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.

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A Personal Revelation

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Photo credit to Madeline Tejano Mostrales.

 

“…that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets up over it the basest of men.” Daniel 4:7

 
You would think that Nebuchadnezzar would have learned already. I mean, there was Daniel to interpret his dream that no one else in the kingdom could even tell, let alone interpret. What did Nebuchadnezzar gather from that? Well, he worshiped Daniel, fell prostrate before him. That’s definitely a humbling experience for him, but pretty much a “no-no” according to God. Yet he did come to the conclusion that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (Daniel 2:47) That’s good to know and it’s good to put God at the top of the list, and know that God can do what the other gods can’t. But it’s also still saying that there are other gods even though God is the Top Dog. It seems as though Nebuchadnezzar still was giving himself lots of choices to run to, although Daniel’s God was the best of the best. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not arriving at the destination at all yet.

 
After that lesson, he raises up that larger than life image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down and worship it, are thrown into the fiery furnace, and come out unscathed. Nebuchadnezzar announces how their God “sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in Him…and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” Now that was a novel idea for this polytheistic kingdom. These guys worshiped one God and only one God, while the world around them worshiped many. But what did the king learn? Obviously not that God was the only true God. But he did learn that there was “no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

 
Now, I don’t want to fault King Nebuchadnezzar more than any of us. Sometimes we are just as thick-headed and dull as he was. Sometimes, I suppose, it’s much easier to hedge our bets, and hold onto what we’re used to. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with tradition and not rock our boat or anyone else’s. Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else be bold and make a stand and just be the one to commend them. Sometimes it’s just easier to accept it all than to count the cost and take a side. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay where we are because it’s comfortable and we are in control. I mean, who really wants to admit that I’m really not in control? Who is ready to hand that control over so easily to a God who is all powerful and may decide to do things differently? Might as well hold on to the control. Then I can decide, right?

 
So now we come to chapter 4. And Nebuchadnezzar starts off by saying he’s telling this story and that he wants to tell about the wonder and might of that high God in his own personal life. We find that God sends another dream to Nebuchadnezzar. This time again, none of the counselors can interpret the dream except for, guess who? Daniel came in, yeah, Daniel is his real name, because the king admits he changed his name to Belteshazzar after the name of his own god. Maybe he was starting to realize the irony of that act. Because here was Daniel’s God continually showing Himself.

 
Now Daniel hears the dream. And what was his reaction?  He was devastated. It really bothered him. For an hour he was handling within himself what he knew. And the king saw but told him not to worry, but to interpret it. So Daniel told him that as great as he was, and as great as his kingdom was, that God was saying he was going to be driven from men and live among the beasts, not by other men, but by these angels, these watchers of the dream. He would be like a beast of the field, eating grass like the oxen, wet with dew, for seven years, until he acknowledged that God rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to who he will. And at the end of the seven years, when the king learned this lesson, he would be returned to his kingdom’s rule.

 
Did Nebuchadnezzar stave this off? Daniel counseled him, “break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” But 1 year later the king was walking and thinking of his kingdom and shared, “Isn’t this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” Boom! A voice from heaven, (yes, this is dramatic! but God is that way) “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; ‘The kingdom is departed from you…” And the dream was fulfilled that same hour. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men, ate grass like the oxen, his body was wet with dew, his hairs grew like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds claws.

 
Thank goodness he had good counselors that kept his kingdom during this time. Maybe Daniel was in charge and reminding them, “This is only for seven years and God will return him to his position. Let’s just keep everything going till then.” But at the end of those seven years, Nebuchadnezzar looked up instead of to himself, and became a thinking man again, and remembered God and blessed the most High, and “praised and honored Him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.” So what else did he learn? “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and no one can stay His hand, or say unto Him, ‘What are You doing?’ He learned that God is the King of heaven, all His works are truth and His ways just, and that those who walk in pride, He is able to abase.

 
And this is where we are left with Nebuchadnezzar. But maybe the question is, where does that leave me?  Am I left like Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging that God is the best choice among lots of choices? Do I acknowledge the wonderful things He does but refuse to surrender to Him alone? Do I keep seeing His hand in my life and lives around me, but I refuse to worship Him? Am I excited and living for moments and miracles instead of living for the One True God?

