#DailyDevotion Jesus is YHWH, who seeks out the Lost Sheep
Read Ezek 34:1–24
Ezekiel 34: (11) “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…(13) And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country…(15) I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. (16) I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
This prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus. It is written in the gospel of John, John 10:11-15
(11) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…(13) I know my own and my own know me,..(14) I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,…(16) And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd. When Jesus does this he also identifies himself as the one speaking to the prophet Ezekiel. Jesus is the Lord, the God of Israel.
As such Jesus is the one who seeks out his people. People will often flock to Jesus but Jesus seeks out his own, even as he chose his disciples instead of them choosing Jesus. Jesus even now, through his church, the members of his church is seeking out the lost sheep. The church and the Word of God she preaches calls out to the lost sheep of God. When those who belong to Christ hear that Word, they recognize the voice of their Shepherd, Jesus and they follow him.
Because Jesus is our shepherd this is what he has come to do for his sheep, he will “bring back the strayed, “bind up the injured,” and strengthen the weak.” Those who are fallen away from the faith he calls them back with repentance, so they may confess their sins, turn from them and believe Jesus accepts them back. Jesus binds up our wounds for many times we have been spiritually assaulted and spiritually beaten up with false doctrine yet the free gift of salvation in Christ binds up our wounds. We may at times get weak, yet it is with the promises of God in Christ Jesus we become partakers of the divine nature and become strong in him. In all these things, it is the pure word of God and the sacraments which call, seek, bind and strengthen us.
Lord Jesus Christ, continually send out your Church into the world and call men to serve under you who be your voice and your hands to your lost and wounded sheep. May we all hear your voice and be gathered together with you in your Church that we may ever dwell in green pastures by the quiet waters of your kingdom. Amen.
#DailyDevotion The only coat tails you can ride into heaven on is Jesus’
Read Ezek 33:1–20
Eze 33:7-9 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. (8) If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. (9) But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul… 33:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? …17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. (18) When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. (19) And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. (20) Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”
Forget the temple in Ezekiel. The authors of the daily lectionary have it right when they skip all those readings. This is the meat of Ezekiel. We see this theme picked up again in Chapter 33 which we left in chapter 18. Those whom the Lord sends to speak his word are to do so. They are to warn the wicked of their impending doom. If they do so, they save not only those they are sent to but themselves as well.
The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. And well, we’re all wicked, there is no one who does good, not even one. Ezekiel reminds us who are righteous not to depend on our righteousness if we return to sinful ways. Our good deeds of the past will not help us when God comes for us and ask of us about our current sinful state. Our current sins is what we have to face up to today.
Those who have no righteousness, they too are called not to look to their own righteousness but to the Lord. All of us are called to correct our past and current misdeeds. The Lord desires that our lives get turned around when he comes to us offering free forgiveness. But we rebel. One says it’s unfair for God to punish us because we are made like this. The other says God is unfair because he holds us to account for our current sin not letting our past righteousness stand in the way of punishment. But the Lord condemns both and calls both to repent and believe in the mercy found in Jesus Christ. You are forgiven your past and current sins because Jesus has won righteousness for you. His righteousness will stand before the righteous Judge on the day of judgment.
Lord God, Heavenly Father, grant us faith to repent of our sins, trust in your Son’s righteousness, correct our past misdeeds and do the good you want us to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
#DailyDevotion The God of Israel takes no pleasure in the death of men.
Epiphany Old Testament lessons
Read Ezek 18:1–4, 19–32
Eze 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. ..21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. (22) None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. (23) Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (24) But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die. 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30″Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. (31) Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? (32) For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”
From what is being reported in this chapter of Ezekiel, Israel must have misunderstood what the Lord said when Moses wrote, “Exo 20:5-6 … for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, (6) but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God does not change. Moses should be understood then in light of this passage from Ezekiel.
Verse 32 is extremely important in our understanding of the Lord. The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. It injures him so much that he gave a prescription for death, his death. Sin is extremely deadly. The soul that sins is the soul that will die. Death is the penalty for sin. Not just physical death, but spiritual death. One follows the other. Adam sinned and he died that day spiritually. Later the body followed. There is no particular amount or particular sin that kills the spirit. Any old sin will do it to you.
