A Day of Clouds

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘Wail and say, “Alas for that day!”  For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near— a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.  A sword will come against Egypt, and anguish will come upon Cush. When the slain fall in Egypt, her wealth will be carried away and her foundations torn down.  Cush and Libya, Lydia and all Arabia, Kub and the people of the covenant land will fall by the sword along with Egypt.  “ ‘This is what the Lord says: “ ‘The allies of Egypt will fall and her proud strength will fail. From Migdol to Aswan they will fall by the sword within her, declares the Sovereign Lord .  “ ‘They will be desolate among desolate lands, and their cities will lie among ruined cities.  Then they will know that I am the Lord , when I set fire to Egypt and all her helpers are crushed.  “ ‘On that day messengers will go out from me in ships to frighten Cush out of her complacency. Anguish will take hold of them on the day of Egypt’s doom, for it is sure to come.  “ ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘I will put an end to the hordes of Egypt by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.  He and his army—the most ruthless of nations— will be brought in to destroy the land. They will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain.  I will dry up the waters of the Nile and sell the land to an evil nation; by the hand of foreigners I will lay waste the land and everything in it. I the Lord have spoken. ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘I will destroy the idols and put an end to the images in Memphis. No longer will there be a prince in Egypt, and I will spread fear throughout the land.  I will lay waste Upper Egypt, set fire to Zoan and inflict punishment on Thebes.  I will pour out my wrath on Pelusium, the stronghold of Egypt, and wipe out the hordes of Thebes.  I will set fire to Egypt; Pelusium will writhe in agony. Thebes will be taken by storm; Memphis will be in constant distress.  The young men of Heliopolis and Bubastis will fall by the sword, and the cities themselves will go into captivity.  Dark will be the day at Tahpanhes when I break the yoke of Egypt; there her proud strength will come to an end. She will be covered with clouds, and her villages will go into captivity.  So I will inflict punishment on Egypt, and they will know that I am the Lord .’ ” Ezekiel 30:1‭-‬19

Today’s passage continues the dire prophecy against Egypt and Pharaoh. This time their day of doom comes with “a day of clouds”. What immediately comes to mind when I think of a day of clouds is my childhood growing up in Seattle, WA.  There were many times when we would go weeks without seeing the sun.  I do not think that is the image God is trying to convey here.

God up to this point has interacted with the people of Israel as a cloud in the temple, or even clouds high above. I think God is telling Pharaoh and the people of Egypt that He is going to show up in a dramatic and permeating way, like a cloud – a Godly condensate.

I suppose one could also view this “day of clouds” as a menacing, slate-grey, gathering of thunderheads ready to rain on everyone’s parade.  Perhaps these seemingly disparate views are really a distinction without a difference.  Whether God appears as a gentle dew or a drenching rain may depend on where one is standing.

Pharaoh and the Egyptian people are standing pridefully on the banks of the Nile thinking they are something special.  God makes it clear Who the true water source is in this parable.  He says “I will dry up the waters of the Nile and sell the land to an evil nation”.  God wants the Egyptian people to acknowledge that He is the true source of the Nile and all that it provides.

I think we all have “Nile Rivers” in our lives. Things and people in whom we place our trust rather than the God who made them. Perhaps the Egyptians were just more up front and “in your face” about it, but the end result is the same.  We must decide when the “day of clouds” arrives do we run for cover to avoid God’s rain, or do we allow God’s spirit to envelope us and permeate our very soul.

Prayer: God help me to receive Your presence as a permeating cloud, drenching my soul.