 
Daniel knew God. God shared things with him. God shared things with him in a way that flowed out to others. Nebuchadnezzar knew about God. He watched from the other side of the fence as God interacted with Daniel. But I even wonder if at the end, when Nebuchadnezzar felt the touch of God, if he just looked up or if he became His like Daniel. Was God his Counselor? Or did he remain his own final counsel?

 
Back in Daniel 2 the king had told Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”  Jesus, in both Matthew and Luke declares, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” The beauty of revelation is that even in the Old Testament to this pagan king, God was doing everything to make Himself known, not for His sake, but for the sake of Nebuchadnezzar and all the people under his influence.

 
I think of Paul, who was a persecutor of believers, who was like Nebuchadnezzar only puffed up in religious pride. But then God humbled him also, this great man by the world’s standards and probably his own. And he makes this statement, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) And he’s not talking about knowing about Jesus. He really means KNOWING Jesus, and knowing Jesus so much that he would be found “in him, not having righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own…Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3)

 
Yes, God uses even the basest of men and women, boys and girls. He puts us each where He wants us and for His purposes. I can’t explain it all and I never will be able. But I know that You, Lord, give every one of us the opportunity to know You if only we would humble ourselves before You. People may be angry, they may ask, “God, what have You done? What are You doing?” What’s the answer? “I’m trying to reveal myself to you, if only you would get it. Child, I’m doing everything just to reveal myself to you.”

The Immeasurable Value of Humility

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“The pride of your heart has deceived you…” Obadiah 1:3

Pride is a dangerous and destructive compeller. It’s more than an attitude and it’s deeper than character even though it’s both. It’s a driving force and seems to overtake whoever chooses to grasp it for their own. Once you grab, it seems to have you, and it’s awfully hard to shake loose from it once you realize how much it has a hold on you. But it can be done.

I wonder a lot about things. Now I’m thinking back on the time that Edom began, when Jacob and Esau were first born. They were twins within their mother’s womb. And they were so active in their mom’s womb that it was called “struggling together” and it really stressed her out so that she asked the Lord about it. And You already knew everything about those two baby boys, those leaders of two nations. One would be physically stronger than the other, yet the other would be under the rule of his “weaker” brother. And Esau started to come out first and was named, and as he was out, his brother, Jacob, had his little hand on Esau’s heal. Both babies were named according to how they looked or what they did as they came out. Esau-the rough one. Jacob- the heal catcher, supplanter.

 
I guess I just wonder how much of the boys’ attitudes were because it’s who they were and how much was because of the perceptions of the people around them. I mean, knowing Your words, that one would be stronger and one would rule the elder, wouldn’t it have been good to support that as something that could work together? I mean is it bad that Esau would be the strong one? And is it bad that the younger would have the better discernment to rule? What if Your words had been valued more than the traditions and desires of the forefathers or the parents? What if Isaac and Rebecca would have valued both abilities equally and shown the boys how to benefit each other by them? I wonder if that was an option? But I guess that’s a mute point, because it wasn’t the option taken.

 
And so many years later we have the fruit of the competition continually growing. We have a nation fighting continually against his brother nation because of pride. We have a brother deceived into thinking what he is doing is right, who thinks his strength is because of himself and due to his own making. We have a brother who doesn’t get that his strength is from the Lord and only true strength when he finally submits to God and his brother because that is Your design. He has come to worship his own strength and despising the God who gave it to him. He exalts himself like an eagle, but eagles can be brought down.

You didn’t say that there would be a stronger baby and the younger, weaker brother would rule if the stronger one was O.K. with that. You said, “This is how this will be.” Now, in anything You say, if we choose not to obey, or to disregard it and do it our own way, then we suffer the consequences that action naturally brings with it. We miss the blessing. The sad part here isn’t that it was just Esau’s choice. Their parents and society didn’t choose Your way either. That’s a hard concept to get that You get to choose who You will. That I might be called to serve someone else despite my “rights.” That I might have to use my gifts and talents to bring glory to something bigger than myself. That I might have to step into the background so someone else can be made much of by my strengths. What kind of crazy thinking is that, right?

So instead of choosing to fight for my brother, or my sister, or my husband, or my wife; instead of choosing to cover them and take the shame for their sake, I would choose to stand by like Esau and watch my brother be carried off. I would gloat over him or her getting what was coming to them. I would set them up for failure myself. I would watch and do nothing. I would rejoice when they hurt and suffered. I would gloat over how much I won in the divorce settlement. See, what You are sharing through Obadiah is prophetic. It happened and is still happening. It applies to the nation of Israel totally. But it also applies as a lesson in life to each of us. Because as Jacob and Esau go, so may we. Because it’s all about relationship.

