Sheep!

Day 331

Prayer for the day

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments.

Scripture for the day

Ezekiel 33-34, 1 Peter 5

The scriptures regularly use the term “sheep” to refer to the congregation of the people of God. It’s a term that some find offensive in this age of independence and self-esteem. Yet the term remains useful in the scriptures partly because of the context: the people of the Bible knew sheep! They were shepherds and farmers. This kind of language was useful and familiar to them.

The term “sheep” adequately describes groups of people because there’s really little difference sometimes. We tend to move in groups. We tend to dislike being led but long to be led.

The people of Ezekiel’s time were compared to sheep because some of them were strong and some were weak and the strong sheep were trampling the weak sheep, not caring for them as they should. The strong, according to God, were supposed to care for the weak in order for the entire flock to be strengthened. Instead, the strong were bullying, not caring, and killing the weak. god’s displeasure is evident in His condemnation of the strong sheep who disregard the needs of the weak.

The sheep in 1 Peter are to be cared for just like the weak sheep in Ezekiel! God calls those who are leading the sheep to follow the example of the Great Shepherd, to care for the flock as He called Peter to do. The shepherds were called and are called to ensure that the flock is well cared-for. They are to be people used to humility, caring for others so that the entire body would be built up instead of looking only after themselves.

May we be good sheep and good shepherds, recognizing the love of the ultimate Shepherd and bathing in it!

The Mighty

Day 330

Prayer for the day

God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of the ram’s-horn. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is King of all the earth; sing praises with all your skill. God reigns over the nations; God sits upon his holy throne.

Scripture for the day

Ezekiel 30-32, 1 Peter 4

We’ve seen them on tv: those people who believe themselves too powerful to be subject to the laws of the nation or the laws of God. They strut their stuff, doing what they like, believing that the long arm of God will not touch them in their power. Yet we’ve also seen these people stumble and fall. We’ve seen their lives come crashing down around them in sorrow.

Truly it has been said that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Ezekiel is called by God to prophesy against he biggest and the strongest, knowing full well that it will not be fun, but likely painful. Regardless of his safety he obeys, and calls woe down upon leaders and nations. Pharaoh, the one who rules the world, is condemned by God for his greatness and the activity he engaged in while he was so great. Greatness, says God, is fleeting. It is God’s to give out and rescind as God sees fit. The great one and the lesser alike are called to the same: humility.

This finds expression in the Second Testament as well, in 1 Peter. The Christians being addressed were people who once lived much as Pharaoh, whether powerful or not. They would engage in all kinds of sinful activity, being freed from restraint. The freedom of Christ freed them from their bondage to worldly “pleasure” however, and gave them the ability to be humble in Christ.

May we all experience the grace of God that leads us to humility, walking humbly with our God.

Self-Made?

Day 329

Prayer for the day

Remember me, O LORD, with the favour you have for your people, and visit me with your saving help; That I may see the prosperity of your elect and be glad with the gladness of your people, that I may glory with your inheritance.

Scripture for the day

Ezekiel 27-29, 1 Peter 3

It has been said that he who claims to be a self-made man relieves God of an embarrassing responsibility. Yet the allure of making oneself continues to captivate us. Wouldn’t it be lovely, we think, to be one of those billionaires who has risen from poverty through gumption and determination? Wouldn’t it be great to be a person who is responsible for his own success? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do it all ourselves, and to be able to take credit for it?

The scriptures, however, have no interest in those who would make their own way. Independence, the refusal to rely on anyone else (or acknowledge anyone who might be responsible) for our welfare is not only unscriptural, it is condemned as evil. Many of the prophecies of doom against the nations around Egypt are given because of their refusal to acknowledge YHWH God as the one to whom their success was owed.

The writer of 1 Peter exhorts the women to whom he writes to find their identity not in what they can create for themselves, outer adornments and jewelry. Rather, they are supposed to find their identity in those things that transcend outer beauty. These women (and men) are supposed to find their identity in a character of Christlikeness. They are supposed to recognize that who they are, and what they are appreciated for, ought to be their commitment to Christ. They are to live lives that are for Christ, and the life lived for Christ is to be what their true adornment and identity rests upon.

May you know truly who you are as a God-made person, rather than seeking a locus of identity external to who God has made you.

A Royal Priesthood

Day 328

Prayer for the day

Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous deeds! And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! and may all the earth be filled with his glory. Amen. Amen.

Scripture for the day

Ezekiel 24-26, 1 Peter 2

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

The people of God have a unique calling in the world, a unique calling that the people of God sometimes forget, or don’t even know. The people of God, according to 1 Peter, are called to something extraordinary. They are to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and God’s special possession, called specifically to shine God’s light wherever they might be.

This priesthood, these people, are to act as God’s emissaries on earth. They are to be priests to one another and to the world. They are to be kings and queens of the kingdom. They are to be God’s special called people, not exclusive, but in order to be the shining lights God requires them to be.

The reason for this special call is clear in the First Testament. The people of God were supposed to be the exemplars of God’s character to the people around them, to the nations, in order that the nations around the people of God might not come under the judgment they experience in Ezekiel’s prophecies against them.

It is possible that if Israel had done her job, been who she was supposed to be, the nations around may have been redeemed, saved, learned how to live according to the law and desire of God. Instead, Israel shirked her duty, and so the nations around her are subject to sever judgment.

May we be the kind of people who exemplify the royal priesthood and the holy nation. May we show those around us what God has designed for us all.

An Inheritance

Day 327

Prayer for the day

May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Scripture for the day

Ezekiel 22-23, 1 Peter 1

Thinking about inheritance is kind of a creepy thing to do. Usually, an inheritance is something we receive after someone we care about dies. It’s not something most of us spend much time thinking about, largely because there are too many unknowns in the realm of inheritance. What will we get? When will they die? I don’t want them to die.

Yet it seems that the scriptures are not shy about discussing inheritance at all. Inheritance is that which will be received in due course, according to the scriptures, and the type of inheritance depends in the scriptures upon the commitment of the one who will give and the commitment of the one who will receive.

The nature of the folk in the First Testament, those who will not receive a blessed inheritance, is such that God is not only angry with them, but disgusted by their behaviour. They will receive the consequence for their action not because God is cruel but because they have squandered the inheritance meant for them. God continues his tirade against them, accusing them again and again of prostitution, of adultery, of sexual immorality in the heavenly realms, because it truly disgusts God.

On the other hand, we see the inheritance set for the people of God in 1 Peter, an inheritance that will not be destruction or decimation, but will be a living hope, something that will not spoil or fade, something that will not rust or decay, but will be kept, shining and brilliant, for the people of God who endure to the end.

The inheritance we hope for is an inheritance that is guaranteed, but it is guaranteed to those who continue in the faith in Christ. May you continue in your hope, and see the glory of the inheritance of God!