Put Down Your Branch, Get on the Train

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Photo credit goes to someone on the internet.

 

“Then said He unto me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, ‘The Lord doesn’t see us; the Lord has forsaken the earth.’” Ezekiel 8:12

 
So now this fiery figure of God comes to Ezekiel and takes him in a vision of God to Jerusalem to the temple. And as Ezekiel was told to look, he was shown the “image of jealousy in the entry.” But it didn’t stop there. God says, “There’s worse abominations to see here.” God brought Ezekiel to the door of the court and showed him a hole. Then He told Ezekiel to dig there and Ezekiel found a door. He went in, beyond the wall, I guess inside the wall, and found creeping things, and abominable beasts, and idols all portrayed on the wall round about. Not only that, there were 70 men and Jaazaniah offering incense to these idols.

 
As if all that wasn’t bad enough. Then God says, “There’s more.” He brings Ezekiel to the door of the gate and there are women weeping for Tammuz, a Phoenician diety. Let’s keep going. Now, to the inner court, between the porch and the altar, were 25 men with their backs to the temple worshipping the sun to the east.

 
God called it “putting the branch to their nose.” What in the world does that mean? I’m pretty sure it’s a Hebrew idiom. Some think it was a part of worshipping idols where the worshipper picked up a twig or branch and placed it over their face as to shield their face from the diety, like the sun. But to God it would be like sticking your thumb to your nose and sticking out your tongue in defiance. Whatever it was, it was gloating in your abomination before God. It was digging in your heals, and inviting violence into your own land and your own life. It was asking for God’s anger to be ignited, provoking the fire to burn.

 
You know, what we think we can get away with in the dark, eventually comes out in the open. What was hidden behind walls and in men’s and women’s minds and hearts is not hidden from God, and he showed it to Ezekiel. The truth is that God knows what is going on in the “chambers of man’s imagery.” What is that? Could that be more than what we do hidden in a room? Could that mean that God knows what is in the secret chambers of our imagination? I think so.

 
I guess we have this idea that God has nothing to do with the dark. Maybe we think that God, being God, can’t go into the darkness. But Psalm 139:12 tells us, “Yes, the darkness doesn’t hide from You; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” The truth is that You “form the light, and create darkness: [You] make peace, and create evil: [You] the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

 
There is no place that God cannot go and that God is not in control. You see into the “secret” places even of our hearts, way beyond our dark closets because nothing is hidden from You. The problem is that we get involved in labeling things our way instead of Yours. Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The people of Israel had God, they had You, they had what was good. But they started to chase after other ideas of good, after other standards, and adopt them as their own.

 
But they are no worse than us. We sit back and say, “How can a good God allow evil?” What kind of God would create evil? Why even let that be part of the picture? Because we’ve labelled You as a good God based on our idea of goodness. We make You who we think You should be instead of who You ARE. The truth is that You are all that You are before we even understand it. Your goodness is even in how You create evil.

 
It’s there for a purpose. Just because I don’t see that purpose doesn’t mean it’s not for ultimate good. Think about it. God created the garden with the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before Adam and Eve were created. Do you really think God created that beautiful angel of light who fell and made an “oops”? I can’t explain God’s intent with evil, but darkness is a part of the plan, and none of it, and none of the plan is hidden from God’s intimate knowledge.

 
Maybe there are too many multiple connections going on in my brain today. But I know this, it’s not You, God, who doesn’t see. We’re the ones who don’t get it. And maybe if we would be honest enough to admit it, and get off our high horses, and set our thumbs and our branches down from our nose, we just might start to see and get it right. Well, we can keep on thinking we’re getting away with the stuff we do in “secret,” we can even think it’s time to come out in the open because God won’t do anything, but Paul warned in Romans 2:5, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”

 
Do you really feel badly for the branch wavers who provoke and tease and defy? Do you really think they haven’t been given ample time to listen and turn and repent? What about me? If I stand in front of an oncoming train and wave that twig in it’s face defiantly, who is going to lose? Didn’t I have time to get out of it’s track? Did the train invite my death or did I call it on myself? God says, “Therefore I will also deal in fury: My eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” (Ezekiel 8:18) Is that Your fault, God? Or has the train whistle not been warning enough? It’s not like it just snuck up unaware. If I choose to ignore the warning whistle, over and over again, the train won’t have pity, and it will be my own fault.

 
There is a time for everything. There’s a time to see, and to listen, and to hear, and heed. There’s a time to seek pity and receive it. There’s a time to hear from God and to cry out to Him. There’s a time that God hears and it’s a reciprocal time. In other words, if we won’t hear God, neither will He hear us. Maybe it’s time to put down our branches and get off the track. It’s a much more glorious decision to board the train and go where it’s going, under it’s protection than to be run over by the train.