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Self Sufficient Fish

In the tenth year, in the tenth month on the twelfth day, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Speak to him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, you great monster lying among your streams. You say, “The Nile belongs to me; I made it for myself.”  But I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales.  I will leave you in the desert, you and all the fish of your streams. You will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up. I will give you as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky.  Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the Lord . “ ‘You have been a staff of reed for the people of Israel. When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched.  “ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will bring a sword against you and kill both man and beast. Egypt will become a desolate wasteland. Then they will know that I am the Lord . “ ‘Because you said, “The Nile is mine; I made it,” therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. – Ezekiel 29:1‭-‬10

I’m not sure why this passage is so specific about timing but the prophecy is reported to the day. This prophecy is directed at Egypt and Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Pharaoh is described as a “great monster lying among your streams.” As we will soon see he has an appointment with a hook and a fisherman named God.

I find it somewhat interesting that Pharaoh is described as a monster among streams. In that part of the world there are few streams.  The only real water source comes from the Nile. So I guess it is not clear what is meant by “streams”. The passage goes on to partially answer this question when it refers to the Nile and Pharaoh’s wish to take ownership and control it. It seems like there is more to this metaphor

The metaphor begins to get a little murky when God goes on to say He “will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your streams stick to your scales. I will pull you out from among your streams, with all the fish sticking to your scales.” It sounds like Pharaoh is going to be unceremoniously yanked from his position of power like a fish on a hook, and the people of Egypt are going along for the ride “stuck to like scales”.

Just yesterday I was cleaning some fish that I had previously yanked from the water on a hook.  I remember distinctly as I was cleaning the fish that the scales did have a nasty habit of sticking to my hands and to the meat even after I filleted the fish. It is not entirely clear what sticky fish scales has to do with pharaoh and his posture towards God, but I’m hoping by the time I’m done pondering this passage it will become more clear.

As I have chewed on this passage it is almost seems as if God is trying use this metaphor to highlight the alternative reality that the Egyptians have created along the Nile. They have created an entire ecosystem apart from God.  They have become comfortable and complacent and have no need of God. They are self-sufficient fish, scales and all.
Pharaoh, as king of Egypt, is the biggest fish of all and is partially responsible for creating the alternative reality in which they are living. Perhaps the scales “sticking” to Pharaoh is an allusion to the god-like status he has taken for himself above his people. He fancies himself as Lord of the Dance. In this prophecy got is reminding him that he is not.

God is going to take these fish out of the comfortable “stream” they’ve been living in and place them in a dry and dusty desert where they will not be able to survive. They will be removed from the only god they have known in the Nile. They will die in the desert, separated from their god, “you will fall on the open field and not be gathered or picked up”.  It sounds like they will not even have the privilege of becoming someone’s dinner.  They will be “as food to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky”.  They will become part of God’s ecosystem whether they like it or not. In the end God wins.

Although many aspect of this passage remain confusing, the take-home message for me is that we need to be cautious about complacency and becoming too comfortable in the “environments” we have create for ourselves that do not include God. God wants us to be a bit uncomfortable here in this land of Oblivion. It is not our home it is only a place where we will live for a time on our way to the Undiscovered Country.

Perhaps the scales “sticking” to Pharaoh is an illusion to the god-like status he has taken for himself above his people. He fancies himself as Lord of the Dance. In this prophecy got is reminding him that he is not.

Prayer: God help us to remember that we are part of Your “ecosystem”.  We can choose to have You at the center or ourselves.  Help us choose You.

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The Pride of Your Heart

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a mere mortal and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.  Are you wiser than Daniel ? Is no secret hidden from you?  By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries.  By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud.  “ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “ ‘Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god,  I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor.  They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas.  Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a mortal, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you.  You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord .’  – Ezekiel 28:1‭-‬10

The core issue in this passage is pride. The pride of the king of Tyre, and the pride of all who are reading the passage. Water comes in a couple of times in the form of the sea. The king of Tyre seems to think that he rules the seas, God has another idea.

The main character here is still Ezekiel, but he is sharing a prophecy with the king of Tyre who apparently has an overinflated view of himself, “In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas””. This sounds like a “self-made” man who is successful by all earthly measures.

