Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ezekiel 36: Another fine mess you've gotten me into?

We all come at life with glasses on – through which we see life, which give us answers to the big questions – where do we come from, what’s wrong with the world, what can fix the world, where are we going. There are really three major views you’ll run into.
  • The atheist view. This says that there’s only the natural and physical. They claim all of reality under that as a place without meaning or beauty. In this world the God people are just playing a game. I’m not sure I see the appeal of this view – just doesn’t fit with my instinct that there is love and beauty and purpose, but there you go.
  • The religious view. This isn’t necessarily about a belief in god though it can be, but essentially this is the karma view which says good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It’s instantly appealing to people so long as they can convince themselves of their relative goodness, which most of us can. Problem is that it bears no resemblance to the real world either – bad things happen to the best of people and the worst of people prosper.
Then there is Christianity. Opening the Bible we're shown a world where Christianity isn't a game on the fringe of society - it is the story - a complete picture, in which the LORD claims everything.

In Ezekiel 36v15-20 we land into an event. The LORD has taken a bride for himself, clothed her beautifully, provided for her, loved her. Ezekiel 16 tells us that she has paid others to sleep with her, prostituting herself to idols and anyone and anything. . She is defiled and unclean and cannot come to him – v17. This is the story of Genesis 3 again, this is Hosea 1-2. This is the recurring story of the man and his bride in the Bible and it is tragic.

The LORD so loves her that he is deeply jealous for her – and angry toward her. He has a jealous wrath (36v6) for her. God is wrathful because God is jealous because God is passionately loving. So great is his love that in the face of this vile adultery he pulls back from her, he withdraws from the temple – the place for his name where they had relationship.

And then, v19-20 he exiled her from his presence, out of the land into the surrounding nations. Just as Adam & Eve were exiled from Eden, just as Vashti would be exiled from Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. The adulterous bride is sent away – and it has been adultery of the worst degree.

The effect of this has been a defaming of the LORD among the nations – v20. They have defamed the LORD – not by talking bad of him but in that the people said of them ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of the land’. It’s the mockery of the self-righteous. They have mocked the LORD because he can’t keep his bride in line… if he’d tolerated her adultery at home they’d have mocked, and now he exiles her they mock. We have a great tension. We have a problem in need of resolution. We have a story.

And so now – v22 – the LORD says: I am about to act. Crisis and then divine action. Action in the face of human adultery and the shaming of the name of the LORD. Christianity is always God doing something.
What would you expect him to do?
  • The atheist is going to think – pah, the shame of the spiritual.. stand by and have a laugh at the hypocrites. It’s game over you game players. You've imploded on yourselves, serves your god right for being such an egotist.
  • The religious is going to think – bad persons deserve bad – she’s blown it, burned her bridges, she’s been bruised and abused and it’s her own fault for being immoral. No-one would want her anymore… you’ll be blown away by God, you should have behaved. Religion hates the broken.
What about the LORD... what will he do. The LORD's ways are always good news, but how can anyone get out of this...? To be continued.

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