 

P.S.  I’ve read that this gesture can be interpreted by some as a very vulgar statement.  I wasn’t aware of that earlier.   I choose to include it, because those being addressed in Scripture before Ezekiel were being THAT rude to God and sometimes we are too.  Sometimes, we are THAT deliberately offensive.

On Life and Fulfillment

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Photo credit to Stephen Cunningham.

 

“Then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations.” Ezekiel 6:9

It’s funny how we say this is an awful way for God to feel. But I wonder if we were married and loved the one we were married to with all our hearts and they “went a-whoring” and left us for others, how we would feel? And I’m not saying that anyone should run out and destroy their unfaithful partner. That’s not my point. Isn’t the truth that they have already not only begun destroying themselves, but destroying true intimacy itself? Aren’t they bringing turmoil into their own lives and into the lives around them? Aren’t they being caught up in twisted thinking that will one day lead to their own demise?

Had God’s people ever been warned? Had they witnessed the power of the true God versus the lack of power of the gods of other nations? Had they witnessed and been supplied by the provision of the true God? Did You, God, really cause their demise? Or were You there trying to continually call them back to the safety and provision of You?

The people were playing with what they shouldn’t be playing with, nations who didn’t care about them. They were making themselves vulnerable because they were no longer alert. They were allowing themselves to lose their identity in God, who was their strength, and falling into the lie of the nations that they were great of themselves. They were worshipping at empty altars that bring emptiness and desolation.

Paul talks of desolation, this word shamem in Hebrew, also. “For it is written, ‘Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; for more are the children of the desolate than the one who has a husband.’” (Galatians 4:27) What is this about? What is today’s reading in Ezekiel about? It describes “the inner barrenness of an unfulfilled life.” (Skip Moen) Shamem is about being desolate and amazed. It can mean one or the other or it can be both at the same time. It’s like looking around at the great desolation and destruction around you and being totally appalled and overwhelmed at the same time.

The reason judgment comes is because we refuse to live fulfilled lives. We were created to be filled fully with God, to bear His image throughout this world. This is true fulfillment, what we were created to be filled with, just like Adam when God breathed into him and he became a living soul. But we choose, yes we choose, to warp that image and defile it and create our own. We choose to live unfulfilled lives in these places of desolation, and we don’t even realize how appalling it is. But God does. He never intended us to walk in the wilderness. He hadn’t intended for Israel to walk there. They chose desolation instead of the kingdom. Aren’t we doing the same? And then we have the nerve to blame our consequences on God? And all You have ever been trying to do is to turn us back to our purpose, true life fulfillment in You.

The truth is that God doesn’t leave us alone in the wilderness. He was there for Hagar. He was there for the Israelites. He is there for us today, waiting to rescue us from emptiness and unfulfillment. We think self-sufficiency is the answer but the answer is in dependency on a God who is fully able. Think about it. Joseph couldn’t rescue himself from that pit his brothers placed him in. The Israelites couldn’t find their way out of the desert. Hagar couldn’t find water to keep her and her son alive. Moses couldn’t even lead a people on his own. The truth is not one of us is sufficient on our own.

Paul understood that. He was once a very self-sufficient man. But not once he met the risen Jesus. He shares, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God…” (2 Corinthians 3:5) God enables us in Him to do and to bear His image in this world, that we may fulfill our purpose in Him.

How could a barren woman have more fulfillment than the one with a husband? How did the desolate woman find more fulfillment? Because our fulfillment doesn’t come in our husband or in our job or in our position or in our ministry. Our satisfaction and fulfillment comes from God. This world is a wilderness and we have to learn to cling to God in the midst of it because clinging to the wilderness will always leave us empty.

Are you in an overwhelming place right now that seems totally desolate? Stop fighting God. Let Him come to You in the desolate empty place and let Him fill You. Run into His arms and let His ways become Your ways. Let Him redefine Your thinking and Your living by His standards, by His love, by His grace, and by His mercy. Let Him be the spouse that He promises to be to you and let yourself be His. Let go of the emptiness. Walk away from it and walk into His arms. You don’t have to stay there. You never did. He’s been waiting with open arms every minute of every day, right there with you, only you wouldn’t acknowledge Him or give Him the time of day. But He never stopped thinking about you or reaching out to you.

We can keep fighting a losing battle and trying to find fulfillment elsewhere. But it will always leave us empty and grasping for more. Or we can stop fighting and let the One who has always loved us, the One who created us, fill us full of Himself and we can live out our purpose in life and eternity. The choice is each of ours. Only, don’t get upset if you choose the consequences of self-fulfillment. It’s not like we’ve not been warned. The blame game is a losing game. Let’s take responsibility for our choices and let’s choose life and fulfillment.

