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Monday, March 24, 2014

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 1:1–3; 33:11–16
In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there.

Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? And you, mortal, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save them when they transgress; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, it shall not make them stumble when they turn from their wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by their righteousness when they sin. Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right—if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live. (NRSV)

Reflection
Confession: I find much of the Old Testament scary. When life is hard, I can’t swallow a God of wrath. Instead I turn to the well-worn pages of familiar passages I know will bring me comfort. I skip over the bitter medicine of the Old Testament prophets, longing for the instant sweetness and immediate satisfaction of the Good News. While this is certainly one of God’s intentions for his Word, perhaps we cheat ourselves from another type of comfort when we only read scripture in this way.

In Ezekiel, we watch God call his beloved Israel to repentance over and over and over. Sure God is angry, but God pleads and yearns and longs for them to return to him in spite of their unfaithfulness. This puts the life-changing news of the gospel into perspective. We have a God who does not take pleasure in our death and destruction, a God who had plans to wipe our slate clean, no matter how we’ve strayed. In fact, God wants us so badly that God ran from heaven in the form of his Son, Jesus, sending him to give his life so our “pledge can be restored . . . so that we will surely live and not die.” Reading the Bible with a Jesus lens can deepen our faith in God’s never-ending grace.

Prayer
God of Testaments Old and New, thank you for every word of your Word. Thank you for the medicinal, the satisfying, the comforting, and even—and maybe especially—for the unsettling and hard-to-swallow parts. Move in us when we read it, send your Holy Spirit to teach us what it might mean, and transform our hearts through its power. Make your love for and covenant with your people a tangible reality in our lives by allowing us to see Jesus Christ in every chapter. Amen.

Written by Merideth Hite, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church


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