Day One: The New Heart
Read Ezekiel 11:19-20; 18:30-32; 36:24-29
In the book of Ezekiel, God’s people are not doing well. They’re going into exile, being forced out of their homeland. This is God’s judgement for failing to keep their agreements with him. A young prophet named Ezekiel has been part of the first group of prisoners taken from their land into captivity. Things are already bad, but they’re about to get worse.
In the verses you read for today, Ezekiel points to God’s promises of a new heart, a new Spirit, a new relationship. But, as chapter 18 emphasizes, it will take action on the part of the people. God wants repentance. God wants us to change.
Why do we need a new heart? Because, like the Israelites, we have trouble following God. We have trouble living like God’s people. But, God promises that our new heart will be softer. When he changes us, we want to do what is right. We want to follow him.
God’s people were experiencing great hardship. Nothing was the way it was supposed to be. They had failed to follow God. They had been led astray by bad leaders. But in the midst of their pain, God gives them hope of a new day, and a new spirit. God will restore them, God will make them new.
Pray: Thank you, God, for making us people of your promises. You cleanse us. You remove our hearts of stone and give us clean hearts, and clean spirits. Through your Spirit, help us to do what is right. Amen.
Day Two: Bad and Good Shepherds
Read Ezekiel 34
As you read, reflect on the following questions.
- What have the “bad shepherds done to the people?
- What experiences have the people (sheep or flock) had due to the bad shepherds?
- What does God promise he will do for his people as their shepherd?
Israel has had bad leadership. Their shepherds, their leaders, have led them astray. They haven’t taken care of the people. They have left them without protection. They haven’t nursed them to health. They haven’t loved them. As a result, God’s people have been victimized. And now they are scattered, and no one is coming to find them.
But God, as our good shepherd, is a different type of leader. God himself seeks after his sheep. He feeds them good food. He takes them into safety. He seeks the lost ones and nurses the sick.
But God’s promises go even further. He promises his people a new shepherd, a new covenant of peace. Under this new leader, there will be showers of blessings.
Pray: God, all around us we see the results of bad leadership and bad shepherding. Thank you for being our Good Shepherd that will never lead use astray. Thank you for your loving care of your sheep.
Day Three: Can These Bones Live?
Read Ezekiel 37:1-14
This is our problem. No, it is more than a problem. It is a catastrophe. It is a calamity. It is hopeless tragedy. Dead bones. Worse, the dead bones are the bones of unfaithful followers, who did not have the new heart and spirit they needed. Death was the result. Can these bones live? How will they live? Who can do such a thing?
The dry bones represented Israel’s spiritual state, but the same is true of us. Without God, we are hopeless. We look around and ask ourselves, “Can these bones live?” But, when God’s Spirit comes, we are filled with breath and live and hope. God is in the business of bringing life where there is death, hope where there is loss.
God takes our dry bones and he breathes new life into them. With this new life, we can learn to love God and each other the way that God intended.
Pray: God, thank you for your resurrection power! Thank you for taking our dry bones and breathing new life into them. Renew our hope, God. Use this passage to remind us of your power and your love for us.
Day Four: The Real Good Shepherd Does What!?
Read John 10
So far this week, we have seen the result of bad leadership, and the hope and promise of a Good Shepherd who will give us new hearts. In this chapter, you learn who the Good Shepherd is, and you learn what the Good Shepherd will do out of great love for the “flock.” In Ezekiel 34, we read about the results of “sheep without a shepherd.”
Finally, in Jesus, we have a true leader who loves and cares for his people. His true followers know his voice, and they follow him. The Good Shepherd gives a full, abundant, flourishing life (v. 10). And, the Good Shepherd loves his sheep so much that he lays down his life for them.
All the wonderful promises of God to Israel, in the Old Testament, soar to new heights in the Messiah called Jesus. And not only will the Good Shepherd lay down his life, but he will take it up again (v. 18).
Pray: God, thank you for being the Good Shepherd to your people. Help us to receive your kindness, and rest in your love.
Bonus: If you want a little bonus reading and reflection, the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 is powerfully placed by John to illustrate what Jesus is teaching in John 10. The reality of the love and power of Jesus, to give life, to be the resurrection and the life are dramatically on display.
Day Five: The resurrection of Jesus is NOT CANCELED.
Read Matthew 27:57-66
Jesus said he would rise again. His enemies don’t believe he will, but they will work hard to make sure any “hint” of resurrection is cancelled. They are worried that his followers will attempt the steal the body, so they put a guard at the door of Jesus’ tomb. The stone and the seal will put an end to all such nonsense of Jesus rising again . . . or so they thought.
It turns out, the resurrection of Jesus is NOT CANCELLED. The only thing being canceled is sin and death.
In our lives, we can construct all sort of silly stones and seals to keep out the power of God. Maybe we are afraid of what he’ll change with his resurrection power. He is in the business of remaking us, after all. And sometimes those changes hurt!
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
Reflect: What are the stones and seals of today that attempt to cancel the resurrection love of Jesus from unfolding in your life?
Pray: God, sometimes I am afraid of the changes you will make in my life. Even when I know that I need to change, I’m scared. Roll away the stones and remove the seals that keep you from working in my life. Remake me into a palace that is fit for you, King Jesus.
Day Six: Stones are Still Rolling Away
Read Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:19-30
Nothing can stop resurrection power! NOTHING! Jesus is alive. The Good Shepherd laid down his life for the flock and he “took it back up” as he promised. Sin, hell, Satan, and death itself cannot stand against resurrection! What chance does COVID-19 have if those greater powers were hapless before the Son of God?
And remember WAY back in Ezekiel 11, 18, & 36 about that new heart and new spirit you needed! The forgiveness you needed? The new shepherd that you needed to follow? Guess what the Good Shepherd, the Messiah-Lord, the Resurrection and Life does for you (see John 20:21-22)!
The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your life. The Good Shepherd has come to give you abundant life. No matter what we have done, no matter how far we have wandered, God is calling us to this flourishing life.
Reflect: What stones is God rolling away in your life? What stones do you need God to roll away in your life?
Pray: God, we praise you for your resurrection power! Thank you that you have called us from death into life! Help us to live into this resurrection power in our lives. Thank you for taking our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. Lead us, Good Shepherd.
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