Diminishing God

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“Wherefore, as I live, says the Lord God; surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable things, and with all your abominations, therefore will I also diminish you; neither shall My eye spare, neither will I have any pity.” Ezekiel 5:11

 

How often do we think of desolation of the Temple as coming from within? This is so easy to miss. When thinking about the destruction of the Holy Temple we think about Rome coming in and forcing a pig to be offered to desecrate the Temple. Or maybe we think of the final desecration of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem before the last days, and an anti-Christ who does the same. But God is telling us in Ezekiel that desecration is closer than we think, that God’s own people desecrate the temple.

Isn’t that a terrible thought? The Jews themselves were guilty of defiling the sanctuary and bringing detestable things within its walls. The Jews themselves, yes, the people of God, were bringing abominations in. Really? Were they bringing pigs and things like that in? No. But they were busy bringing diminished ideas of God inside His own temple.

 

That word for diminished is gara in Hebrew. It means “to clip, diminish, restrain, keep back, withdraw.” Now listen to what Eliphaz said to Job, “Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? (Job 15:8) That’s a good question. Do I hear God’s word and then think I can interpret it how I want? Do I really understand everything as I ought? Can I really know it on my own or do I need the Holy Spirit, the forefathers and other believers who have really dug in? Is this a process of becoming or do I know all right now? Can I decide for myself or is this something I live out in the community of believers? Would I really think so highly of myself as to “limit God’s wisdom to my understanding?”

Do I forget that though God comes to us individually and leaves the 99 for the 1 that is lost, the goal is to bring the 100 into the fold? Do I forget that the power of God exists in community, in unity with God and with other believers? Do I forget that I need accountability? Do I forget that I need others to help me see in myself what I’m blind to? Do I forget that the Holy Spirit will never teach me or lead me in a way that is against God’s words?

But that’s what happens when I diminish God and His word. Yes, God comes to people personally, but not for us to be our own people. He comes to us personally so that we can choose to become His people, grafted in as one, grafted in not only with each other, but grafted in with Him. Therefore, we live like Him and love like Him and respond like Him and make much of Him because He becomes our everything and all those who are held so dear to Him become dear to us.

When I think I am the gift of God, I make living about me, not about God and not about His people. I make my goals and my desires more important. I diminish God and make myself a type of god. I think I have the right to point out specks in other people’s eyes and not see the log in my own. (Luke 6:41) I bear fruit of my own liking and not of God, bad fruit instead of good, bad fruit that I somehow convince myself tastes and looks good. (Luke 6:43) I call God, “Lord,” but I don’t treat You as Lord because really I’m my own lord. (Luke 6:46) I hear what You say but I don’t do it because I’ve diminished Your agenda and glorified my own.

When I take care of number 1, you know, me, I desecrate Your Holy Temple because that’s not what You desire. Your command is to love God and to love others. Acts 4:32 expressed true “temple” worship, “and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” And that’s the truth that doesn’t defile. Everything I have or am is because God has given it to me or in me. The Temple belongs to God. The instruments are His, the design is His, how it works is His idea. My purpose is to fulfill His idea, not mine. My purpose in life is to be fit in like His divine puzzle piece. I don’t even have the ability to fit myself. To think I do is the greatest farce. This is God’s playwright, He wrote it, it’s His, and we’re His players, and that’s the best place to be, looking to Him as Director so we get it right.

Lord, I don’t want to diminish You by having an attitude that I have it all under control or even know what I’m doing. I want to live under Your direction and I want to be sensitive to the direction of those who have heeded before me and along with me. I want to remember that I’m not a lone player and that I don’t get to write the script, or my script, or any one else’s script, but that You are the Script Writer. I don’t want to look clean on the outside and be a nasty cup on the inside because I’m in control. I want You to be in control, because who in the world am I to even think otherwise? I concede. After all, the temple was just a model of something greater. And Jesus, You told us, “something greater than the temple is here.” And I’m more than willing, I’m desperately in need of surrendering to You because the one who created the temple is greater than the temple. I want You to be God. Don’t let me diminish You in my life or in anyone else’s life. Let me let You be God in my life and all those around me. You know, You’re gonna be God because it’s who You are and I or anyone else can’t stop it. But I can keep myself and others from seeing it. Lord, don’t let that happen. I want to see You as You are. And I want to be an instrument that allows others to see You in Your fullness also.

Pulling Off an “Ezekiel”

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Photo credit to unknown internet source.

