure state in which they are [see Jeremiah 17: 9]. In that day, the leaders (i.e., priests and elders) in Jerusalem had led the people – and the Temple – into a horrible state of impurity and desecration. And God was about to put Jerusalem and the Temple through a purifying trial-by-fire at the hands and the swords of the Babylonians.

In those days, the Priesthood in Jerusalem had actually led the people in the desecration of worship in the Temple of God; and it had become a place of horrible impurity. And now God led Ezekiel to bring the message that God was going to purify His Temple and His city with the fire of destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. And this is where the frightening process comes in for me and for the church today. Because, we Christians are now the “royal priesthood” (see 1st Peter 2: 9) and our individual hearts of faith (as born-again believers) are the Temple of God (see 1st Cor. 6: 19).

 So, fellow Christian, if we are the priesthood of believers and we allow our hearts [i.e., God’s Temple] to become impure by allowing unholiness into our lives, what can we expect God to do to purify His dwelling place? … DUH!! … He will bring His refining fire into our lives to raise the dross of impurity, which His Spirit can skim off in our lives to bring us to a state of purity and holiness.

Now, we can choose to bring on that refining fire in a calculated and more carefully defined sanctifying process; or we can just ignore the impurities in our hearts and let God put us through HIS process of refining fires. Personally, having been through both methods of refinement, I prefer the former. When we humbly choose to confess our sins [see 1st John 1: 9] and to come to God – in surrender – ready to humbly receive His enabling grace, He will pour His Spirit into our hearts to help us grow in purity and in the refinement which comes through the fire of His discipline which we have chosen to undertake in the self-imposed disciplines of the faith.

Today in God’s church, many leaders (preachers, elders, and teachers) have led Christians into impure practices of worship; and I’m afraid we, the Church, will soon – if we aren’t seeing it already – be thrown into God’s refining fire. Church leaders are under a higher standard of purity, as leaders/teachers than are the rank-and-file Christian in the church (see James 3: 1 quoted above). So, as the Bridegroom, when God sees that His Bride is being led by the Church leaders into impure worship practices (see Romans 12: 1-2 for proper worship practices), we cannot expect that God will totally step aside and let this happen. No, … we can rather expect God’s refining test of fire to burn off the dross in His church. And I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing happen today in so many churches and denominations who are excusing abortion, allowing for or performing “gay marriages,” and ordaining women into roles of Elder, Bishop, or Pastor. God will not allow His Bride to become impure. He will not allow the hearts of His Temple (the hearts of individual Christians) to be desecrated by such impurities as pornography or any false or new-age practices of worship.

No, my friend, God’s refining fire will purify His Temple. It was so in Ezekiel’s time; and it is the case in ours as well !!

My Prayer Today: … Lord, if you must purify Your Church and my heart, bring on Your refining fires. Amen

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