Relationships based on us, fail. This was a relationship based on God. It should have flourished. But when we don’t line our thoughts up with Yours, this is what happens. Instead of lives filled with blessing and mutually beneficial relationships, we compete and hurt and damage and kill. But it didn’t have to be this way. And it doesn’t have to be this way now. The truth is, what goes around comes around. “[A]s you have done, it shall be done unto you: your reward shall return upon your own head.” Maybe keeping that thought in mind, would be enough to change our response to others. Do I want unforgiveness served back on my own head? How about bitterness? How about impatience? How about any of the actions or attitudes I show to that other person?

But the good news is that we can be delivered from this false thinking and this dangerous pride that causes us to choose wrongly. “Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness…” Yes, a day is coming when God will restore Israel but You are also looking to deliver anyone who will trust Your way and let go of their own. You are offering deliverance to Jacob, and Esau, to Israel and to all nations. But we can only find deliverance upon mount Zion, Your way, through Jesus. We can only find deliverance by understanding that we have to let go of our ways and grab onto You and Your ways. I have to stop looking at the faults of my brothers and sisters and look to the perfection and wonder of You. I have to stop looking and thinking about my own strength and look at Your power and Your glory.

Ultimately, here’s the truth. We can call Mt. Zion, the mount of Esau if we choose. We can call it Mt. Zion. But Mt. Zion in itself is not even for itself. Call it one or the other but the truth is, the “kingdom shall be the LORD’S.” Who does my kingdom belong to? Who does my family belong to? Who does my husband or wife belong to? Who does my house or my future or my ministry belong to? Do I get it? If what I’m calling mine, really belongs to You, I really need to change my perspective, don’t I?

Esau isn’t the only one paying a price. Isaac payed a price. Rebecca payed a price. Jacob payed a price. They all payed the price of broken relationship. Is that the price that I want to pay to hold onto my pride? No, I don’t want to pay that price. I want to learn. I want to learn to submit to You, Lord. And in learning to submit to You, I have to learn to submit to others. In learning to submit to You, I have to let go of my pride and care about others first. I have to use my strengths for the benefit of those around me and not for myself. If I really start to get it, I’d realize that in submitting, You, my Heavenly Father, would be my strength and my protector because I would be under Your ultimate authority. Yeah, I think the King of kings and Lord of lords can take care of me just fine. Help me to get it, Lord. Help me to understand the immeasurable value of humility.

The Immeasurable Value of Humility

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“The pride of your heart has deceived you…”  Obadiah 1:3

Pride is a dangerous and destructive compeller.  It’s more than an attitude and it’s deeper than character even though it’s both.  It’s a driving force and seems to overtake whoever chooses to grasp it for their own.  Once you grab, it seems to have you, and it’s awfully hard to shake loose from it once you realize how much it has a hold on you.  But it can be done.

I wonder a lot about things.  Now I’m thinking back on the time that Edom began, when Jacob and Esau were first born.  They were twins within their mother’s womb.  And they were so active in their mom’s womb that it was called “struggling together” and it really stressed her out so that she asked the Lord about it.  And You already knew everything about those two baby boys, those leaders of two nations.  One would be physically stronger than the other, yet the other would be under the rule of his “weaker” brother.  And Esau started to come out first and was named, and as he was out, his brother, Jacob, had his little hand on Esau’s heal.  Both babies were named according to how they looked or what they did as they came out.  Esau-the rough one.  Jacob- the heal catcher, supplanter. 

I guess I just wonder how much of the boys’ attitudes were because it’s who they were and how much was because of the perceptions of the people around them.  I mean, knowing Your words, that one would be stronger and one would rule the elder, wouldn’t it have been good to support that as something that could work together?  I mean is it bad that Esau would be the strong one?  And is it bad that the younger would have the better discernment to rule?  What if Your words had been valued more than the traditions and desires of the forefathers or the parents?  What if Isaac and Rebecca would have valued both abilities equally and shown the boys how to benefit each other by them?  I wonder if that was an option?  But I guess that’s a mute point, because it wasn’t the option taken.

