You get as comfortable as you can in the fake leather recliner. The hygienist taps the lever beneath the chair with her toe and you feel like you’re stretching out on the medieval rack. The bright light swivels directly above your face and she leans in from above, mask, goggles, pokes, prods, and mirrors ready to make you a human pin cushion. You wonder how she does not drop something down your throat! She begins her investigation, all the while asking you questions about your work and family with her fingers and instruments in your mouth. You rinse and spit. She steps back, snaps the latex gloves off, and announces you have some rotten teeth. The interrogation begins regarding your hygienic practices and the importance of flossing every day, but you hold up your hand to stop her. You tell her, “I know I have rotten teeth, but it’s not my fault. My parents had an addiction to Oreo cookies when I was young. It’s not my fault, so I’m not changing anything.”
What an absurd excuse? This is similar to the excuse the Israelites made during the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezekiel 18:2)? God tells them through his messengers, “Ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb” (Ezekiel 18:3). What God taught them was a little more serious than flossing every day. He said, “Behold, all souls are mine…the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Throughout the next few chapters, God discusses with Ezekiel how his justice system works. If one person does right, then he will not experience God’s wrath; he will live. If another person does wrong, then he will experience God’s wrath. The soul that sinneth, it shall die!
It is true we are all born with a sin nature. The sin nature is passed from Adam down through the generations of people who have lived on God’s green earth. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). However, we are culpable because of our own behavior. We sin because we are sinners and we are doomed to face the wrath of God because of our sinfulness. The stakes are high. He that “hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:9). God’s justice is severe. Paul said, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). If you divert from God’s prescribed righteousness, then you are guilty!
I am thankful, there was One who lived upon this earth and changed everything. He did not follow the pattern of Adam and his children. He lived purely. He fulfilled the Law completely.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:6-9)
Those who ask Christ to save them from their sins have a new Father. They are given the Holy Spirit who is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. We will know the rich blessings of God, only because of the grace He has extended to us through Jesus Christ.
Jesus made the way. He is the only way.
Do you remember when rewind actually meant re-winding something? In the days of streaming and laser-etched discs, the word rewind is a convenience to replay a favorite scene, but it does not mean the same today as it did for the reel-to-reel or even the VHS generation. Some of the old, cheesy films like the Little Rascals would use rewound footage for some of their action scenes. You would watch Chubby jump in the mud puddle and by rewinding the tape he jumps out of the puddle in reverse.
Ezekiel 11 is a rewind scene. What went in is now on its way out, and the tragedy of this rewind scene is the subject—the glory of the Lord. The “celestial coach” with the cherubim and wheels appears again in Ezekiel’s vision. He sees the glory of the Lord hovering over the Temple.
Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory. (Ezekiel 10:4)
As he relays these details, the Israelites would have remembered the account from the Temple dedication service during Solomon’s reign. “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10). However, this will not be a grand and glorious entrance. In Ezekiel’s vision, God’s presence vacates the Temple. “And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city” (Ezekiel 11:23). How devastating? I can hear the words of Moses from long ago, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 33:15).
I am afraid the churches of America and the members of those churches must take heed. We must covet the glory of the Lord to abide within our ministries. The church’s version of this Old Testament scene comes from John’s pen when he wrote, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5). If God is truly working through the church in America, then the Spirit, God’s gift to believers, would “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). However, the world continues to sink deeper into the mire of sin and apathy. If the church is supposed to restrain the works of darkness because of the Spirit’s work, then why has it been getting worse, faster? If all the mega churches and contemporary service churches and the gay affirming churches and the humanitarian churches, if all of these churches were sanctioned by God and empowered by His Spirit, then corruption would only trickle in our present age. Yet, evil is at high tide. The church of America has failed to notice the glory of the Lord departing.
Where are the glory-focused, godly-craving, gospel-preaching churches? Where are the churches which say, “We are no longer of the world”? Where are the churches which exist “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”? Where are the churches who live redeemed “from all iniquity” and “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13-14)?
May we not mournfully declare, “Ichabod, the glory of the Lord has departed!” Lift up your eyes, Church, for your redemption draws nigh. We must be ever aware of God’s glory. We must crave His presence. Consecration, not compromise, earns the privilege of His glorious presence.
You can see the lump covered up by the bedsheets. The kids said they cleaned their room, but there is a pile of clothes wadded up under the made bed. You wonder to yourself, “How dumb do they think I am!”
In Ezekiel 8, God takes Ezekiel by a vision to the Temple in Jerusalem. By way of a divinely-led tour, Ezekiel witnessed the wickedness of the people. Throughout the Temple there are idols. The women are crying after Tammuz, the men are worshiping the sun, and there are other assorted idols for anyone and everyone’s pleasure. They do not try to hide it. Brazenly, they worship the gods that make them happiest and fulfill them most.
The tour takes a spooky turn when Ezekiel sees a hole in the wall. God tells him to dig into the wall, and Ezekiel finds a secret door beneath the plaster. When he enters the secret places of the Temple court he is horrified. The room is full of every kind of idol and the leaders of Israel are worshiping them devotedly and whispering to one another, “The Lord seeth us not” (Ezekiel 8:12).
Let’s take a tour of another temple—your life. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Sometimes we brazenly place our idols on display. We tell ourselves, “God wants me to be happy, right?” So we taunt God’s jealousy by celebrating an individual, indulging in ungodly entertainment, or toying with addictions. Other times, we have secret doors into the unseen corners of our hearts. We think no one else knows. Shh, “the Lord seeth us not.”
Who are we kidding?
O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, And art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, But, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. (Psalm 139:1-4)
It’s offensive to God, but it begs the same question: How dumb do we think He is? Every time I sin, it is because I believe God doesn’t see. Every time I do things my way, I believe God won’t notice, yet it’s as obvious as the pile of clothes wadded up under the nicely made bed. Did you indulge secretly in sin recently, thinking no one knows? “I the Lord search the heart…to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). God will reveal all the hidden things. “The Lord…will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Did you sacrifice church for your family? You honored your family more than God. It’s an idol.
Are you more willing to give your resources of your time, talent, and treasure to something that makes you happy or more fulfilled? You’ve honored something more than God. It’s an idol.
Every one of us needs to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Remember, God sees.
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.