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Sunday, August 23 2020
Be Strong and Take Heart BE STRONG AND TAKE HEART AND WAIT FOR THE LORD…For over 3000 years, Psalm 27 has been read during this time of the year and the month that follows. That’s because God has designated this time as the sixth month of Elul on His calendar. The word “Elul” means to search out deeply, as in the heart. This is the month of “soul searching”, and turning back to God.

Yes, in God’s timing, for thousands and thousands of years, this has been the month with special emphasis on getting our hearts aligned with His before our Lord comes. August 24 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 5th day of Elul, the 6th month on God’s calendar. Right on target, through the power of His Holy Spirit, on His timetable, God is calling us to search out those things that are stumbling blocks in our relationship with Him.

On the 5th day of Elul, the ancient prophet Ezekiel experienced the hand of the Sovereign Lord upon Him. “In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign LORD came on me there.” Ezekiel 8:1. “The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel…” Ezekiel 8:3-4

This north gate opened into the great court where the notorious image of Ba'al had once been erected by Manasseh, King of Judah. It would probably have been a favored spot to place idols by subsequent kings and rulers. Set at the very entrance of the inner sanctum of the Almighty, this would have been a blatant affront to God, who considered Himself “married” to Israel. This was also the gate the sacrifices were brought through to God’s very presence. What a sickening insult to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill all sacrifices as the Perfect Lamb of God!

The Almighty continues by exposing 70 elder leaders who are defiling His house by worshiping other things in secret, thinking God somehow doesn’t notice details anymore because of the turmoil in their nation. He then points toward the practice of women stretching worship in His House to include sympathy and support of worldly ideas and traditions. He also reveals 25 men standing in the inner court of His intimate sanctuary, literally turning their back on God because they are focused in another direction instead of on Him. The Almighty uses the strong word “detestable” 5 times in this chapter to describe this utter disarray and spiritual adultery in His house.

What does all this mean for us Christians today? Plenty! Spiritual idolatry always begins in the heart, the seat of the love relationship with the Almighty. Colossians 3:1-6 speaks directly about this. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”

We should also be humbled by this stern admonition from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11. “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."

In Ezekiel 8:12, the Lord says “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The LORD does not see us…”

In the 9th chapter, Ezekiel is taken deeper to see from God’s spiritual perspective. “Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, ‘Bring near those who are appointed to execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.’ And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.”

“Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.’”

Obviously, from a spiritual viewpoint, we should get it that someone upstairs is keeping track of EVERYTHING that goes on down here. And, He is looking for those whose hearts align with His.

“The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.’ So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.” Judgment arrived to the House of God. The Babylonian army brought down Jerusalem and burned the Temple of the Lord less than 100 years after Ezekiel’s vision.
In Ezekiel 10, the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moves to the threshold of the temple, and the court is full of His radiance. The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. Ezekiel sees a man clothed in linen, taking fire from among the “wheel within a wheel” of the Cherubim. Then the glory of the LORD moves from over the threshold of the temple and stops above the cherubim. As Ezekiel watches, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, taking their “wheel in a wheel” with them. They stop at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s house. And the glory of the God of Israel leaves the temple and is now above the cherubim, at the very gate recognized for thousands of years as the gate through which the coming Messiah would enter Jerusalem.

In Ezekiel 11, the Lord says this to the great “nation under God”. “8. You fear the sword, and the sword is what I will bring against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. 9. I will drive you out of the city and deliver you into the hands of foreigners and inflict punishment on you. 10. You will fall by the sword, and I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.” 16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’ 17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ 18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

The name of this month Elul, spelled with the Hebraic characters Alef-Lamed-Vav-Lamed is said to be an acronym of "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li," "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." It is believed this period of time is set aside for the loved ones of God to search their hearts and return to their first love, as this letter to the church of Ephesus instructs in Revelation 2:2-6: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

We close today’s lesson with Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”

“Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.”

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;”


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Fontana Dam, NC 28733

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