In previous passages the heart has been used metaphorically to represent the soul.  So God is saying to the king that his soul is full of pride about his power and position. He is so full of himself that there is no room for God. He also apparently thinks he is as wise as God, a dangerous position to be sure.

God tells the king that he should prepare for a wake-up call in the form of foreigners invading and sending him to the “depths of the pit” and the “heart of the seas”. I am not sure exactly what this means, but it doesn’t sound good.

It seems that the root of the king’s pride is wealth acquired through “great skill”.  This king was the successful day trader of his day.  

The take-home message for me here is that we should be always be examining ourselves and our hearts to be sure there is room for God. We should also be wary of attributing our success to our own ingenuity and intelligence.

Prayer: Help to make room in my heart for you and see the ways that pride is getting in the way.

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Shipwreck

“ ‘The ships of Tarshish serve as carriers for your wares. You are filled with heavy cargo as you sail the sea.  Your oarsmen take you out to the high seas. But the east wind will break you to pieces far out at sea.  Your wealth, merchandise and wares, your mariners, sailors and shipwrights, your merchants and all your soldiers, and everyone else on board will sink into the heart of the sea on the day of your shipwreck.  The shorelands will quake when your sailors cry out.  All who handle the oars will abandon their ships; the mariners and all the sailors will stand on the shore.  They will raise their voice and cry bitterly over you; they will sprinkle dust on their heads and roll in ashes.  They will shave their heads because of you and will put on sackcloth. They will weep over you with anguish of soul and with bitter mourning.  As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?”  When your merchandise went out on the seas, you satisfied many nations; with your great wealth and your wares you enriched the kings of the earth.  Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your wares and all your company have gone down with you.  All who live in the coastlands are appalled at you; their kings shudder with horror and their faces are distorted with fear.  The merchants among the nations scoff at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’ -Ezekiel 27:25‭-‬36

I have taken numerous trips to Haiti over the last 10 years or so and every time I fly into Port-au-Prince I am peering out the window to see if I can see a shipwreck that is visible just off the coast.  I am not sure when this ship met it’s end, but it must have been heartbreaking to sink so close to land. The shipwreck described in this passage must have been equally disheartening.

As I have chewed on this passage I have been reflecting on what typically causes ships to wreck.  Typically they either 1) encounter an immovable object that they were not aware of or could not avoid; or 2) they are overcome by wind or storms that are beyond the ships ability to stay afloat.  It struck me that both of these ways to wreck a ship would apply metaphorically to God.  He is certainly an immovable object which one would be wise to know about and avoid “running into”.  God also sends storms into our lives like those He sent into Job’s life.  I do not think He does this to “sink” us but rather to force our reliance on Him.  We can choose to allow our boat to be piloted by Him or we can take the reigns and take our chances.

In many ways this seems like a retelling of the story in the previous passage.  The added details here mainly relate to Tyre’s position and reputation as a trading port and to the “shipwreck”. The details described here remain reminiscent of a regional earthquake and rearranging of the shoreline. Especially the timing of shipwreck, “The shorelands will quake when your sailors cry out”.  Now this may be totally metaphorical and have nothing to do with an actual earth event, but if there were an earthquake near the coast it would not be surprising for it to generate a tsunami which could certainly wreak havoc for a ship if it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is also an almost ecclesiastical hopelessness and futility embedded in this passage. Like the passage immortalized by the Byrds in the sixties when they sang “Turn, turn, turn (To Everything There Is a Season)” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). All the running and sailing about with wares will end in a pile of debris on the bottom of the sea. It does not matter how much they know about trading or sailing the end result is the same.

I take this as a cautionary passage that we should not place our trust, or invest our time here on Earth, on ephemeral things.  We should have our eyes fixed on the horizon, and on God, so we can successfully navigate from this land of Oblivion to the undiscovered country.

Prayer: God help us to place our trust in you and keep our eyes fixed on what is important to You. 

