Acts 12

Vs. 1, “It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.”  Here we see a definite increase in the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem.  Herod Agrippa was now in power, he was the nephew of Herod Antipas (The one who had John the Baptist beheaded).  There were some political maneuvers going on as Herod Agrippa found increased support from the Jews by persecuting the Christians (vs. 1-19).  Sadly, James (brother of John) would be the first apostle martyred for his faith (vs. 2).  The enemy was at work, and now Herod went after the head Apostle, Peter (vs. 3).  But, we see God miraculously send an angel and rescue Peter from what would have been sure death (vs. 7).  But in an interesting turn of events, the evil Herod Agrippa meets the righteous judgment of God (vs. 19-25).

Regarding application…Power of Prayer.  Vs. 5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”  Prayer is a mystery.  But, we also know how the Bible teaches us how important prayer is.  The whole idea that prayer can literally change the will of God is quite intriguing.  It’s almost comical to see their response while they were fervently praying for Peter’s rescue (vs. 15).  Fervent group prayer is one what really big aspect I respect about my Korean/American culture.  Attending Seminary in a predominately American Christian setting, prayer is very subdued in a group setting…done silently and one person at a time.  It’s not wrong, it’s just different than how the culture I’m now used to prays.  I wonder how many times we have prayed for something, but didn’t realize God had already answered it.  I remember when I was praying for a Godly spouse, I had already met Hyojin, but we were not dating yet.  God had brought her into my life, I just hadn’t realized it yet!  I give a shout out to CTC Epic youth and remind them believe in the power of prayer and earnestly seek the Lord and put their trust in Him!

 

Ezekiel 39

Vs. 4, “On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals.”  In the spirit of the Marines…Hoo rah~~~  There’s trouble for the enemy when God starts talking smack!  Basically, God is telling the enemy…You’re going down, don’t mess with my people!  I love it!  Though Israel is a small nation, even in our present day…they are known for the military strength.  It’s sort of like David vs. Goliath!  There’s some pretty graphic scenes, but God is not in the business of sugar coating things.  We then see a transition into God’s faithfulness to His people, despite their turning away from Him.  Something that Ezekiel and those who lived in that time would be able to understand because of their captivity in Babylon.

Regarding application…When God Speaks.  Vs. 8, “It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord. This is the day I have spoken of.”  Don’t make any mistake brothers & sisters…such things will happen!  Recently, an NBA player, Ron Artest who recently changed his official name to “Metta World Peace”, guaranteed that if the NBA season came to fruition for the 2011/2012 season, the Lakers would win the championship.  Opposing teams love posting such fodder on their walls to help motivate them.  And in ways…that what the enemy does too.  God has put His guarantee of victory and the enemy is doing whatever he can to foil our faith in God.  But when God speaks…it would be wise to listen with faith!  Praise God that all of this will sooner than we realize!

Ezekiel 38

Vs. 2, Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him.”  Question: Just who is Gog?  Even the readers of Ezekiel’s time would not have known who he was referring to.  Gog is a future leader or nation that comes from the north.  Bear in mind that Ezekiel was a prophet and often times these prophecies pointed to the time of the Messiah’s first coming and second coming.  In this case, Ezekiel is giving a prophecy of the time of Tribulation (second coming). This attack would be during the seven years under the pretense of false peace led by the antichrist himself.

Regarding application…God is Revealing Himself.  Vs. 23, “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”  Question: Why would God bring calamities upon evil nations?  So that the world will know God is God.  There is no other.  Evil will have its day for just a little while.  Do you know God?  When disaster, storms and struggles come…they begin to reveal to us how small we are.  It is these times that tug at our heart  and help us realize that there is a higher power at work.  From the beginning of Genesis to our very lives today…God has been faithfully revealing himself in all situations.  Remember God’s faithfulness in the storms of your life and let that be the catalyst that increases your faith and your healthy fear of a God who is mighty to save!

Ezekiel 37

Vs. 1, The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.”  About 1 ½ ago, I preached on this very passage!  Question: When will this vision come to fruition?  Many biblical scholars point to this vision as the restoration of the physical and spiritual Israel.  In the past century, Israel has become an official nation again.  And, according to your biblical doctrine, God will one day restore Israel and Jesus will reign with them for 1000 years.  But going back to the vision: It must have been quite a scene to see a valley of skeleton bones all over.  God restores the dry bones and gives them life.  We also see the illustration of the two sticks becoming one to unite God’s people.

Regarding application…Make Us One.  Vs. 22, “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.”  While the verse is a prophecy to Israel, the application is useful for all of us.  Many of us are dead in our transgressions and don’t realize we are like the dry bones.  As He breathes life into us, we will one day be restored as one body in Christ!  When I think about the heartache of broken families, broken churches, broken nations…it grieves so many.  This hope for a better future is something that not only brings comfort now, but should inspire us to do our part in hastening that day.  What can we do now to help bring about God’s will of restoring that which is broken?

