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November 20, 2023, Day 323

Psalm 129; James 3; Ezekiel 36; Ezekiel 37

Psalm 129 is another brief song of ascents - one of several Psalms which the Israelites sang as they went up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Twice in this Psalm, the Psalmist refers to the historic oppression of the Jews “from their youth” (verses 1-2) at the hands of their enemies. This statement indicates how intensely “great” has been their companionship with struggle - they have grown up with it. “But,” the Psalmist writes, “they have not gained the victory over me” (verse 3). We note, however, that their victory has not come about by anything they have done. Having one’s “back plowed” over hardly leaves a person in any condition to bring about his or her own victory. Notice: “the LORD cut them free from the cords of the wicked” (verse 4). He is the only Source for any and every victory that comes to our lives, and the reason? Because “the LORD is righteous” (verse 4). This Psalm recognizes and praises the holy, righteous, sovereign God of the universe.

In James 3, we read God’s particular warning to teachers to uphold His standards of accountability and His general, stinging indictment on our tongues. The connection? The tongue is a necessary instrument in a teacher’s toolbox, but more importantly, God considers every human being to be a teacher of sorts - either personally or professionally. God is going to hold everyone accountable for what he or she says - for every thought that finds its way into words. James writes, “We all stumble in many ways” (verse 2), but stumbling in the use of our tongues (i.e., “boasting; cursing; expressing envy, ambition, and evil”) is “demonic” (verse 15). If we can place a bit in the mouth of a strong, independent animal like a horse, we ought to be able to bridle our own tongues. Such is God’s standard, but only He alone can win that victory for us. How we need His intervention!

In Ezekiel 36 and 37, we come to two intriguing prophecies about God’s re-creation of beauty out of ashes. In chapter 36, addressing the mountains of Israel, God promises to restore the land, regather the people, and give them “a new heart” (verse 26). In chapter 37, God promises new breath and life to those long dead and gone – people forsaken in a “valley of dry bones.” Importantly, in verses 4-10, we notice that God invites Ezekiel to partner with Him in this work of giving new life; God does not impart it until Ezekiel follows His command to prophesy to the bones and the breath. This is God’s program for missions and evangelism. Then, in verses 15-17, through “two sticks that become one,” God illustrates His purposes to reunite all of Israel again into one kingdom under David - who is referred to as God’s “servant, king, and prince” (vss 24-25). This section is a clear, Messianic reference to Christ’s universal reign in the future. Only the active, living God can bring this kind of beauty out of our kind of ashes.

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