Scripture: Ezekiel 6:8-10 (NRSV) – But I will spare some. Some of you shall escape the sword among the nations and be scattered through the countries. Those of you who escape shall remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I was crushed by their wanton heart that turned away from me, and their wanton eyes that turned after their idols. Then they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this disaster upon them.
Observations:The thing that struck me most of all as I read this passage was the pain in God’s heart at the rejection of the people whom he loved: how I was crushed by their wanton heart that turned away from me. I think people often fail to realize how much God loves us. And when I say “us,” I mean people in general, not just some “chosen group.” Obviously, God chose the Jewish people to be in covenant with him – but not to favor them above everyone else; he chose them to represent him to the rest of the world, to bear witness to God’s goodness and faithfulness. When they rejected him by turning away to idols, it wasn’t just the breach in their relationship with God; it was the fact that they were not accurately portraying God’s love and faithfulness.
Now, some people may feel that if God “really” loved the Jewish people, he would not have allowed them to be conquered and sent into exile. I’m sure there were people among them who believed that. But God does not force us to love him, and that means that there are consequences to disobedience and rebellion. God’s heart was crushed by their rejection and disobedience, but ignoring it would not be the best result – not for them, nor for anyone else. How would it help us to know that there were no consequences for disobeying God? All that would do is embolden disobedience – which would rob us of the ultimate value of a right relationship with God.
I believe that God has the same feelings about the Church today. When segments of the church display a wanton heart that turns away from God, God is crushed: not only at the rejection, but at the Church’s failure to accurately bear witness to God’s love and faithfulness. We see the same desire for reconciliation and healing in the letter to the church at Laodicea, in today’s reading from Revelation 3: “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:17b-20)
That is a call to the Church. When we revel in power or wealth or prestige, we are just as “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” as was the church in Laodicea. When we allow our hearts to turn away from God, and turn after idols – the idols of wealth, political power, fame, or any other such thing – we crush God’s heart just as much as the people of Israel and Judah did. God is calling his people to turn wholeheartedly toward him – to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and to trust him with everything else. Jesus is knocking at our door – the door of the Church – waiting for us to invite him in. Is he welcome? Or do we welcome a watered-down image of Jesus that doesn’t demand anything of us, doesn’t call us to radical transformation and obedience?
Applications: In a world where the “big C” Church – the Church universal – is fragmented, running in every direction, God is calling his people to return to him. God is reminding me of the importance of keeping my focus on him, daily seeking and doing his will. He is reminding me of the danger of making my plans rather than seeking his plan, and of evaluating my relationship with him on any basis other than obedience. The world clamors for “success,” but God’s heart is moved by our faithfulness to him. If his heart is crushed when we turn away from him, it rejoices when we cling to him!
Prayer: Father, thank you today for reminding me how much you love me. Thank you, too, for reminding me that you love everyone that much – and for reminding me that you’ve called me to show that love to others, so they may come to know you. Lead me today in your path for me, that I may glorify you. Help me to do your will today, on earth as in heaven, so that your Kingdom may come in greater measure. Amen.