Ezekiel 36

Vs. 8, “But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.”  In times of struggles, a message of hope is quite welcomed.  And this is exactly what God would now instruct Ezekiel to do.  Mountains have been and still are a symbol of turning to God…and God would now speak from the mountains.  As God speaks of the restoration of His people, we too can take comfort in realizing there is a dual meaning to this in our lives.  While God allows consequences to come, there is also the eternal hope we have.  We see one of the most beautiful passages in the latter half of this chapter as we are reminded of God’s grace.

Regarding application…How is your Heart?  Vs. 26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Perhaps this is a question we should be asking ourselves daily.  Israel had lost her way because they had chosen to turn away from God.  I’m reminded of Lot’s wife when she turned to look back and became a pillar of salt (it was immediate).  The moment we start to turn away from God, our hearts can become like stone.  That is why it is so important to turn daily to the Lord in prayer and reading of His word.  Open your heart today and see what God can do with a spirit and heart that beats for Him!

Ezekiel 35

Vs. 2, “Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir; prophesy against it and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you and make you a desolate waste.”  In the midst of Ezekiel’s turn from curses to blessings…we now see Ezekiel speak of Edom.  Question: Who were the Edomites?  They were the descendants of Esau (Jacob’s older twin brother).  They had still not forgotten Jacob’s deception towards Esau.  They were finding delight in the downfall of Jacob’s descendants.  They also took part in assisting the Babylonians in killing fleeing people who were running out of Judah.

Regarding application…Revenge.  Vs. 14, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate.”  The Edomites give us a stark reminder of the condition of our own hearts.  The sin nature within us often delights at the demise of those who have been against us.  I recall my first Boy Scout summer camp.  I was perhaps in 5th grade at the time.  There was a fellow camper who would often poke fun of me.  So much that we almost got into two fights that week.  A few years later, he tried joining the wresting team.  I had been in wrestling for years and was a bit amused to see him try out.  Needless to say, I found myself delighting in watching him get beaten down each day at practice.  He quit after one week of tryouts.  Yet, I look back realizing I was no better than him back when we were in 5th grade.  Let’s realize it is God’s place to avenge, not ours!

Ezekiel 28

Vs. 2, “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 man and not a god.”  As we wrap up the oracle against Tyre, we see Ezekiel now direct the prophecy directly towards the king of Tyre.  This king thought too highly of himself, he even thought he was wiser than Daniel (vs. 3).  Just like our application from yesterday, the king’s pride would bring him to disaster.  And when you look closely at vs. 6-19, you can’t help but see a comparison to the downfall of Satan.

Regarding application…True Wisdom.  Vs. 4, “By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries.”  Question: What is wisdom?  Wisdom is making the right decision.  For the king of Tyre, his decision led to fame and fortune.  But, it was not a wise decision.  God gives us choices to choose the right path.  Perhaps the moment we start thinking we are doing pretty good in this life is the moment we need to look intently in the mirror of our heart and soul.  Trusting in God seems a foolish choice to the world.  Some of you know may know about Tim Tebow, the Denver Bronco’s quarterback for football.  Recently a former quarterback Jake Plummer was critiquing Tim Tebow and actually complimented him on a few things, but railed him when it came to Tebow always sharing his faith on national television.  Tebow has many haters, yet, he seems to be choosing a very wise path of humility and trust in God.  Seems to be a wise young man.  Let’s seek true wisdom in our lives too!

Ezekiel 27

Vs. 2, “Son of man, take up a lament concerning Tyre.”  Ezekiel would give a very poetic lament (sorrow) for Tyre’s demise.  Ezekiel gives us another allegory, and this is Tyre being like that of a beautiful ship that is going to be destroyed.  Tyre was part of the Phoenician culture and was a very prominent city in its day.  Like Los Angeles or Portland, OR…it was a port city and those often thrive!  All types of merchandise and goods were shipped, stored and traded.  A person who lived in Tyre, if they had the money…could get anything they wanted via trade through Tyre.

Regarding application…Downfall of Pride.  Vs. 33, “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.” The people of Tyre depended upon their material success to a fault.  They had no mind of God and like any great nation or people group…their pride would be their downfall.  We’ve seen this sort of in the stock market plunging and people losing all of their savings in an instant.  Let us be people who do not depend upon the things of this world to find our worth.

Ezekiel 26

Vs. 3, “therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.”  Tyre was located about 40 miles north of Israel.  During their time, Tyre was one of the great port cities of its time.  They would see great benefit at God’s people suffering (one less competitor commercial purposes), but God would bring vengeance.  For Jerusalem’s conqueror would become Tyre’s too.

Regarding application…Secular Music.   Vs. 13, “I will put an end to your noisy songs, and the music of your harps will be heard no more.”  I couldn’t help but laugh at this!  I always feel like a cranky old man with how loud youth play music :P  But, in this case…God would silence their music that brought Him no glory.  If this is how God treated secular music then, I wonder how God looks at our secular music today.  So much loud noisy songs that talk about love, relationships, money, sex, etc.  The conviction concerning such can only come from a open heart and the Holy Spirit.  Music was created by God, but I do believe there is some secular music that has no place in the Christian life.  Seek the Lord and see if He is convicting you on how you approach the type of music you watch.