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Trembling Coastlands

TyreThey will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea. I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more. I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord .  “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Tyre: Will not the coastlands tremble at the sound of your fall, when the wounded groan and the slaughter takes place in you? Then all the princes of the coast will step down from their thrones and lay aside their robes and take off their embroidered garments. Clothed with terror, they will sit on the ground, trembling every moment, appalled at you. Then they will take up a lament concerning you and say to you: “ ‘How you are destroyed, city of renown, peopled by men of the sea! You were a power on the seas, you and your citizens; you put your terror on all who lived there.  Now the coastlands tremble on the day of your fall; the islands in the sea are terrified at your collapse.’  “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I make you a desolate city, like cities no longer inhabited, and when I bring the ocean depths over you and its vast waters cover you, then I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of long ago. I will make you dwell in the earth below, as in ancient ruins, with those who go down to the pit, and you will not return or take your place in the land of the living. I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more. You will be sought, but you will never again be found, declares the Sovereign Lord .” – Ezekiel 26:12‭-‬21

Today’s passage is a continuation of the description of the coming calamity for the city of Tyre, which is in modern-day Lebanon.  I did a little investigation in to this location because I was curious about all the talk in the previous passages, and this passage, about this location being under the sea in the future (“you will become a place to spread fishnets”).

When I investigated the location in Google Earth I learned two interesting things: 1) the ruins of the Phoenician City of Tyre described here are still quite visible along the southern shore of a peninsula in modern day Lebanon (33°16’06.62″ N 35°11’43.68″ E); 2) These ruins appear to extend out into the ocean almost as if part of the city was submerged.

God promises in this passage that the city will never be rebuilt after it is destroyed. Now there does appear to be a city of Tyre on the map which would imply that a city was rebuilt, but there is also the presence of the ruins of the older city which are still there.  Perhaps God meant that the city would not be able to exist at the location described here, which may be accurate. Either way it is interesting that there is abundant evidence still at this location to examine.

God goes on to talk about how this destruction of Tyre will impact those who live there and the surrounding towns. The “princes” are going to be freaked out by whatever happens so much that they will “sit on the ground, trembling every moment, appalled”. What is interesting is in the next couple of verses the very coast is said to “tremble on the day of your fall”. 

This could be completely metaphorical or describing an emotional rather than a physical reality, but I find three things interesting about the description of this event as a geologist: 1) the surrounding towns were apparently affected in some way (“all the princes of the coast will step down from their thrones and lay aside their robes”); 2) the coastline was “trembling” (“coastlands tremble”); 3) the location of the town was submerged (“I bring the ocean depths over you and its vast waters cover you”).  

All of these events are consistent with an earthquake, widespread chaos and damage, and associated land subsidence. Now all of these things could also be describing a battle or some other human event, but I do find to description odd for that sort of calamity.

I am not sure what larger message I can glean from this passage other than that God is God and we are not.  If he chooses to allow a town to be submerged under the sea, whether it be from an earthquake or some other event, so be it.  In this case it seems the reason was that the people of Tyre were taking advantage of the people of Israel while God was disciplining them.  Sort of like when you break up a fight and one of the parties takes a cheap shot while you have the other party restrained. Never a good place to be – between God and the subject of His wrath.

Prayer: God make your plans clear to us so that we do not get between You and those You are trying to correct.

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Open Doors

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the eleventh month of the twelfth year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,’ therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord . She will become plunder for the nations, and her settlements on the mainland will be ravaged by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord . – Ezekiel 26:1‭-‬6

This passage is one of a litany of judgments that are to befall the nation’s surrounding Israel if they take advantage of God’s judgement of Jerusalem. The nation of Tyre was an ancient Phoenician port city, in what is now Lebanon. God is warning the nation of Tyre not to take advantage of the destruction God has allowed in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, the city of David, is referred to in the passage as “the gate to the nations”.  In yesterday’s post God shared a hard prophecy with Ezekiel about his wife and the temple being destroyed. This is what God is referring to when he says in this passage “its doors have swung open” Taken literally, this might mean God does not want the nation of Tyre to rob and pillage Jerusalem while He is punishing Israel. This makes sense, but as as I have ruminated on this passage another meaning of this story has occurred to me.