And so, many years later we have the fruit of the competition continually growing.  We have a nation fighting continually against his brother nation because of pride.  We have a brother deceived into thinking what he is doing is right, who thinks his strength is because of himself and due to his own making.  We have a brother who doesn’t get that his strength is from the Lord and only true strength when he finally submits to God and his brother because that is Your design.  He has come to worship his own strength and to despise the God who gave it to him.  He exalts himself like an eagle, but eagles can be brought down. 

You didn’t say that there would be a stronger baby and the younger, weaker brother would rule if the stronger one was O.K. with that.  You said, “This is how this will be.”  Now, in anything You say, if we choose not to obey, or to disregard it and do it our own way, then we suffer the consequences that action naturally brings with it.  We miss the blessing.  The sad part here isn’t that it was just Esau’s choice.  Their parents and society didn’t choose Your way either.  That’s a hard concept to get that You get to choose who You will.  That I might be called to serve someone else despite my “rights.”   That I might have to use my gifts and talents to bring glory to something bigger than myself.  That I might have to step into the background so someone else can be made much of by my strengths.  What kind of crazy thinking is that, right?

So instead of choosing to fight for my brother, or my sister, or my husband, or my wife; instead of choosing to cover them and take the shame for their sake, I would choose to stand by like Esau and watch my brother be carried off.  I would gloat over him or her getting what was coming to them.  I would set them up for failure myself.  I would watch and do nothing.  I would rejoice when they hurt and suffered.  I would gloat over how much I won in the divorce settlement.  See, what You are sharing through Obadiah is prophetic.  It happened and is still happening.  It applies to the nation of Israel totally.  But it also applies as a lesson in life to each of us.  Because as Jacob and Esau go, so may we.  Because it’s all about relationship.

Relationships based on us, fail.  This was a relationship based on God.  It should have flourished.  But when we don’t line our thoughts up with Yours, this is what happens.  Instead of lives filled with blessing and mutually beneficial relationships, we compete and hurt and damage and kill.  But it didn’t have to be this way.  And it doesn’t have to be this way now.  The truth is, what goes around comes around.  “[A]s you have done, it shall be done unto you: your reward shall return upon your own head.”  Maybe keeping that thought in mind, would be enough to change our response to others.  Do I want unforgiveness served back on my own head?  How about bitterness?  How about impatience?  How about any of the actions or attitudes I show to that other person?

But the good news is that we can be delivered from this false thinking and this dangerous pride that causes us to choose wrongly.  “Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness…”  Yes, a day is coming when God will restore Israel but You are also looking to deliver anyone who will trust Your way and let go of their own.  You are offering deliverance to Jacob, and Esau, to Israel and to all nations.  But we can only find deliverance upon mount Zion, Your way, through Jesus.  We can only find deliverance by understanding that we have to let go of our ways and grab onto You and Your ways.  I have to stop looking at the faults of my brothers and sisters and look to the perfection and wonder of You.  I have to stop looking and thinking about my own strength and look at Your power and Your glory. 

Ultimately, here’s the truth.  We can call Mt. Zion the mount of Esau if we choose.  We can call it Mt. Zion.  But Mt. Zion in itself is not even for itself.  Call it one or the other but the truth is, the “kingdom shall be the LORD’S.”  Who does my kingdom belong to?  Who does my family belong to?  Who does my husband or wife belong to?  Who does my house or my future or my ministry belong to?  Do I get it?  If what I’m calling mine, really belongs to You, I really need to change my perspective, don’t I? 

Esau isn’t the only one paying a price.  Isaac payed a price.  Rebecca payed a price.  Jacob payed a price.  They all payed the price of broken relationship.  Is that the price that I want to pay to hold onto my pride?  No, I don’t want to pay that price.  I want to learn.  I want to learn to submit to You, Lord.  And in learning to submit to You, I have to learn to submit to others.  In learning to submit to You, I have to let go of my pride and care about others first.  I have to use my strengths for the benefit of those around me and not for myself.  If I really start to get it, I’d realize that in submitting, You, my Heavenly Father, would be my strength and my protector because I would be under Your ultimate authority.  Yeah, I think the King of kings and Lord of lords can take care of me just fine.  Help me to get it, Lord.  Help me to understand the immeasurable value of humility.