Yet the Lord does not want us to die. So he gives us this warning and this promise. If you have been sinning and you repent, that is you turn to the Lord and seek his forgiveness for the sake of Christ, you will receive eternal life and you will not die. However, if you had been trusting the Lord and you turn away from the Lord, you will die, not just a physical death but more importantly a spiritual one. There’s only one thing left to do then, repent like the habitual sinner. The Lord’s promise of forgiveness is for all people everywhere. Jesus does not want to punish anyone or sent anyone into eternal perdition. He wants you to live. He promises us that he who believes in him will never die. We have eternal life in Jesus. Like spiritual death, physical death follows, eternal life is followed by physical life at the resurrection. So daily repent of your sins and trust in Christ.
Lord God, you desire not our deaths but that we turn to you and live. Give us your Holy Spirit that we may do this and live with you and your Son Jesus forever. Amen.
#DailyDevotion God doesn’t want to punish us but rather to forgive and love us.
Read Ezek 3:12–28
Eze 3:18-21 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. (19) But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. (20) Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. (21) But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”
There is a lot that is going on the in visions Ezekiel is having that makes us scratch our heads and go, “Hmm, I wonder what that is all about?” While all of scripture is important to us, some parts are or at least seem to be more important than others. So in the midst of these crazy visions we have this nugget we can grasp hold and say, “Here’s something I think I can understand!
The prophet Ezekiel is given a charge. One might even conclude that it is a charge given to all those whom the Lord calls into the service of his word. This is the charge that we are given: to warn sinners whom God, the Lord has placed in our path of their coming destruction. It is a call to repentance he calls us to pronounce. It isn’t because God doesn’t want us having any fun. It isn’t because he gets his joy from punishing us. It is because he loves us that he warns of the consequences of our sins that we might turn from them and avoid the consequences. He loves us. He doesn’t want to punish us or to inflict vengeance upon us. As St. Peter says, 2Pe 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
So for the sake of the one’s being warned and for the sake of the soul of the preacher, we preach the Law, we threaten with damnation and eternal punishment. It doesn’t please us to do so. It’s the most difficult thing a preacher can do. But he does it in the hopes of wakening people up concerning the direction they’re heading, like giving a shove to a person asleep at the wheel. It is the hope that they’ll realize the state they are in and seek a different path.
And therein lies the joy of the prophet/preacher, to proclaim the glad tidings of the Lord, the good news that God forgives them for Jesus’ sake. It is the good news the Lord forgives and gives eternal life to all who turn to Jesus and his merits as the basis of their standing before God which changes our lives from those who seek to do wicked things to those who struggle against it and seek how we may be of service to our fellows. The new mindset that comes with faith gives us a new perspective in which we can see our God as someone we love and cherish rather than fear and hate.
Lord God, heavenly Father, ever place in the lips of those around us, your word of warning concerning our sins but even more so place in their lips the word of forgiveness for Christ’ sake that we may turn from our sinful ways and live in your life. In Jesus’ name. Amen
#DailyDevotion All pastors have is God’ Word and Promises. Listen to them.
Read Ezek 2:1—3:11
Eze 3:2-7 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. (3) And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. (4) And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. (5) For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— (6) not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. (7) But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.
As they say in many comedy clubs, “Tough crowd.” Ezekiel is given what seems to be an impossible mission. He is called to preach the word of God to Israel and call them to repentance. He is to speak to them lamentations and woe. Yet the Lord tells him that they are a hard headed people. They are stubborn and unwilling to listen to the Lord.
Ezekiel is not sent with his own words to speak but with the Word of the Lord he is to speak. He is told to eat the scroll. What is written on the scroll he is to speak. Christian pastors are pretty much in the same boat today. We have been given the bible, some 65 scrolls to eat and inwardly digest. They are to become part of us. It is this Word and not our own we are called to speak to the world and to the people of God. Whether they listen or not, they will know there has been a prophet amongst them. As Peter tells us, 2Pe 1:20 “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.”
