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“For thus says the Lord God, ‘I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.’” (Ezekiel 16:59,60)
Can something be wonderfully amazing and astonishingly sad at the same time? This is. I mean, here we have You God, that chose this nation out of nowhere and made something special out of her. Who was Israel? Really, she was a person taken out of Canaan. Historically, Abram was from Ur. There was no Israel yet. There were just people going their own way, worshiping everyone but the real God who created them. But You chose to make Yourself known to Abram and make a people who was not into a people who was.
This begins as such a beautiful story. This baby born and left there to die in the wilderness but You, God, saw and had pity and compassion. Where others abhorred the baby, You loved her. You not only said, “Live!” but You took her in and gave her life. Because of You she flourished and grew tall and beautiful. You entered into covenant with her and made her Yours. You cleansed her and anointed her. You clothed her in fine clothes. You adorned her with fine jewelry and a crown on her head. But instead of trusting in the one who rescued her, she trusted in her self. And her life was spent on her self and pleasing others. She became worse than a prostitute. The covenant meant nothing to her. It was so bad that she even offered her children as sacrifices.
Now, how is that for an amazing story turning sour and becoming astoundingly sad? How do any of us get from nothing to something like that and then forget who brought us there? How is it so easy to be a covenant breaker? How is it so easy to forget our own helplessness and lack of sufficiency? How is it so easy to lose sight of the gift of love and compassion that God has shown us? Do we not even think?
Here’s the danger, that I read this story and think how terrible that was of Israel. How could Israel be so blind? And the danger is to think that I’m any better. It’s a dangerous thing if I don’t place myself in her place and make sure that I’m not thinking too highly of myself, that I’m not trying to manipulate things to my way, that I haven’t forgotten where love first came from.
I run the same possibility of deadly thinking as Israel. I can get off Your track and onto my own and pervert everything so easily the minute I stop remembering everything You have done in and for me. Because I was just as naked and bare and wallowing in my own blood. And since my heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, I can run the same danger of building vaulted chambers for myself and making lofty places for myself.
I don’t even have to run out and be unfaithful with another man or woman to do that. There is a war on and it’s a spiritual war inside of me. And this spiritual war will exhibit itself physically in my life. Yeah, I walk in this body of flesh, but the struggle is deeper. The struggle is divine, just like it was for Israel. And there are strongholds that must be overcome. Ignoring them or thinking they aren’t there isn’t the answer.
And what in the world is a stronghold? It’s from ochuroma in Greek and describes a strong military installation, a bastion, or a fortified place. And the truth is that God alone ought to be my stronghold. But the problem with me as a human is that I tend to impose my confidence in my self or other things. The truth is that I have conquering abilities in God that don’t exist in me without You. I need to pull down that falsely imposed confidence so brutally that I cast down even the slightest imaginings, or thought, or knowledge that lifts itself up contrary to God. I need to treat those thoughts and ideas as though they are my enemy, for they truly are, and destroy them with fierce retaliation. Israel didn’t do that. She let her thoughts captivate her until they took her captive. I don’t want to be like that.
C.H. Surgeon said, “Unless the Spirit of God be upon us, we have no might from within and no means from without to rely upon. Wait upon the Lord, beloved, and seek strength from Him alone. There cannot come out of you what has not been put into you. You must receive and then give out…Oh! May God send us poverty; may God send us lack of means, and take away our power of speech if it must be, and help us only to stammer if we may only thus get the blessing. Oh! I rave to be useful to souls, and all the rest may go where it will.” Is God speaking to my heart like that? Do I realize my absolute and total dependence on You, Lord?
And what about the church, the body of Christ as a whole? What about my family of God? Spurgeon also speaks to us as a body of believers. “O churches! Take heed lest ye trust in yourselves; take heed lest ye say, ‘We are a respectable body,’ ‘We are a mighty number,’ We are a potent people;’ take heed lest ye begin to glory in your own strength; for when that is done, ‘Ichabod’ (1 Samuel 4:21) shall be written on your walls and your glory shall depart from you. Remember, that He who was with us when we were but few, must be with us now we are many, or else we must fail; and He who strengthened us when we were but as ‘little in Israel,’ must be with us, now that we are like ‘the thousands of Manasseh,’ or else it is all over with us and our day is past.”
Am I my own? Did I create myself? Will I forget so easily? Can I so easily look such love and devotion in the face and turn blankly away? How can it be that I can take so frivolously for granted the commitment of the One who owed me nothing and yet so compassionately covenanted with me and raised me up and gave me all that I have? What am I thinking? Or maybe, how am I thinking?
Thinking is only a good thing if I take those thoughts captive to the truth. So, what is truth, right? Didn’t Pilot ask that question? The way of truth is God’s way, after all, He established it and if flows forth from His being. Jesus reiterated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) But I can choose the way of truth or choose my own way, like Israel was. Peter shared, “And many shall follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Peter 2:2) That’s what it boils down to. Will I follow Your way and make You my stronghold, or will I follow my own thoughts, feelings, and sensuality and make them my stronghold?” Maybe I should learn from Israel. It’s not too late.