I Haven’t Got A Case

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“Hear what the Lord says: ‘Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice…’” Micah 6:1

Go ahead, make your argument or arguments against the Lord.  Go ahead, justify your ways before God.  Argue with Him.  Disagree with Him.  Lay it all out before Him.  Take all your evidence and lay it before the Lord, right next to His gavel on the the stand before Him.  Stand before the jury that is made up of the mountains and hills that have witnessed all over the thousands of years they have been standing and observing, not only you but God.  Go ahead and plead your case.

The problem is that when we lay it all out before You Lord, and before our jury, it won’t look like much, when You compare it with the truth of what has really occurred and what You have done through all of it.   You won’t be the one coming out in the wrong.  It will be us every time when we contend with You.  And the futility of our thinking will begin to hit us in the face.  I know that because every time someone stands in the presence of the Lord, we become undone, all our pride and goodness and plans unravel in an instant when we are confronted with the truth.

It’s such a sad thing that You would ever have to ask Your people, “O My people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!”  (Micah 6:3)  In the King James Version, it expresses it, “Testify against Me.”  That’s the Hebrew anah and it means to eye or to heed, pay attention, to respond.  I’m thinking that it means more than to speak about or just give and answer.  I think it’s a call to take a good, close, real look at You and then to heed or respond to what we see.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Maybe the problem is that we often refuse to look at You.  We sit back and look at everything through our eyes, and our lenses, and through our circumstances, and our desires, or our plans.  We won’t stop and look and we won’t stop and respond because we never looked at the reality of You in the first place.  I mean, I can’t respond to what I haven’t looked at.  Which leaves me clueless no matter how right I think I am.  If I avoid gathering the main evidence, I really haven’t got a case at all, have I?

How have You wearied us?  What have You done, Lord, that is so burdensome for us?  What was so hard about being delivered from Egypt?  Every step of the way, You responded in miraculous God ways and yet the people found things that displeased them in Your choices.  You did so much and still they found fault.  Balak and Balaam tried to curse the people and yet God turned the words into a blessing.  You gave the tabernacle and the temple with the whole sacrificial system as a pattern of life and relationship with You.  Why? To show us how much You desired unity and to be with us and how much we needed You and couldn’t live a right life without You.  Yet all of it, was twisted and looked at as burdensome. 

Was it about taking things away and removing our pleasure?  Was it about making us do sacrifices as a part of a routine?  Was it just about following practices of some religion?  Because that would be burdensome.  But it wasn’t.  It wasn’t about taking away what we love.  It was about fulfilling our every desire in You.  It was about returning to what we were created for, to live in and experience and rejoice in relationship with You, our Creator and the lover of our souls and beings.  It was about seeing myself as who I really am and knowing that You still choose to love me. 

The truth is, when I choose to look at You for real and really see, that You showed me.  You stood right there in front of me the whole time.  You stood out opposite everything else and stood as a beacon to what was true and good and right.  You manifested what You were looking for.  You showed us what true worship was and is.  It’s not about habits or routines or rituals.  It’s always been about reality and hearts.  But deeper than that it’s about living out justice and mercy.  But even deeper than that its about walking humbly with our God.

I can’t even begin to think that I understand justice and mercy and how to live it out and walk it out in life if I don’t know how to walk humbly with You, Lord.  If I can’t come along with You and join You in Your journey, then I have no idea what I am doing.  You are the Journey Master.  You’ve designed the journey.  Until I start realizing that You are in charge of the whole journey and act upon that realization, I haven’t got a clue or a spot of evidence in my favor.  I have a choice.  I can humble myself before You and cling to You and Your ways, or I can be humbled and humiliated by You, not because You want to humiliate me, but because it was my choice by refusing to act upon the truth. 

But sometimes, You have to put me in situations that test me.  If You didn’t, I would be lost.  Because sometimes I have to have my thinking changed.  Sometimes I think what’s wrong is right, and something has to snap me out of that thinking.  See, we have wrong ideas all the time.  People used to think that sickness came from spontaneous generation.  Stuff just appeared and made us sick.  And then someone realized that there was something invisible to our eyes called germs that were the culprits and if we acknowledge that and them, we could protect ourselves so much better by washing our hands and caring about hygiene.  What a revelation! 

