Day 232 (Aug. 20): God describes Israel’s sins and Judah’s siege using a riddle about eagles, punishment to go to the sinner not multiple generations, funeral song for Israel’s kings

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Ezekiel 17-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 17:1-10): Not sure why God told this story with a riddle.  I had a little trouble following it.  But, know that I think about it, I guess God is showing how one grows and prospers.  On a side note, this riddle sounds like something I would hear from The Doors.  I wonder if they read Ezekiel.

A. Here’s how I would break it down: the cedar is the royal family of David, and the “top” of the tree, which the eagle captures, is the most recent king.  The first eagle is Nebuchadnezzar, who took the “top” people of Israel back to Babylon.  Those who were left behind, not being the best of the society, were mere “vines”.  These vines, those not taken by Nebuchadnezzar, including the king Zedekiah, rebelled against the first eagle by reaching out to a second eagle, most likely the Pharaoh of Egypt.  God is condemning the actions of the “king of the vines” by saying that Egypt will not rescue them from Babylon, and all will be lost.  But in the same sense, God has also described the way that the righteous of the nation will be saved, for the first eagle has “preserved” the cedar in a foreign land.  The real kicker is in 17:22, which contains a Messianic prophecy about the ruler that God Himself will “plant” or make king.  This king, Jesus, is of David’s line (the cedar), and will be chosen by God to be the eternal King that will draw all nations to Himself.

Q. (17:24): That last comment “I will do what I said” reminds me of the steadfastness of God and also of the free will vs. predestination argument.  Rob, you are on the “free will” side.  I agree with this because we have obviously seen where God gives people choices and most of the time, we read that they make the wrong one.  But, we have also seen where God empowers people where things are done that they could not do on their own and may have not chosen to do.  So, that’s not free will.  Maybe God just strengthens intentions, i.e. an invading army would become stronger with God’s help and win.  For Christians, we really only have one choice and that is to follow God.  So, there are no options if you want to receive God’s blessings.  I don’t think God would interfere with someone’s faith in Him.  I think He tests us with some pretty harsh circumstances (like he did with Job), but as long as we remain steadfast and see the only real choice — if we want to receive His gifts — is to follow him.  And on the predestination side, do you know of anywhere in the Bible that says God purposefully created someone to fail or be evil?

A. Ok, first, let’s get a few things straight; because I think you’ve rigged this question a bit (not intentionally of course).  God does not require us to follow Him in order to bless us (as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45), but He blesses all of His children just for the sake of them being His children.  What you are describing is the opposite effect: you see or realize the salvation that God offers in Christ as a blessing, and IT IS!  But, many do not see it that way: Muslims, Jews, atheists, etc.  They see Jesus as not being divine, or not dying for our sins, or not even existing (which is frankly stupid, but a discussion for another day) or something like that.  This does NOT mean that God does not bless them, quite the opposite.  God provides what we might call “basic” blessings upon all people, no matter how sinful.  For Christians who have come to faith, we believe that the Bible teaches that Holy Spirit plays an active role in our lives, but only after our saving faith.  Those who do not have faith in Christ do not have access to this particular blessing, but this hardly means God does not bless them.

 

So I think the question of God’s determinism as it comes to human choice is not as slanted as you have indicated.  You can certainly point to a large number of references to human choice as you have mentioned.  There is a degree of interplay between what we might call God’s overriding will and man’s free will that is simply impossible to know this side of heaven.  We will only be able to see the way that our choices (or whatever role we have in our eternal destiny) and God’s will intersect on the other side.  So as a manner of focus in this life, I choose to focus on human choice, there are others (primarily Calvinists) who choose to focus on God’s sovereignty, but neither position has all the answers- there is simply no way to know how these two positions fit together.  As to your question about specific people in the Bible and their “predestined” role, let’s revisit that question when we read the book of Romans (Paul addresses the topic there and I don’t want to jump ahead too much) or if a relevant scripture comes up before we get there.

 

Q. (18:4): Historically, God has punished multiple generations for the sin of one.  It appears that He is changing His rule here? “For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die.”  Personally, I don’t understand why God would turn such a 180 turn on this subject.  I thought He punished several generations for sins as a deterrent to try to stop them from sinning.