 

“Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment.” (Ezekiel 4:4)

 
Can you imagine lying on your side out on the ground where everyone is walking by for 390 days? And then doing it again on your right side, the other side, for another 40 days? Now, before that you were asked to make a sketch in a clay brick or maybe use those clay bricks to lay out a model of the city of Jerusalem under siege. And here you are, laying down, which isn’t an easy task physically, so God Himself helps you to be strong enough to do it. He places “cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other” until the days are completed. If that’s not bad enough, you have to eat what God tells you, this unpleasant mix of grains that isn’t even tasty and maybe even considered unclean by Hebrew standards. Let’s take it a step further, because then it’s supposed to be cooked over human dung.

 
Human dung! Are you kidding me? If mixing grains and beans was unclean, then what about cooking over human dung!  Now, Ezekiel didn’t object until this point. And I’m not surprised that he cries out to the Lord. “God, I’ve never defiled what went into my mouth. Please don’t make me now.” So the Lord, has mercy and tells Ezekiel he can cook over cow dung instead. Now that still seems nasty here, but in many cultures with lack of wood for cooking, there’s nothing unusual about that.

 
Speaking of unusual though, this whole thing is pretty unusual, pretty far out there, don’t you think? This is an interesting way to warn the children of Israel and Judah of their impending doom if they don’t repent. But as I read it, it’s not just a story about Israel and Judah and their sin, it’s a story about the call of God on a man and about the faithfulness of that man. And it goes even deeper. It’s about the call of God on any of us, and the evidence of the measure of our faithfulness to that call.

 
The call of God has nothing to do with ease and a life of bliss. It has nothing to do with living life in the wonderful by and by and escaping the here and now. I mean, really, look at Ezekiel. Ezekiel was chosen by God to be His representative and did he live a life of ease? Or was he expected and called to do hard things, things that most ordinary or “normal” men wouldn’t ever humble themselves to do? Where was his wealth? Where was his ease? Where was his blessing as we think of and expect blessings? Was he counting down the days until he died so he could go to heaven? I think not, because the Jews in that time period didn’t have that concept of heaven. What would compel Ezekiel to obey?

 
Why would Ezekiel allow himself to be bound like this? Why would Paul, some 600 years later, allow himself to be bound? “And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” (Acts 21:11) And I wonder if it all has some bearing on this man in the middle of both, this man who was also God, whose name is Jesus, who allowed them to bind him and lead him away and deliver him over to Pilate the governor? (Matthew 27:2)

 
It’s funny. Jesus allowed a lot of people to bind him. First there was the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews who arrested him and bound him. (John 18:12) Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:24) And even after his death, those who loved him took his body and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:40) But I guess it really doesn’t matter how man binds something. Because ultimately, Jesus broke all those bands when he rose again. But he had to wear those bands. He had to take on that burden.

 
What was that burden? It was the burden that God was placing on Ezekiel, the sin of the people. And Ezekiel was bearing it symbolically. Even so, he needed God to help him bear it. And Paul, he was carrying that burden from God too. That’s why he went all over the world preaching the good news of Christ that others might be set free. But Jesus, He’s the one who can actually bear the whole burden. He alone can carry the full weight.
Ezekiel was a picture for all to see. But it was a picture bigger than Ezekiel. It was God using Ezekiel to display what He was doing and what He was going to do.

 

Do you want to see the whole picture? Let’s look at it in Isaiah 53. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

 
You know, I forgot to mention that while Ezekiel was lying on the ground on his side, he was told to lie down like that with his arm outstretched. Is that supposed to be a Deja Vu? “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God…” (Exodus 6:6-7) This is the word, sabal- to bear, from the Hebrew siblot. It’s the word used in Isaiah 53 where the suffering servant bears our iniquities. It’s the relieving of the burden of those things that enslave and cause servitude, of those things that cause punishment and penalty. This is what the suffering servant, Jesus can bear and do for us. He is our Deliverer who can show Himself strong on our behalf in miraculous ways.

 
But the word of bearing that Ezekiel was called to do and like that which Paul would do or I is a whole different word. In Ezekiel its the word nasah. That’s a word used about testing and trying and proving. It’s like when God tested the faithfulness of his children when they were coming out of Israel. Only at Massah, they didn’t only just quarrel. They accused God and Moses of not being sufficient and of not caring. They basically said that God was impotent and indifferent because He wouldn’t do it there way. It was a challenge to God’s power and goodness despite the prevalent evidence all around.
The truth is that God has already demonstrated His faithfulness and goodness time and time again. It’s not up to Him to prove Himself. We are called to be proven. We’re the ones that need to pass the test, not God. Do we really get who God is and what He has already done? Are we just willing to be used to be witnesses of Him and not ourselves? Am I truly willing to bear His image and forsake my own? Can I forget my needs and desires for the sake of God’s glory and His desires to be manifested by me instead?