Jesus also says this of those whom he sends, Luk 10:16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” We are not called to do miraculous signs and wonders but to faithfully preach the Word of God. The people of Israel didn’t listen to the prophets nor did they listen to the apostles. Paul warns us, 1Co 1:22-24 “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (24) but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Just as Jesus also taught in the parable of the rich man, Luk 16:29-31 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ (30) And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ (31) He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”
So we too today have simple men, sent by God with the good news of Jesus Christ. They have nothing but the Word and Promise of God. That Word and Promise of God is this, repent and believe the good news. God has forgiven all your sins and has been reconciled to you for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ. His spilt blood, his innocent suffering and death is the atonement needed to make peace between you and God. Nothing further is needed. This gift is delivered to us in the Word, Baptism, Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, and the consolation of the saints.
Lord Jesus Christ, when you send your pastors into our lives give us ears that hear and hearts that repent and believe the Word you place in their mouths for our salvation. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Jesus’ glory is shown chiefly in showing mercy.
Read Ezek 1:1–14, 22–28
Eze 1:26-28 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. (27) And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. (28) Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
We have in this text the epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ in his pre-incarnate form. For Jesus is the Lord, he is the Word of God made flesh. We know it is him for as the Word of God he brings us a message, the Word and Will of God.
The Lord we see here in his glory can indeed be frightening. We have these cherubim with different faces. There are wheels and flames in the wheels. There’s the whole whirlwind action going on. There’s no wonder Ezekiel falls down upon his face.
But then in this vision of the Lord there is a glimpse of hope, love, mercy and kindness. There about the Lord is the appearance of the rainbow. The rainbow of course is the sign of the Lord’s promise that he would never flood the whole earth again in wrath and anger. It reminds us of God’s mercy and kindness. We deserve nothing but punishment and wrath and he preserves the human race, knowing what kind of mess we are going to make things again.
This One clothed with the bow in all his glory which sends Ezekiel to his knees, he dispenses with his glory as he becomes one of us. He empties himself and is born of the Virgin. He subjects himself to our human weakness and grows in knowledge and stature. He submits himself, who is the Lord of all, to his human parents. He submits finally to human authorities and is sentenced to death, even death upon a cross. But there on the cross which humanity finds nothing but shame and degradation, Jesus shows us the glory of his kingdom. For it is in showing mercy that the Lord, the God of creation, Jesus Christ’s power is chiefly known and how he wants to be known. There on the cross, Jesus shines in his glory, the glory of his mercy, kindness, love and forgiveness for all humanity.
Lord Jesus Christ, whose power and glory is known chiefly in showing mercy, we thank you that you did not come to us in you power and glory but have taken on our human flesh to be like one of us that we may not be terrified of your presence but comforted by your cross. Grant us such faith in you that on the day on your appearing we may rejoice and not fear like those who rejected you and who do not know you. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Don’t be those people.
Isa 66:12For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. (13) As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. (14) You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies…18″For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, (19) and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations… (22) “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring and your name remain. (23) From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the LORD. (24) “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father of Lights sends his Son into the world. It is from and through Jesus that peace is extended like a river and the glory of the nations come like an overflowing stream. Today we celebrate the good news of a savior for all nations being revealed to the nations. A savior not only for the Jews, the Israelites or the children of Abraham but a savior who is the promised blessing to Abraham, his seed through which all nations shall be blessed.
On this day we celebrate the Magi coming to visit the One born King of the Jews. They saw his glory and brought him gifts. This is the beginning of the gathering of nations and tongues. Jesus is the sign set before us, Jesus and his cross. He is the sign that God the Father is at peace and reconciled to the world though all its inhabitants have rebelled against him. But now that He is reconciled to us, we place our trust in the Son, Jesus who brought us his peace and his glory.
From Bethlehem, to Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan valley, Jerusalem to the whole world, Jesus has sent the survivors of the wrath to come to announce the good news and to deliver peoples, nations and tongues that there is salvation, freedom and peace in Christ Jesus. No one has to suffer God’s wrath, who trust that Jesus has delivered them from it, who trust in Jesus’ work on the cross. A new heavens and a new earth shall be given to those who trust in Jesus and his salvation. We shall come before him and worship him and the Father through the Spirit. But to those who reject this free gift of salvation it isn’t a pretty sight. “For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Don’t be those people.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have been set up as a sign to the nations of God’s peace and reconciliation. May all who hear this good news believe in it that they may be counted amongst the redeemed in the New Creation you have prepared for us. Amen.