A. I think that there is no change in God’s “policy” if you will, but what God is talking about to Ezekiel is related to what we have established before.  In Exodus 34:7, God tells Moses that He will “punish” children to the third and fourth generation for the sins of the parents.  It says nothing about their deaths for the sins of their parents; and while some might see that as a subtle distinction, God is, well, in the details.  What God is addressing is whether the children should DIE for the sins of the parents, and to me that is a whole other can of worms.  Each of us (says the person who believes in free will) must make our own decisions when it comes to God, and each generation has to make its own choices, no matter what their fathers or grandfathers (or mothers or grandmothers) have done.  So while God may indeed punish us for the sins of our parents, we still have some form of capacity to choose God of their own will.  While the generations may be interconnected via good and bad decisions parents make (as we have discussed), the burden of life verses death lies with each of us in every generation.

Q. (19:1-14): OK, I am trying to connect the characters here.  At first, I thought it may be Joseph was the first cub and Benjamin the second.  Don’t think that works out.  Then, I thought that the first cub was Israel and the second, Judah.  But, then who would the vine be?  Can you clear the confusion here?

A. I think the lioness is Judah (David’s symbol was a lion), and the two cubs are her two sons who have been recent kings: the first, viscous, cub (verse 3) is Jehoahaz, who ruled for only a short time and was taken to Egypt as a prisoner (2 Kings 23:31-34), and the second cub is Zedekiah, who was taken to Babylon as a prisoner.  Their fierceness and man-eating habits are most likely a subtle critique of their cruel and viscous rule that killed many people even in a short period of time.

Day 180 (June 29): Jerusalem will rise after destruction, the Lord will reign, Israel will be humbled, Jerusalem will fall, warning to Jerusalem, God will restore Jerusalem, Judah’s judgment

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 1:21-5:30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 1:23): Dare I say that this sounds like our country.  I can’t stand seeing so much government waste, so much corruption and our tax money being tangled up and not going to the places that truly need help.  Is this a fair comparison to back in the OT?

A. What caught my eye was the portion that talked about not seeking justice for the poor and widowers.  I think there are certain comparisons, but don’t forget we live in a very different world than they did, and not everyone in our society can be expected to be held to Judeo-Christian values.  Part of the reason the light of the gospel is so important to share is that until people see this light, they are often unaware of how dark their world really was.

Q. (1:27): What does Zion mean?  We’ll see more of it?

A. Zion is a term that God and others use to describe Jerusalem, and also the hill/mountain within the city itself, which in turn came to be seen as the Mountain of God (or one of them, along with Sinai/Horeb).  It is a shorthand way to refer to both the city and the Kingdom of God.  And yes, it will be seen over and over again.

Q. (2:1-5): God foretells stories whether it’s destruction or rebuilding.  And the way He talks is that — what I get from it anyway — the next phase whether good or bad will be the last and final.  He talks of how the people will act here, how they would worship.  But, He can’t force them too, right?  He’s just giving them a picture of what their lives could be if they followed Him?

A. I think that’s correct.  I do not believe that God overrides human will, so if we chose not to follow Him and go our own way, we reap the consequences.

Q. (3:1-1-5): God is making a situation where the leadership is already wicked to one that would be pure chaos.  How does this help them to get better?  Or, is it just punishment?

A. He’s warning them right now to stop it and repent.  If they don’t repent, then it becomes a just punishment.  But as we have seen — and these verses talk about — even the punishment serves His purposes: it forces the people to see the error of their ways that they saw no other way.  When the people are ready to repent, God will restore them.

O. (3:16-4:1): I must say that Isaiah is a very good writer!  What pictures he paints with God’s words.  I guess we could say that it was God who is the great writer.  I was looking at our landscape today in Florida, admiring the trees and the blue skies.  But, it was marred with utility lines.  I’m not saying we should do without them, just that humans do a good job of messing up God’s artistry.  But, here, Isaiah did Him justice!

Q. (4:5): With the cloud and smoke covering, we see a reminder of God guiding the Israelites in the desert for 40 years.

A. It is certainly shades of the Exodus, but the point of this verse is the shelter that God provides His children.  It’s a cool image to me.