Photo credit to the Cavicchi’s. (Congratulations!)
“The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
Lord, I want to stay looking at the depth and magnitude of Your love for Your people. And I want to remember that Your love for me is not measured by my actions or abilities. I’m going back to Ezekiel and rehashing how You took Jerusalem to love. Because I need to remember what her redeeming quality was. What made her worth loving? What made her loveable to You?
Here are Your words about the state of Jerusalem when You chose her. “Your birth and nativity is of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite, and your mother an Hittite. And as for your nativity, in the day you were born your navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple you; you were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. No eye pitied you, to do any of these unto you, to have compassion upon you; but you were cast out in the open field, to the lothing of your person, in the day that you were born. And when I passed by you, and saw you polluted in your own blood, I said unto you when you were in your blood, ‘Live;’ yes, I said unto you when you were in your blood, ‘Live.’ ” (Ezekiel 16: 3-6)
How is that for a graphic picture? So here was Jerusalem, Israel, like a new-born baby just left out on it’s own with no one to care for her. But let’s look at the whole picture. Her dad was an Amorite and her mother a Hittite. Where did Jerusalem come from again? Aren’t those “heathen” nations? Weren’t they always standing against You, Lord, and against Your people? But aren’t You saying that this is where Your people came from? Aren’t You saying that Your people were born in this sinful union? Well, that makes absolute sense. Just like Israel didn’t start out as Israel, neither do any of us start out as holy. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” was not just about modern man. This is the truth about every baby ever born, including “Jerusalem.”
I was born into the world just like Jerusalem. Well, I was taken care of in the hospital, but how about spiritually? If my parents were believers then who really took care of me? Who really cleansed me? Was it them? Or was it only them by Your power and Your grace? And what if I was born to a family who did not know the Lord? Who cleansed me then? How did I even know I needed cleansing? Wasn’t it still You? I mean, who else would have cared about me spiritually?
And doesn’t the same thing go for how I was raised? Who had true compassion on me? Who truly cared about the welfare of my soul? Who cared about my eternity? Who cared enough to be able to do something about it? Who cared enough and had the ability to do something about it? Who saw my potential in Your eyes? Who grew me into You and impressed upon me the things of a Holy and Righteous God? Who shaped my thinking and my desires toward You? Who drew me towards righteousness, compassion, and holiness? Who made me so I could know and accept You? Who made me so I saw Your value? Who washed me and clothed me and anointed me to equip me? Who went beyond the basics and showered me with blessings beyond compare? Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. What did this life You gave me look like?
Here are Your own words, “‘I have caused you to multiply as the bud of the field, and you have increased and become great, and you are come to excellent ornaments: your breasts are fashioned, and your hair is grown, whereas you were naked and bare. Now when I passed by you, and looked upon you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over you, and covered your nakedness: yes, I sware unto you, and entered into a covenant with you,’ says the Lord God, ‘and you became mine. Then I washed you with water; yes, I thoroughly washed away your blood from you, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you also with embroidered work, and put shoes of badgers’ skin on you, and I girded you about with fine linen, and I covered you with silk. I decked you also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon your hands, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel on your forehead, and earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. Thus were you decked with gold and silver; and your clothing was of fine linen, and silk, and embroidered work; you did eat fine flour, and honey, and oil; and you were exceeding beautiful, and you prospered into a kingdom. And renown went forth among the heathen for your beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon you.’ says the Lord God.” (Eziekiel 16:7-14)
How did Jerusalem become beautiful? Where did her renown come from? How do I become beautiful? Where does my renown come from? Our beauty is only made perfect through Your character. Your magnificence, Your splendor, Your ornamentation, Your beauty, Your excellency, Your gloriousness, Your honour, Your majesty, Your everything is what was imparted to Jerusalem and it’s what You impart to any one of us who puts our trust in You. I have no beauty aside from You. Neither did Jerusalem. When Jerusalem stopped walking in Your beauty, they lost it. Because our beauty is attached to You.
You said Jerusalem’s beauty was “perfect” through Your “comeliness.” Now You said that again to us all through Jesus in Matthew 5:48, “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Really? I’m to be perfect? Yes. But not in the American sense or the Greek sense. It’s just like this picture You painted for us in the God sense. I’m to let You have Your beautiful way in me. I’m to just let You have Your way and do Your thing in me. Is that really so hard?
It’s not even about being perfected. It’s really about being made complete. It’s about being made complete in You and completely like You. Oh, but how can I ever be completely like You? I let You continually do Your work of beautifying in me, I surrender to and in it, and I just let You do Your thing until You are done. And I can be confident that You will complete Your beautiful work.
Now, here we’re talking about a child being born. And specifically we’re looking at a child being born into You, Lord, and being given life and beauty in You. And this isn’t a Greek or American idea. We can find it back in Genesis. And we find You speaking it to the Israelites in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” You are calling us to set apart our lives in You for Your purposes. You want us to submit to Your beautiful ways, even if they seem hard. You want us to stop rebelling and taste the goodness of You, and in tasting, experience Your goodness, and have that goodness imparted to us. And it’s not a one time deal. This is continual. I need to continually taste Your goodness. I need to continually be refreshed in Your beauty. I need to continually submit and receive and express what You are imparting to me of Yourself. It’s a continual process of You beautifying me and me receiving Your beautifying. Every day You make me more capable of being holy like You are holy.
And this is not some esoteric idea or philosophy I get to just talk about attaining some day. This takes place in every practical and not so practical area of my life. Just as beautiful as the life of Christ was when You walked on earth, Lord, is how beautiful that my life is supposed to look like now. You walked out Your beauty on earth so that I could know what mine ought to look like when it’s walked out on earth. But I never walk the beauty out on my own. Once I place my trust in You, You walk out Your beauty on earth in my life as I continually submit to You. I live out the beauty of Your Word and Life in my life. I act in accord with Your Word and with Your Spirit. Your beautiful compassion becomes my beautiful compassion. Your beautiful attitude becomes my beautiful attitude. Even Your beautiful suffering becomes my beautiful suffering. Your beautiful way of acting and responding in the world becomes my beautiful way of acting and responding in the world.
Who gets the credit, Lord? Absolutely not Jerusalem, not Israel, not me. You get all the credit, Lord, because You are the One who has done this beautiful work in each of us. You are the One who gives us a heart to desire to live according to Your way that You have established. You are holiness. And holiness is living in You. Holiness is living Your way. Period. And there’s no way to live that way unless I am fully relying on You. Lord, keep me from rebellion. Keep me from thinking that I have anything to offer on my own. And mostly, keep me in the power and preciousness and presence of Your beauty.
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) Yes, this is what I seek, to know You like this, Lord. I need to recognize the wonder of Your beauty continually. I need to not leave it. I need to live in it, to live in You. And I need, moment by moment, with every breath I take, to inquire about my next breath from You. Why? Because I want my every breath to be beautiful in You. Am I there yet? No. But I know that as long as I surrender and remain in Your beautifying grasp, You will take me there.
And, Yes, God, You are mighty enough to do this in me. This is what You save us unto. But to think that You rejoice with singing and excited dancing over this baby that You make beautiful, well, Lord, that is just amazingly mind-boggling. That is just amazing, mind-boggling love to the utmost. Who could fathom that? That You rest in Your love for me, for each of us, and that You joy over each of us and all of us together with singing…Wow, Lord! What can I say? This is where words fail, but Your beauty never fails. There is no one more beautiful, Lord, no one.