At this point in history God is not ready to “open up the gates” of “the city” to the likes of the people of Tyre. God is still desperately trying to get the attention, and affection, of his chosen people, the Israelites. His special relationship with them is still pretty exclusive. Fortunately for me, and all other modern-day God followers, the snare has been broken and all who choose to do so can now enter the city (the kingdom of heaven) freely.

God says He will be against Tyre, bringing many nation’s against Tyre, like “the sea casting up it’s waves”. God goes on to say “I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock” – sounds like extreme erosion to this geologist. As many homeowners along the sea can attest, fighting the sea is often a loosing battle and one that is better to avoid.

The passage goes on to describe Tyre as, “Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets”. This description has me a little confused. It almost sounds like this coastal town will soon become part of the sea through land subsidence, a rising sea, or perhaps erosion? I will have to ponder the meaning of this murky metaphor as I continue down the river.

The take home for me from this passage is that God has extended His arm and opened the gates to all those who are willing to faithfully follow Him. We need not worry like the people of Tyre that we will be pounded into a pulp by wave upon wave of erosive seas.

Prayer: God thank you for opening the gates to all those who choose to follow You.

SDG
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A Fugitive Will Come…

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears. Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners.”  So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.  Then the people asked me, “Won’t you tell us what these things have to do with us? Why are you acting like this?”  So I said to them, “The word of the Lord came to me: Say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. And you will do as I have done. You will not cover your mustache and beard or eat the customary food of mourners. You will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet. You will not mourn or weep but will waste away because of your sins and groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be a sign to you; you will do just as he has done. When this happens, you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord .’  “And you, son of man, on the day I take away their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart’s desire, and their sons and daughters as well— on that day a fugitive will come to tell you the news. At that time your mouth will be opened; you will speak with him and will no longer be silent. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the Lord .” – Ezekiel 24:15‭-‬27

God is sharing a personal prophecy with Ezekiel in this passage. He is predicting the death of a very important to person, his wife – “the delight of your eyes”. This is likely to be a rough bit of water and God wants Ezekiel to be ready. The water reference is to tears, samples of our souls, as we will see this is something God directs Ezekiel not to shed.

This must have been a hard prophecy to hear for Ezekiel – on par with some of the things Job went through as he faced wave upon wave of calamities in his life. God also seems to require Ezekiel  to “Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead”. So not only is he going to lose his wife, but he cannot even be sad about it. This teaching is right up there with some of Jesus’ teachings in the sermon on the mount in terms of level of difficulty, both to understand and to do.

It sounds like this passage is predicting the “death” of something very dear to the people of Israel, presumably the temple. Why would God remove Ezekiel’s wife and the temple?  I think the answer lies near the middle of the passage, when God directs Ezekiel to tell the people, “I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The issue, it seems, is the posture and perspective of the people. God wants to be the object of the people’s affection and the delight of their eyes before all else, even the temple.

The passage ends with an interesting riffle. On the very day that God is to take away their “stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes, their heart’s desire, and their sons and daughters as well” God sends a “fugitive”. The fugitive will restore Ezekiel’s voice and share “news” with him. It may be a stretch, but it seems that this part of the passage contains a reflection of Him. The coming “Fugitive” sounds a lot like a young man from Galilee that was a fugitive almost from birth (Matthew 2:13). This fugitive will share news, good news?

The take home message for me in this passage is that God wants to be the object of our affection, the delight of our eyes, and the stronghold in which we take pride. He has wanted that from the  beginning and He wants the same from us today.

Prayer: God help me to place you first in my life, and make you the delight of my eyes, and the object of my affection. 

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