You bring things into our lives like sickness, or desolation, or dissatisfaction, or loss, or failure, or hunger to make us think and to help us see and to humble us.  And if we choose to submit humbly to the One who really has all the answers and IS the answer, we don’t have to be humiliated.  But I can choose instead, to believe in spontaneous generation.  I can refuse the truth because I think I know better.  But then again, I will suffer longer and harder.  I can choose to embrace desolation, and become bitter and controlling or lonely and depressed, or I can acknowledge the One who will never leave me and never forsake me.  I can find dissatisfaction in everything and everyone and never feel my goals or plans or met, or I can learn to hand my goals and plans and expectations over to the One who knows the big picture and has it all under control from start to eternity.  I can wallow in loss or I can rejoice in being found.  I can die of starvation or I can let God fill me with Himself and satiate all my hungers.

We’re not so different from the people in Micah’s time.  We still have the same internal struggles going on.  We still have to line up our thinking with Yours and if we don’t, well, we’re in for a rude awakening and a lot of humiliation unless we eat some humble pie.  The truth of the matter is that we have no argument that holds up against God.  Our only hope is in His provision, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the offering that was offered once, for all, and then was able to sit down on the throne because He alone satisfied God’s requirements.  So how does this help my internal battle of my mind?  When I understand how much I need Christ’s redemption and Lordship over me in my life and surrender to Him, He comes to dwell inside me through His Holy Spirit.  What does that do for me?  Well, without Him opening my eyes, I can’t know and understand the mind of God.  And if I can’t, how can I learn rightly?  But Christ in me means the mind of Christ in me too.  Now I can see things His way.  Now I can live the life You intended me to live.  Now I can humbly respond to Your love and power and holiness.  Now there is no more condemnation and humiliation.  Condemnation and humiliation only exist outside of God.  So where do I really want to be?  Because I haven’t got a case outside of You.

On Existing and Contentment

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“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  Philippians 4:11

“One often learns more from ten days of agony than from ten years of contentment.”  Now that’s a quote from someone named Harold Coffin and I have no idea who he is.  But I think that what he is saying is true although, I think the point of the agony is to teach us what it is to be truly content and how to be truly content.  Henri Frederick Amiel said, “True humility is contentment.”  If so, how do I learn true humility and what is contentment?  Well, what is contentment according to You, Lord?  What should it look like in my life?  Even Dahli Lama felt that ” When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied.  But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh, yes, I already have everything that I really need.”  Is this really what contentment is?  And how to I find contentment?

Now Paul was trying to commend the Philippians on how they had encouraged him through giving even when others had not.  But he wasn’t focussing on the part about being in need.  He was focussing on the fact of existing.  And Paul existed sometimes in great need and dire distress and agony at times and at other times he existed in situations and circumstances of abounding provision and pleasurable times.  Don’t we all?  But Paul was telling the Philippians and us that he had to learn something through it all, and that was how to be content in every situation, wherever God chose for him to exist at the moment.  So the question for me is, how do I respond to how God chooses for me to exist?

If I read the following verse I hear Paul telling me how God taught him and initiated situations in his life that abased him, or brought him to humility.  I suppose some of those situations, Paul willingly humbled himself in but I also suppose that there were many situations in his life where others abased him or humiliated him against his desire.  But Paul is telling me that both situations were given of God, our Sovereign, who loves us and who has plans to prosper us in Him, to learn contentment.  Isn’t it interesting that Paul lists firsts the abasement before listing that he learned to abound?  What if I didn’t learn contentment in suffering first?  Would I not really appreciate abundance as much?  Would I forget how to be humble?  Whereever we exist, whenever we exist, whoever we exist with, whatever situation we exist in, God is teaching how to respond to fullness with abundance and to craving desperately in need.  He is teaching us how to abound and how to suffer, because we have to learn contentment.

Well here I am back to the question, “What is contentment?”  It’s Hebrew equivalents stem out of two words, ‘avah and ya’al.  According to Skip Moen, ” both words convey the idea of choosing.  ‘avah is about being positively inclined to respond.  Ya’al is about making a decision to act.  Neither one conveys the idea of simply waiting around for something.  To be content is to choose a certain frame of mind, a certain kind of external activity, a certain way of being in the world.  That’s why contentment has to be learned.”  It’s all about choosing to exist in God and where he places us at whatever time.  It’s not about choosing to be content with someone or something or even our feelings.  It’s about being satisfied in Him.  It’s about trusting that He is at work, that He has designed this situations for my growth in Him and my growth for the good of others.  It’s a learning process that He has designed for me and my measure of contentment reflects what I think about Him and whether I am yielded to His true control of my life.  It tells whether I truly believe that He has my best interests in mind.  It’s all about whether my contentment is truly found in You, Lord, or in my own desires.

