As you read Ezekiel 4, you are tempted to shake your head at the antics of this prophet of God. Ezekiel draws a map of Jerusalem and begins to play “army” around the city. The spectacle might have caused the people watching to say, “Grow up, Ezekiel!” The next antic was to lay on his side, one day for every year of the house of Israel and Judah’s iniquity. Laying around for over a year, can’t you hear the people saying, “Get up, Ezekiel”? The last charade in chapter four is the worst. Ezekiel makes a scant meal but cooks it over an open flame fueled by cow manure. This would be the last straw for the onlookers. I’m certain they would have thought, “Ezekiel, clean up your act!”
At that moment, I can imagine Ezekiel’s message to the people. The antics have been a picture of what God was doing in Jerusalem—the city would fall to the Babylonians—but it was also a message for the people to repent. They were the ones who needed to clean up their act. As you continue to read, you will see the people sacrifice to false gods in the Temple. This was going on even after the first attack on the city years earlier! Their sacrifices stink to God as much as Ezekiel’s meal stank to the people. They were a people who experienced redemption from slavery, yet they were willingly shackling themselves to the immoral practices of false worship. Their lust for sin left them wallowing. It was time for them to get up from their sin and follow righteousness. They were the ones playing games with God. It about time they grew up. It was time to stop their adolescent rebellion and love God.
Are you playing games with God? It may seem fun for a while to pretend to follow Christ, but the whole time you are shackled to your sin. You are the real loser in the game. All the while you serve your gods of lust and license, but try to show face in church on Sunday. You are offering up a stench to God which turns Him away from you. Ezekiel’s message applies to you and to me even today. It’s time to grow up, get up, and clean up. James 4:7-8 tells us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Ezekiel’s secret to a life of integrity is this—He was enamoured with the glory of God. Has the awe of God faded in your life? Have you forgotten the sins from which you were purged? Renew your devotion today.
“For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48:14)
I never want Facebook to show me a memory like that again. Normally, this is a special feature on Facebook. Typically the memories are cute and refreshing, but this was one I did not want to remember. However, this particular memory took me on a journey. A journey you may need to take. The destination at the end of Memory Lane is fantastic, but sometimes the path is difficult. If Jeremiah had Facebook, his “on this day” reminder would have brought him to tears! However, it did not leave him there. We need to experience the same metamorphosis of memory that Jeremiah experienced.
The first leg of the journey down Memory Lane for Jeremiah and for us leads us to pain. He said, “Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall” (Lamentations 3:19). It would have been painful to revisit the moments during the Babylonian siege. In the next poem, Jeremiah remembers mothers preparing their children as the entree when he said, “The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: They were their meat…” (Lamentations 4:10). The pain would be like visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. or walking through Auschwitz. Our minds are programmed to avoid pain. At this point, your mind tells you to turn back, but there is always pain in change. In order for the transformation to take place in your life, you must understand the pain is only a small part of the journey.
The second leg of the journey down Memory Lane for Jeremiah took him to his knees—prayer. “My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me” (Lamentations 3:20). Later in the poem, Jeremiah said, “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens” (Lamentations 3:40-41). Once we have been afflicted by the pain of the memory and have revisited the low point in our life, we have only one rational response. In our humility, God is ever near. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10). Prayer is the sound of a humble heart. Ponder the following explanation of prayer:
The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness…a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty…it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies…[prayer] while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust. — Charles Spurgeon
The final leg of the journey down Memory Lane which is the most refreshing is praise. The pain drives us to prayer which makes us aware of God’s faithfulness. Jeremiah was now emotionally positioned to have a personal worship service in his heart:
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
Our pain erases our pride. Our prayer emphasizes His provision. Our praise exalts His preeminence. “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 89:1). Never erase your memories regardless of how painful they may be. The metamorphosis of your memories can transform you from pain to praise. It will enrich your awareness of God’s mercies and faithfulness. You will never indulge in God’s faithfulness unless you have a healthy memory.
Lamentations is a heartbreaking collection of poems. The people mourn their devastating circumstances. Their allies, or lovers, are unfaithful and do not rush to their aid. They are destitute. Others only look on in horror at how badly the city had been ransacked. Lamentations are the desperate cry of human hearts that realize they need the Lord.
There are many who have only a superficial need of GOd. They want the religious good-boy or good girl stamp upon their lives. They have everything they want. They do anything they want. God is only a matter of convenience in their lives, but when the pleasantries of life conflict with the convenience of God, He loses. This trend continues until the wrath of God (as Jeremiah calls it) or the chastening of the Lord (as Solomon calls it in Proverbs 3:11-12) falls upon their lives. Their security crumbles. All their pleasantries poof into smoke. All of a sudden, they realize how desperately they need the Lord.
The people of Judah came to this realization, but only after they experienced much sorrow, loss, and pain. The only way you can change your experience is to cling to the Lord and rehearse in your heart, “Lord, I need you.”