 
Am I willing to adopt a Biblical view of my calling or am I going to make it fit my own design?  Because that’s not the way God works. If Jesus came and allowed Himself to be bound and to suffer at the hands of men so that God’s glory would be manifested, and He’s our Master, then how could we be called to anything less? What if my goal wasn’t about receiving blessings but about manifesting the glory of God by a life humbly submitted to His will no matter what He required?

 
What if Ezekiel’s message is a message of choosing God’s will no matter the cost? What if that is what real faith is all about? It takes me to Matthew 19:29 and Jesus’ words, “And every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” That word for forsake is aphiemi. And it does mean to leave, but it also means “to dismiss, to send away, to let go.” There’s a personal involvement on our part just like there was on Ezekiel’s part. He had to decide to go with God’s plan. He had to decide to lay down and stretch out his arms each day in front of everyone. He had to make a conscious choice to manifest God’s picture through Himself despite what others would think and despite how they would treat him.

 
So the question is, am I willing to bear the burden that You place on me God, that shines forth Your image in this world that so badly needs to see You and know You? Do I know You so well that I would be willing to do whatever You required of me so that You could shine through me? Would I be willing to look like a fool to those who don’t understand so that You can look like God to those who will understand? How faithful am I really? Am I faithful enough to pull off an Ezekiel? God, make me able. As I consciously choose You, bind me in that decision in You.

Eating His Words

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“Moreover he said unto me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.’” Ezekiel 3:1

 
So here is Ezekiel still listening and being instructed and being equipped by the Lord. These words being given are not just any angel’s words. These are words of truth and judgment from God. And Ezekiel isn’t just supposed to hear them. He’s to hear and do, to hear and follow through, to hear and heed, to hear and be changed. And I thought I was going to talk about that hearing in verse 10, but I can’t get past a word in this first verse. It has just stopped me in my tracks. And that’s ok, Lord, because isn’t that part of hearing and listening, that I defer from my plan and pay attention to yours? And if one little word says, “Listen to me and don’t pass me by,” shouldn’t I obey?

 
Ezekiel can’t eat Your words until he “finds” them, can he? And eating Your words is important because they are our life sustain-ers. We have to imbibe them so that they become a part of us from the inside out. They have to become our sustenance to show that You are our very Sustenance.

 
Now, if I just look at Strong’s Concordance, I think of this word “find” or “matsa” in Hebrew maybe as something I just happen upon, that maybe exists upon my way or comes forth to be. Is there much significance to me if I just happen to attain something? Is there a difference between me finding or acquiring and my taking hold on something? Maybe it would behoove me to try to understand this finding better.

 
Remember that our problem here is a rebellious, hard-hearted people who should have known and loved and obeyed their heavenly Father. But they were rejecting Him and Ezekiel was to be their messenger to give them the opportunity to turn back to God. And it wasn’t like they didn’t have all the information that they needed to already find You, God, and love and serve You. It wasn’t like Ezekiel was being sent to a lost tribe who didn’t even know about You.
Let’s go all the way back to 1 Chronicles 28:9 to try to understand this finding, this word matsa. “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” This isn’t new stuff here, but it certainly is serious stuff.
If you read and listened closely enough so that you really heard the words, you see that idea or reality of seeking God and finding Him. It’s attainable. It’s doable. But it’s not something we can do all on our own. We have to take part in that action, but You actually let Yourself be found by us!

 
Matsa’ is a word about finding. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for someone, some place, or some thing, matsa’ is that word that you use when you discover what you have been looking for. In this verse in 1 Chronicles it’s not used any differently than that. But we learn more by understanding the form of the word. The form here “tells us that the action is [a] continuous, present tense, passive event…instead of me finding God, He actually finds me—but He lets me think I’m doing the work because He wants me to be encouraged for my effort.” (Skip Moen) It’s the same thing You’re telling Ezekiel. “You eat, Ezekiel. You find My words and take them in, and then follow through on them.” But did Ezekiel make up the words? Did he find without God showing him? Absolutely not. God, You prepare the table for Ezekiel and You prepare the table for each of us.

 
So here is this table, this table of abundance, filled with more than satisfaction, and it’s all right here before us. Just like in Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” The problem is, we handle it wrongly. We whine, “‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers.” (Isaiah 58:3) Here, the people find their desire. It’s still that word matsa. Remember how it means “to find” and also “to come upon, reach, attain”? It’s that same word as in Deuteronomy 4:29, “ But if from thence you shall seek the LORD your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This kind of finding comes from seeking. But in Isaiah, they were fasting not to seek God, but to seek being noticed, or to seek the reward of the blessing. The sad thing is that we can seek the delights from God without ever seeking the delight of God Himself.

 
How can someone seek delight from You without seeking You? I can seek an emotional satisfaction from knowing I’ve done a good job. My practicing of my “religion” can give me a good feeling about myself. I can delight in that feeling. I can delight in how people view me. I can delight in my own goodness. I can delight in the monetary blessing or position of being valued and listened to. I can delight in a ministry. I can delight in my own works. I can delight in my own image or my own ideas.