Contentment boils down to me truly learning to delight in the Lord to the extent that You, Lord, become the desire of my heart and Your pleasure in me and over me becomes what I desire more than any other situation, circumstance, or treasure in my life.  It’s about me choosing a life based on Your provisions, Your purposes, Your plans, Your care and love for me.  It’s about absolute trust which is somethingwe lost in the garden and have to be taught to regain.  So every one of these situations keeps teaching us and drawing us closer to You when we learn to respond not to the situation or trial but to You again.

And the best part of it all is that none of us have to learn alone.  I can do it, and we can do it, because You gave us Christ to strengthen us!  I can abide in Him and He abides in me.  That’s a living that is existing.  I exist in Him and He exists in me.  What if I stopped forgetting that?  What if I remembered that in every situation and took my eyes off of people and how they wrong me or disappoint me and off of situations that are so painful and kept my eyes and heart in You?  What if I just kept running to You, dwelling in You, soaking up that existing and relishing in You?  I wonder if I would learn true contentment then?

Well, Lord, I do thank You for the hard things You’ve been bringing in my life and even in my emotions.  I see how You are teaching me contentment in You.  Every day You become more precious.  It’s hard learning.  But You become so much more, as You ought through all of it.  I am so glad that You designed us to learn this way, through experiencing existing and I am so glad that You understand all that You bring me through because Christ also existed as God and man on earth.  So, Lord, as I continue to experience existing in You, use everything in my life to teach me contentment in You.  May You be Satisfaction in every circumstance.

Picture Perfect

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“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  Genesis 2:24

Lord, Your Word is so amazing.  What You have retained for us in this Book amazes me more and more every day I live, more and more over the years.  And I can’t help being drawn back to the beginning, to where the picture of what we know and experience began for us.  And I know that You are an Artist who loves to create pictures to help us, the slow of understanding, to understand.  This account in Genesis is one of those beautiful pictures.

It’s not just a picture of the relationship of man to woman and woman to man, of husband to wife and wife to husband, but of mankind to the world, and of You to mankind, and You to man, and man to You, and You to woman and woman to You, and of You to You and You to us and us to You and You to the whole of creation and the whole of creation to You.  It’s about unity and relationship and interrelationship.

One of the most misunderstood relationships I can think of is the relationship of husband to wife and wife to husband.  If it weren’t such a hard relationship to understand, we wouldn’t have so many instances of divorce outside the church and amongst believers.  And I know that people feel like they fall out of love, but in light of Genesis 2, I don’t think that can be the problem.  I’m not saying people don’t feal like that.  They do.  But the root lies deeper.  The root is a submission problem.

I wonder if a woman out there wants to stop reading at this point.  All we here is “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”  It’s in Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18.  And we ought to.  And time and time again, as a wife, I’m told to submit to my husband’s authority, and that he is over me, as Christ is the head of the church and over her.  And to tell you the truth, I feel like something’s missing.  I struggle with this.  Not with the fact that I am called to submit.  I 100% agree with that.  But the fact that submission is being missed on the part of man is where I struggle.  When did “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it…” become about hierarchy and lack of submission?  As I recall, You, yes You Jesus, “being found in fashion as a man [yes, as a MAN!], humbled [Yourself], and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8  And don’t let me fool myself on that one, because the cross wasn’t the only thing You humbled Yourself before.  You were humble before God and the Spirit, You were humble before an earthly mom and dad whom You had created, You were humble before the authorities, which didn’t always mean that You acted the way they wanted You to, but You always obeyed the Father because You were humble first before Him.  You were humble before men and before women and before children and before slaves and the outcasts like the lepers.  You sat down with them and took time with them and valued them above Your own image and welfare to the point where You were ridiculed and defamed and punished on their behalf.

Why?  Why would you humble Yourself like that before all creation?  Simply stated in the most basic of words, “For mankind’s benefit and the glory of Yourself.”  You did this for my benefit and for my husbands benefit and for my children’s’ benefit and for each of our benefit because that’s what love does.  It humbles itself and truly cares for the heart and welfare of the one it loves.