Ron Hamilton was twenty-seven years old when he went for a routine eye exam. The doctor, concerned about his left eye, sent for more tests to be done. In a few weeks, Ron was rolled into the operating room with little idea of what would happen. After the surgery, his wife greeted him with the news, “The doctor found cancer. Your left eye is gone.” From that moment, Ron Hamilton has used this tragic moment in his life as a platform to minister in the lives of thousands of children around the world. As a real-life “pirate,” he has embodied the character Patch the Pirate and taught children the truths of Scripture through his adventures. One of the songs Ron Hamilton has written is a powerful reminder for you. Read through the words and see if it isn’t a healthy reminder, “Lord, I Need You.”
Sometimes when life seems gentle and blessings flood my way,
I turn my gaze away from You and soon forget to pray.
But when the sky grows darker and courage turns to fear,
My anxious voice cries upward with words You long to hear.Lord help me to remember I’m weak but You are strong.
I cannot sing apart from You, for Lord, You are my song.
Though I’m prone to wander and boast in all I do.
Lord, keep my eyes turned upward so I depend on You.Lord, I need You when the sea of life is calm.
O Lord, I need You when the wind is blowing strong.
Whether trials come or cease, keep me always on my knees.
Lord, I need You. Lord, need You.
She was braver than I. Even though I was three years older, she enjoyed the ride while I sniffled as a spectator. I still remember the ride and the emotional turmoil. My parents reassured me there was nothing to fear. They spoke logically, “If your sister can ride this, then you have to know it is a very calm ride.” The wisdom of Solomon and the persuasion of Hushai could not convince me to get on the ride. I knew best. Fear was my teacher. My fear restrained me from that amusement until I was in high school.
Humanly speaking, fear will either motivate you or paralyze you. When your fear is properly placed it is a motivator. Fear can motivate you to rescue your child, fight for your life, or run to safety. When fear is misdirected it paralyzes you. It is dangerous. This type of fear is bondage (Hebrews 2:15; Romans 8:15). It paralyzes you from accessing complete peace and joy in your life.
Jeremiah 40-43 provides the details of a fearful group of people. Babylon had crushed Judah and set Gedaliah as the governor. Ishmael assassinated Gedaliah, so naturally, there is fear Babylon would return and eliminate everyone without any investigation. The people are trying to decide whether to stay in Judah or flee to Egypt. They ask Jeremiah for God’s instruction. “Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 42:5-6). For a moment, you are hopeful. Maybe God finally broke through their rebellious hearts! Then you see their response after Jeremiah urges them to stay and trust God. “Thou speakest falsely…So all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah” (Jeremiah 43:2-4). Just like I knew better as an elementary kid, we often “know better” than God. There was not a convincing argument in the world that would alter their heart. Fear was their teacher.
Whether it is the fear of Israel had before Goliath or the fear of the people in Jeremiah’s account, when we mislabel our cause for fear, we are in bondage. The people in Jeremiah would lose their national inheritance, the blessings of God, besides peace of being in the center of God’s will. Psalm 23:4 speaks of the terrifying valley of the shadow of death. It is interesting he only mentions the shadows. Satan, with his smoke and mirrors shows, seeks to paralyze you in fear. They are only shadows and all you need to conquer shadows is the Light, the Son of God.
Is God challenging you right now? Are you at a crossroads in your life? Don’t let the shadows paralyze you. Listen to the wisdom of God. Your hero, Jesus Christ, has already destroyed death and “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). You are more than a conqueror through Him (Romans 8:37). He has destroyed the Goliath of fear so you can follow Him completely, free from any fear.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Things are changing more quickly every day. Technology is advancing, devices are getting more powerful and more contained. However, technology without the parameters of morality is dangerous. Just recently, scientists experimented by editing the genetic code of human embryos using the CRISPR technology. It has been lauded as the way to help genetic disease. The moral bankruptcy of our culture, though, will degenerate into designer babies. It will be the epic quest for the perfect human as man toys with things they can’t possibly handle because they don’t respect it.
Technology is wonderful, but it also has a way of turning man’s hearts inward. We tend to deify ourselves. We make decisions like we were God. You will find this tendency all the way back in Genesis 11. The technology was brick-making. The deification of man was to build a tower which would exalt man like the gods. The city was Babel. The saga of Babel has been repeated over and over throughout human history and the mascot of this depravity is Babylon.
Habakkuk is looking at the nation of Babylon in his day and they were wicked people. They were still worshiping their advancements. He describes their barbaric treatment of human beings. They treated “men as the fishes of the sea” (Habakkuk 1:14). Their disregard for the sanctity of human life was legendary and rivals our own disregard today. Amazed with themselves, they worshiped their military advancements. “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag” (Habakkuk 1:16).
From Genesis to Revelation and distinctly in Habakkuk today, it is clear, every nation has the “genetic” malfunction known as SIN the symptoms of which are pride diagnosed as self-worship. Our nation does not need genetic editing physically. It needs “genetic editing” spiritually. They need the precision of God’s grace to rescue them from their own depravity. They need to be reborn by humbly acknowledging their sinful rebellion against God and repenting of their way. They need to ask Christ to save them from their sin.
In the meantime, Christian, influence the culture. Do not let Babylon influence you. Remember, “the Lord is in his holy temple” (Habakkuk 2:20). Nothing man can do will ever strip God of his infinite power. In the midst of uncertain times, find your stability in God.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, And he will make me to walk upon mine high places. (Habakkuk 3:18-19)