 
Whether I eat from Your table or refrain from it in order to fast, my goal is not all about the table. My eyes and heart ought to be set on the One who provides the table. My goal ought to be righteousness and restitution and repentance, not feeling better about myself. My goal ought to be knowing You more and worshipping You with all I am and delighting in Who You Are and how You even arrange things in my life so that I CAN find You. It ought to be all about GIANT YOU even finding tiny little me, and REVELLING IN THE TRUTH AND JOY OF IT SO THAT I MUST JUMP UP AND DOWN AND DO HANDSTANDS UNCONTROLLABLY AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH IN TOTAL OBEDIENT LOVE! (Oh, did I get a little excited there? ) The proof of the pudding is in whether my actions change my expectations or demands on myself and on others. Has my heart been transformed? Or am I just looking for a good feeling? What have I really found? Anything, or just some pretend idea? You want us to really find You.

 
So why was Ezekiel able to find You when what seemed like the rest of Israel couldn’t? “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Nope, it wasn’t new stuff here. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what to do. I think it’s the same for most of us today. It’s not new stuff. And it’s not like we don’t know what we ought to do and what we need to do.

 
We’re all running around asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Well, the answer has always been right in front of us. “The answers to life are found in seeking God.” (Skip Moen) God promised that those who seek Him would find Him. When Jesus shared, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” (Luke 11:9) He wasn’t coming up with some new idea. He was restating what should have already been known. From day one of creation, it’s what our lives were designed to be. We were created to seek the kingdom of God above and before everything else, and to seek His righteousness, and the rest of what we were designed for flows from that to us. And you can’t seek the kingdom and God’s righteousness without seeking Him.

 
Jeremiah uses this other word for seeking. It’s about diligently searching for knowledge. And that’s what causes a problem for many of us. Because we start thinking knowledge is about what we do, like religious activity, instead about who we know, like You God. We start replacing You with good works and ritual and rules and books about You and people’s testimonies. That’s why we burn out and feel empty.

 
Mary, in the middle of a busy day, found God in His temple. How? In her house, in all the business, she sat down at the feet of Jesus. She chose the place of a disciple, the place of closeness and intimacy, of quietness and learning, of being filled and restored. Martha was choosing service and doing the proper thing, the good thing. But Jesus said that Mary chose what was better? Was Mary lazy? No. But she was willing to drop everything to enter the kingdom of God and sit in His presence. She was seeking His kingdom first. She was soaking up His righteousness. And from that, she would be able to take those things to those around her.

 
Unless we eat of Your flesh and drink of Your blood, unless we are that intimate with You that You are changing us from the inside out, how will You or anyone else recognize us as Yours? Here’s the thing, we get to choose to seek You or not. “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:28) It’s not unusual to lose things and find them. It’s a very common occurrence in life. So it’s easily understood. But there’s a problem when we think we can seek God’s kingdom and wisdom but we choose to reject His rule. It doesn’t work that way. We become blinded. We grope and won’t find even when the answer is right within our grasp. We could put our hand right on it and not recognize it. The answer becomes invisible to us. The sad thing is that it was right there for us, it was ours, but by our own foolish decision we lost the gift that should have been ours all along.

 
I want to find what You place before me. I want to see You and know You and revel in knowing You and following You and walking in Your ways. I want to know how You feel about me by experiencing You. I want to know the power of Your resurrection and the power of Your love and the power of everything that is You. I want to know the beautiful wonder of You. And with that wonder comes hard things for me, just like for Ezekiel. Imbibing You, dwelling in You, means I can’t dwell in the world the way it is the same way. Knowing You and finding You means knowing and finding the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your sufferings. But if I am really Yours, if I want to really find You and know You, then I must let myself be found and found fully. I must let You have all Your power over me. Because Your desire is to make us a nation of priests after Your own heart, influencing the world around us in You. Your eyes run to and fro, back and forth, over the whole earth waiting to show Yourself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are complete in You. Why would I want to ruin such a good thing?

Eating the Good and the Bad

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Photo credit to David Bee Mallari.

 

“But you, son of man, hear what I say to you; Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” (Ezekiel 2:8)

 
Ezekiel carries God’s words of warning as well as words of encouragement from the Lord. But sometimes, both the warning and encouragement are hard to take and weighty for us. Bad news is always hard to swallow, but good news can actually be a hard road too. But then again, Jesus said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) Maybe Ezekiel will help me learn the truth of that.