This is what Genesis 2 tells me.  It tells me that You God, created man, that You knew that man was not complete and like You in unity if he was alone.  “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”  You intended to make someone for man that was his counterpart, one who could stand face to face with him.  You didn’t create woman so that man would desire she stand with her face bowed before him or that woman would desire that man stand with his face bowed before her.  You designed them to be such a relationship that they had each others backs and saw each other face to face as one, which is much more than an equal.

Skip the part about Adam coming to the conclusion through Your prompting that he was alone because there was no one else and nothing else like him on the earth.  And skip ahead to what happened during that deep sleep You put him under.  You took one of his ribs.  You took a part of man himself, something that was him from deep inside, his bone, his flesh, and from that source, which had been derived from You as His source, from Your very breath, You created his help meet, his counterpart, the one to allow him to understand unity.  You created woman.  And Adam woke up and looked at this woman and was overjoyed and astonished!  He realized who she was.  She was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.  She was right out of man.  She was part of him.  He was part of her.  They alone were of the same person.  She was taken out of man Scripture says.  She was brought forth from his own being by God’s design.  She was drawn out of the being and essence of man, who was drawn out of the being and essence of You, Lord, by Your hands and Your very breath.

Directly after You share this, You warn us.  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  Isn’t that interesting?    Husband and wife are to be one flesh.  Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord…”  That’s that same word, echad.  And it refers to unity in oneness.  I guess it says a lot more than that, but that’s the heart of the issue.  And I know that You, Lord, totally understand that issue.  It’s us who have a problem with it.

The fact of the matter is that we both, men and women, have a problem with submitting one to another.  The fact of the matter is that men are called to submit just as much as women are called to submit.  It’s the only way we actually attain unity.  “Therefore, because she came out of you, because you are both from one source, make every goal of both of yours to regain that full unity.”  Don’t you get it?  You are one!

If I can’t get this relationship, how can I truly understand  what You did for me, Lord?  You did this for me.  You did this for my husband.  You left Your home and came to me, the one who had been created from Your being.  One who had lost unity because of sin.  You cared so much for me, that You left all, You left the comfort of “home” and clove to me, to Your called out ones, to Your bride, men and women, to make us one with You.  You set the example.  In 1 Peter 3, we’re told, “Likewise, you wives.”  But likewise isn’t just for the wives.  It’s connecting the men and their response also with the wives to the actions mentioned earlier of You, Jesus.  Likewise, men and women, husbands and wives, are to follow Your example in love.  And that exudes humility and submission for the benefit of another.

Maybe marriage isn’t about hierarchy.  Maybe the head isn’t supposed to be about being the chief considering our Chief Cornerstone humbled Himself more than anyone has ever humbled himself for our behalf, on behalf of His bride.  Maybe the greater point is that it’s all about understanding the Source and where we fit in and where we come from.  Maybe this was what Paul was thinking when he penned Ephesians 5:28-33.  “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.  He that loves his wife loves himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife, even as himself: and the wife that she reverence her husband.”  Wow!  A husband with that attitude?  A husband with the mind of Christ for me?  A husband that saw me as that integral a part of him and that desirous of unity?  You betcha I would be in awe of him!  Heck yeah!

Again, I’m brought back to that word likewise.  “Likewise, you husbands dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”  1 Peter 3:7  But it doesn’t stop there.  “Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.”  See, the point is, from Genesis unto Revelation that the God of weakness loves to use the weaker vessel.  He honours the weaker vessels with His strength and His blessings and His presence.  He hears the weaker vessels and answers their prayers.  And the weaker vessel isn’t something that needs lording over.  It needs someone to become a weaker vessel with it and be one in unity with Christ as a whole vessel, humbly submitting one to another and under You Lord.

Well, it’s up to you how you want to choose to look at our obligations to one another as man and wife.  But for me, and I pray for my house, we’ll serve and honour You, Lord, the way You intended.  This unity that You created, well, it’s the one I long for.  And I’m waiting for it, Lord, and I will do my part at humbling myself in order to allow You to bring it forth in our lives.  But I can’t do it all on my own.  Because, just like Adam, it’s not good for woman to be alone.  So, let us both, let us all, learn to humbly submit to the limits of the love of Christ for us, because those limits are boundless.  So, here I walk, in humbling expectation.  Bring us into true weakness that we might line up with the people that You use, Lord, for Your glory and Your example before the world and all of heaven and all of hell.  Maybe our marriages would be the picture of You they ought to be then.  Wouldn’t that be picture perfect?