Sunday, October 5, 2008

More Reflections on Ezekiel

Reading Ezekiel today, I was taken aback by the ferocity of God's wrath directed against Israel. These are the people he chose out of all the nations to be in a special relationship with him; a family relationship called a "covenant". When they were enslaved in Egypt he came to them and led them out. God led them through the desert for forty years then settled them in the "Promised Land". He put a protective hedge around them and prospered them.

Though he was God to them they rebuffed him and fled to other gods. They thumbed their nose at him. As a parent I know something of this when your child ignores the sacrifices you make. They may, at times, take you for granted. In Israel's case, an entire nation has turned away from the only God who has targeted them with his incredible love.

What would I do if I were God? What would I do if this ant-like nation collectively gave me the finger after I have been a father to them? My inclination would be to bulldoze the whole project and start over! I would proclaim, "After all, I am God, I can do anything. This project did not work out so let's try again." The problem with this is it admits imperfection. It admits that the experiment failed. I had the wrong ingredients at the get go. It admits I had limited understanding and knowledge. God will not do this because, after all, he is God. He simply doesn't make mistakes because he has perfect knowledge and understanding. Bulldozing isn't an option for him.

God doesn't love like I do and this is something I wrestle with. I had an encounter with someone yesterday that wasn't pretty. It was an in-law who made some very callous remarks about the tenuousness of my job. I confess a flash of anger and resentment momentarily overwhelmed me. After venting Jean counseled me that this is where real faith must live. If I fail to forgive him, God will not forgive me and in this I actually carry his sin with him. His sin has the potential of destroying us both. I digress. My point is this; my initial thought at such times is to write someone off and vow never to have interactions with them again. One so unpleasant and callous is better left to their own devices. One should choose wisely who one spends precious time with. God is not like this. His love functions on an entirely different plane. Instead, God girds himself up and embarks upon a very labor intensive project of redemption. First he sends prophets to warn of doom. He doesn't bulldoze the whole project, instead, he redeems it. He fixes it. After warning of disaster and punishment, he will foretell of a future healing and restoration of his people. He declares that "I myself will shepherd my people." He declares that there will be a "New heavens and earth" in which his once rebellious now redeemed people will live. He declares that it will be through his "suffering servant" that the nations will be healed. He promises that even death will be overturned, (see Isaiah 25-26 and Ezekiel 37).

This launches me into a challenging thought process. My attitude towards my callous relative is wholly at odds with God's. God looks at his creation redemptively. What he has made is good. He didn't make any mistakes. My relative was meant for goodness. He was created for God and to bear his image. In him is more of a shout of the existence of God than the highest mountain. What does it mean then from me to look at others in a similar fashion? How would that change relationships? What impact would that have upon my own satisfaction and joy?

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