 
So here is Ezekiel, called before this angel of God or Jesus Himself, but he is so filled with awe and fear at the presence that he cannot stand of his own strength. So he is told to stand. But here’s the thing. He’s not expected to do it on his own. The Spirit enters him and sets him on his feet and then he was able to hear what was spoken to him. How important is it for me, for each of us, to allow the Spirit to enter us so that we will firmly be planted in God’s ways? How important is it for me, for each of us, to allow the Spirit to enter us so that we can hear and understand and live out Your words, Your will, Your desires in faithful obedience and love?

 
And Ezekiel heard. It’s that word shama again. It’s never about just hearing and letting the speech go in one ear and out the other. It’s about hearing and discerning and acting upon that hearing. Is that how I hear? Do I lean in attentively to You? Or am I busier leaning into my own understanding? (see Proverbs 3:5) Do I incline all my being, my mind, my will, and my emotions into You? (Joshua 24:23) Do I realize that it is Your desire to incline my heart unto You, so that I might walk in all Your ways, and keep Your commandments and Your statutes and Your judgments? (1 Kings 8:58) If I expect You to incline Your ear toward me and hear me and act upon what You hear, do I expect the same of myself toward You, or do I hold myself to a lesser standard when it comes to hearing? (Psalm 17:6)

 
I want to really listen, no matter what the consequences, just like Ezekiel. So what was the bad news? Well, the bad news is bad news for rebellious people but it’s also kind of bad news for Ezekiel. God was appointing Ezekiel as a prophet of God to these rebellious people. I don’t think that Ezekiel jumped up and down and said, “Oh, thank You, Lord, thank You! This is so wonderful! I’m so excited! Woohoo!” He was being equipped and sent to tell a rebellious nation bad news. And here’s the bad news about that, they might not hear and act upon what they hear. They might just keep rebelling. Nothing might change. It might look like no good is being done. It might look like Ezekiel has been profitless. (No pun intended upon the prophet.)

 
That’s not all the bad news. It’s going to be scary stuff for a man to go through, even an anointed prophet filled with the Spirit of God. God prepares Ezekiel with these words, “and you, son of man, don’t be afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with you, and you dwell among scorpions: don’t be afraid of their words, and don’t be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.” Ezekiel is to keep speaking God’s words whether they hear and change or not.

 
But here is the good news. “Ezekiel, you, make sure you hear what I say to you. Don’t be rebellious like them: open your mouth, and eat what I give you.” What does that mean to eat what God gives him? Could that mean that Ezekiel has to take the bad tasting medicine as well as the delicacies? Does Your word and Your way sometimes seem like bitter medicine or bitter herbs to us? Do we want to refuse what is good for us because part of it is bad news for our own selfish desires or bad news to our egos or our own plans? Would we rather hold unto our rebellious faces than be changed into Your glorious image?

 
So here’s my question about what You want me to learn from You and Ezekiel here. Do I get it? Do I understand that hearing from You means doing and living out what I hear? Do I understand that being a follower of the Creator of the heavens and earth through Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection means more than having a head knowledge of You? Do I understand it means tough times ahead? Do I understand that the “world” responds the same way today as it did in Ezekiel’s day? And do I understand that as a believer I am called to share with and in a defiant world just like Ezekiel? Will I hear and answer my calling?

 
If it doesn’t seem clear through Ezekiel, or maybe I shouldn’t transfer Ezekiel’s responsibility to me and other believers, let me listen to Jesus’s own words in John 17. “And now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world, that they [those who believe] might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Now, wasn’t that God’s desire all along, even back in Ezekiel? But I digress, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Is this like a deja vu? “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil.” Does it sound as though I need to be stood up straight and strong by the Spirit just as much now? “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Was Eziekiel like everyone else? Or was he different because of what he allowed You to do in him and how he clung to You? “As You have sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” Well there’s the clincher.

 
If Ezekiel was sent out into the world in the middle of bad and good news all wrapped up together, then wasn’t Jesus sent even more so? Jesus came knowing He would be crucified by a people He loved. But He never stopped loving and never stopped telling. God was everything and the suffering and hurt was a moment in comparison. And the truth is that all who would believe are called in the same way. We are called to hear and follow despite the pain, despite homelessness, despite ridicule, despite our health, despite the faces people make, and the deterrents along the way. We are called to hear and follow despite our feelings and our hopes and dreams. We are called to cast off our rebellion and follow wholeheartedly, counting the cost and understanding it will cost much. We are called to count God worth every cost and to live like it. That’s what I learn from Ezekiel today. And that’s what I learn from Jesus every day. But is that how I live?