#DailyDevotion Tired of this world? Trust in Jesus for a better new world.
Read Is 65:8–25
Isa 65:15 You shall leave your name to my chosen for a curse, and the Lord GOD will put you to death, but his servants he will call by another name…17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (18) But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. (19) I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress…24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. (25) The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
Indeed because of the sins of Israel and Judah, their names have become a curse upon the earth. Calling someone a Jew is still considered to be an insult. So God, though preserving for himself a remnant of Abraham’s race, calls his servants by another name, Christians. The name of the Holy One of Israel, Jesus, the Christ is the name by which God’s people are now name and called. Made of both Jew and Gentile, one holy Israel in the One who is Israel, Jesus. All who are baptized into his name and have faith in his blood are God’s holy people.
For such a people God promises a new beginning. A new heavens and a new earth for the people of God, all those who confess Jesus Christ as the God who rescued Israel from the Egyptians and who now rescues us from sin, death and the power of the devil. This new world the Lord is bringing us into will no longer bear the curse and neither will we. For even as creation is renewed in its redemption, so too, all who have faith in Jesus will have new immortal, imperishable, glorious, sinless bodies like our Savior Jesus Christ.
In the new creation, there will be no more crying, pain, suffering or death because sin is no more. Even the animals are renewed and restored to the time in the beginning with the wolf and lamb grazing together. The mighty lion will no longer be eating antelopes but straw like an ox. So wonderful will this new creation that this world will quickly be forgotten. It will no longer come to mind because of the beauty and awesomeness of it all. Indeed we shall see God and be like him. That which God had begun in the beginning will be complete at that time. Jesus shall be our king and no longer will politics push and pull upon us vying for our devotion and attention. Jesus shall rule all men’s hearts and we shall all dwell together in peace, a peace that is eternal that no other man or government can accomplish.
It will be as it is written, Revelation 21:3-5 …”Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (5) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Amen. Come Lord Jesus. Amen.
#DailyDevotion In Christ Jesus, we have a Father in heaven.
Read Is 63:15—65:2
Isaiah 63:16-17 For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. (17) O LORD, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage…64:4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him…6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away…8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (9) Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people…65:1 I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name.
While Christians regularly address God as Father, following the example and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is not an appellation given to God in the Old Testament often. This is one of those few passages. The people of Israel and Judah have so fallen away from the true worship of God they can say that Abraham and Israel neither know nor recognize them. They accuse God, who is rightly their Father in the faith of making them wander from His ways and hardening their hearts. Perhaps the charge is true to a point. God did make them wander and harden their hearts, but only because they wandered first and hardened their hearts first against their Father, their Redeemer from of old by casting golden calves as images of the Almighty in northern and southern Israel. They went and started worshiping the false gods of their neighbors and following their detestable worship practices which were followed by further acts of debauchery and cruelty in their daily lives. The Lord God, their Father simply confirmed them in their errors and let them reap what they have sown.
Let us not follow their path. As we look to January 6th, Epiphany, Gentile Christmas, we remember chapter 65 verse 1, we are those who did not ask for the Father. We are those who did not seek the Redeemer. We are those nations not called by His Name. But now in Christ Jesus the Father of lights has given us birth through the waters of Holy Baptism into the Son, Jesus. Now we are a holy people. Now we are called by His name, Christian. Let us remember the example of the people whom our Father rescued from the hands of the Egyptians and not follow their path but instead as 64:4 says wait for the salvation of our God, Jesus Christ with all patience and perseverance. Don’t go and run off to other gods, other things, other ideas, philosophies, religions and other debauchery because you cannot wait for God to act. You have a Father in heaven who does love you, who treats you as a son (Heb. 12) and who will save and deliver you from your truest enemies, sin, death and the power of the devil. Nothing else matters.
O Lord our God, you deign to call us your children in Christ Jesus and invite us, bid us to call you our Father. Ever give us your Holy Spirit that we may be faithful to you as much as you have been faithful to us in your only begotten son, Jesus, that we may never be confirmed in the hardness of our hearts but always be called back to repentance until the day we see your salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.