When we give our hearts with our alms, we give well, but we must often plead to a failure in this respect. Not so our Master and our Lord. His favours are always performed with the love of his heart. He does not send to us the cold meat and the broken pieces from the table of his luxury, but he dips our morsel in his own dish, and seasons our provisions with the spices of his fragrant affections. When he puts the golden tokens of his grace into our palms, he accompanies the gift with such a warm pressure of our hand, that the manner of his giving is as precious as the boon itself. He will come into our houses upon his errands of kindness, and he will not act as some austere visitors do in the poor man's cottage, but he sits by our side, not despising our poverty, nor blaming our weakness. Beloved, with what smiles does he speak! What golden sentences drop from his gracious lips! What embraces of affection does he bestow upon us! If he had but given us farthings, the way of his giving would have gilded them; but as it is, the costly alms are set in a golden basket by his pleasant carriage. It is impossible to doubt the sincerity of his charity, for there is a bleeding heart stamped upon the face of all his benefactions. He giveth liberally and upbraideth not. Not one hint that we are burdensome to him; not one cold look for his poor pensioners; but he rejoices in his mercy, and presses us to his bosom while he is pouring out his life for us. There is a fragrance in his spikenard which nothing but his heart could produce; there is a sweetness in his honey-comb which could not be in it unless the very essence of his soul's affection had been mingled with it. Oh! the rare communion which such singular heartiness effecteth! May we continually taste and know the blessedness of it!
"I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love."
Our heavenly Father often draws us with the cords of love; but ah! how backward we are to run towards him! How slowly do we respond to his gentle impulses! He draws us to exercise a more simple faith in him; but we have not yet attained to Abraham's confidence; we do not leave our worldly cares with God, but, like Martha, we cumber ourselves with much serving. Our meagre faith brings leanness into our souls; we do not open our mouths wide, though God has promised to fill them. Does he not this evening draw us to trust him? Can we not hear him say, "Come, my child, and trust me. The veil is rent; enter into my presence, and approach boldly to the throne of my grace. I am worthy of thy fullest confidence, cast thy cares on me. Shake thyself from the dust of thy cares, and put on thy beautiful garments of joy." But, alas! though called with tones of love to the blessed exercise of this comforting grace, we will not come. At another time he draws us to closer communion with himself. We have been sitting on the doorstep of God's house, and he bids us advance into the banqueting hall and sup with him, but we decline the honour. There are secret rooms not yet opened to us; Jesus invites us to enter them, but we hold back. Shame on our cold hearts! We are but poor lovers of our sweet Lord Jesus, not fit to be his servants, much less to be his brides, and yet he hath exalted us to be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, married to him by a glorious marriage-covenant. Herein is love! But it is love which takes no denial. If we obey not the gentle drawings of his love, he will send affliction to drive us into closer intimacy with himself. Have us nearer he will. What foolish children we are to refuse those bands of love, and so bring upon our backs that scourge of small cords, which Jesus knows how to use!
[Ĕzēkĭel] - god is strong or the man god strengthens. The son of Buzi, a priest who prophesied to the exiles by the river Chebar, and fourth of "The Greater Prophets" (Ezek. 1:3; 24:24).
The Man Who Was Every Inch a Churchman
Little is known of this man of a priestly family (Ezek. 1:3; 30:1). His father's name, Buzi, was a Gentile one ( Gen. 22:21; Job 32:2, 6). Referring to himself as "a priest," Ezekiel was akin to Jeremiah who was also a prophet and a priest. Because of his priestly lineage, levitical tendencies appear in his book (Ezek. 40-46), as well as foregleams of the high priestly character of the Messiah (Ezek. 21:25; 45:22). Ezekiel is every inch a churchman, and his strong ecclesiastical characteristics pervade and give tone to his prophecies.
Ezekiel's call came in his thirtieth year ( Ezek. 1:1), in the fifth year and on the fifth day of the month of king Jehoiachin's captivity (Ezek. 1, 2). With the call to service there came the impartation of the prophetic gift (Ezek. 3:22). The theme of the prophetic message he was commissioned to proclaim was the same as that of Jeremiah, namely, the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem with judgment upon foreign nations. The keynote of his book is: through tribulation into rest. Residing with a company of captives by the river Chebar ( Ezek. 1:1; 8:1) he labored as "a prophet of the iron harp."
With divine authority Ezekiel dispelled illusions, denounced false prophets, declared repentance, restoration and renewal. He was a true shepherd of souls. Dr. Donald Fraser wrote of him: "Like a giant, he wrestled against Jewish degeneracy and Babylonish pride. Remote as we are from his times, we are stirred by his vivid imagination and his power of fervid denunciation and strenuous appeal. Even when the understanding is puzzled, the heart burns inwardly at the recital of Ezekiel's visions and those burdens which the Lord laid upon his spirit."
Ezekiel was happy in his home life (Ezek. 8:1). God, however, revealed to him that the desire of his eyes would die of a sudden sickness, which his wife did during the siege of Jerusalem. Although her death was a heavy blow, yet Ezekiel was not allowed to publicly weep or lament her passing. His anguish was to serve as a sign that Jerusalem would be destroyed without wailing or lamentation (Ezek. 24:15-27 ). After a prophetic ministry lasting for at least twenty-two years, tradition has it that Ezekiel was put to death by his fellow exiles because of his faithfulness and boldness in denouncing them for their idolatry.
Several aspects of the prophet's life can be applied with profit to ourselves:
Today's reading: 1 Chronicles 10-12, John 6:45-71 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: 1 Chronicles 10-12
Saul Takes His Life
1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. 3 The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him.
4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and abuse me."
But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died. 6 So Saul and his three sons died, and all his house died together.
Today's New Testament reading: John 6:45-7145 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
What does sowing the seeds of the Gospel look like today? This month, watch as we unveil plans for our first ever Spanish-language Festival in the United States, discover the hope of Christ amidst Japan’s pain, see the Good News proclaimed in war-torn Liberia, and witness the Gospel at work in Haiti.