 
Lord, I have not always lived as though You were the greatest worth. I admit that I cannot stand on my own. I am in desperate need of Your Spirit to stand me up firm on my feet so that I can hear You rightly and walk rightly in Your words and Your ways. I need Your Spirit to make me strong and keep me strong in a world that is rebellious. I even need Your Spirit to keep me from falling into rebellion myself or for getting out of it. But I also want to take the steps to seek You, to cling to You, to value You more than anything in life. When I’m weak, I want to fall on You, not on my weakness. I don’t want my weakness to rule me; I want You to rule me and guide me and strengthen me. I want to be ready for the good and the bad and the bad and good, however they come. And I thank You so much, that You do not leave us unprepared but that You fully equip us for every situation. So let me eat whatever You give me, the bitter and the tasty, so that I may dwell in the beauty and safety of You. And may others be drawn to eat from that same plate and count it more than worth it.

Falling on My Face

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“…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face…” (Ezekiel 1:28)

 
I know there are lots of commentaries out there but I still have lots of questions. Here is Ezekiel seeing this vision that You have given him, God. It’s about creatures with four faces, one like a man, another like a lion, one like an ox, and one like an eagle. They had four wings. Sparkling like burnished brass with straight legs and feet like a calf’s foot, they moved without turning. Two of their wings covered their bodies and two wings apparently stretched above and clasped together overhead. And there was flashing lightning and there were these wheels that went with them. And a wheel in the middle of the wheel. Read it. What am I to walk away with from this today?

 
Do you ever stop and wonder what Ezekiel took away from this? Did Ezekiel walk away from this vision trying to interpret every verse? Did he walk away and write down a commentary? I just wonder. Or did he walk away just thinking about the wonder and glory and unsurpassed glory of God? Do I need to be able to explain each item in this vision to see what You were showing Ezekiel? Can I really ever explain everything about You, God? Am I supposed to think that I can?

 
What if Ezekiel was given this opportunity to glimpse what it’s like before Your throne? What if he was given this opportunity to see how much different You are than us and that there is so much more to You that we don’t even know or understand? What if this is a vision of worship? And a vision of holiness? And a vision of power? And a vision of in-explainable things that match Your ways that are above our ways?

 
What if I would be better off standing and being amazed than explaining things? Maybe there are times when awe is more important than interpretation. What if my interpretation takes away from Your awe? Maybe I’m wrong or crazy, but I want to be cared for by a God who can’t be explained by man. I want a God who is bigger and knows more. I’m more than ok with You being in-explainable.

 
And if You are in-explainable, wouldn’t I expect those closest to Your throne to be also? I mean, if I could fathom You, You would no longer be infinite, would You? Finite things like me and this earth are fathomable. But not You and not things living and breathing according to Your spirit- like those living creatures.

 
Which makes me think. Maybe, the more of You in me, the more of Your Spirit that guides me like it guides those creatures, well, then maybe the less of me is fathomable. Maybe, in You, we begin to become unfathomable creatures, doing unfathomable things. Maybe that’s how the disciples and early believers turned the world upside down. Maybe they took on some of Your unfathomableness by taking on Your Spirit and letting it direct their paths like these amazing creatures.

 
I don’t know. I read the commentaries and it makes me think I can have an explanation for everything. And then I walk away with an explanation. Or I can read Your word, and think about what it would be like to see that for myself, and I don’t have an explanation. But I walk away with this greatness of You and this extra specialness of You above all things. And I can’t explain and I don’t want to and I don’t want to read someone elses explanation. I just want to be awed. I just want to respond like Ezekiel and watch in wonder until You show Yourself and then I want to fall on my face and just be allowed to be in Your presence and be overwhelmed by You.

 
I guess it takes me back to Isaiah 55. Isaiah is hearing from You, Lord, and You say, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” I mean, who is the wicked or unrighteous man here? Maybe the wicked and unrighteous is a broader spectrum than we like to admit. Maybe I fall in that spectrum. Maybe I fall there because I think too much of my way and my thoughts and interpretations. After all, You tell us outright “[M]y thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

 
I don’t just want to interpret You or have You interpreted. I want to see You and hear You and follow You and be moved by Your Spirit in all I do. Isaiah continues with Your words, “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Your word is not static. When You say it shall be, hayah, it’s because it is becoming all that it is intended to become. It is doing. It is living. It is acting and being acted upon. It is accomplishing. It is delighting You. It is prospering and benefiting and bringing Your will to pass. It is being sent and being received. It is being heard and obeyed. Like the revolution of those wheels it, or rather, You are the center of our being and becoming.

 
I want to just sit back and take in the vision around Your throne. I want to remember who You are, that You are more than I can handle so that I let You be God, and I let You handle things and I let You handle me. I want the One who is glorious enough to create and control creatures as grand as those beings to control me by Your spirit. I don’t ever want to make You less than You are. I want You to be fully You in my mind and my life. I want to glory in You being God and You knowing more than me and being so capable that I understand what it is to fear the Lord. After all, when was the last time I fell on my face and trembled over You?