The Forgotten God
“They have not set God before them” (Psalm 54:3).
This one sentence summarizes Judah’s and Israel’s disregard for God. “Thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back” (Ezekiel 23:35). Ezekiel 23-24 is probably the most graphic and difficult passage in the book. God tells Ezekiel his wife will be suddenly taken from him. Immediately, our sense of justice heightens. You probably think to yourself, “God can’t do that; it isn’t right.” It takes a cruel turn when God tells Ezekiel not to mourn for his wife in the cultural, traditional style of mourning. He is not to change his attire nor eat the bread of a mourner. He is to be pensive and internalize his remorse. The casual reader could be easily jaded. It seems God has gone too far this time!
However, when you read Ezekiel 23 and realize God has patiently waited for Israel and Judah for hundreds of years to repent, the illustration, though painful, makes more sense. Ezekiel’s loss parallels the people’s loss of the Temple. It’s hard for westerners to appreciate the Jewish attachment to the Temple, but it was similar to a man’s admiration for his wife. Herein lies the crucial lesson: We tend to appreciate something more when we have lost it than when we had it. How many times is a wife take for granted? How many times is she undervalued?
God had been taken for granted. The Temple was Judah’s “rabbit’s foot.” No harm could come to them because, look at the Temple. It’s beautiful and it’s God’s house. They admired the Temple, but they profaned it with their insincere worship. They proudly saw the Temple as their trinket of immortality. It was the “excellency of their strength”! They took it and God for granted. They had Him in their pocket. The original love David had for God when he set aside the treasures for the Temple no longer represented the people’s sentiment. They loved the ornaments of a godly heritage but loathed the practice of a godly life. They more resembled Solomon’s devotion. Early in his life, Solomon’s fervency for God was strong. The dedication service for the new Temple was magnificent, but when Solomon became vain and married many women who stole his heart, his devotion was extinguished.
Ezekiel was told to refrain from the cultural overtures of mourning. The outward theatrics did not mean anything. God was after the “broken and contrite heart” which he would not despise. Judah had gone through the motions of devotion all the while their paramours were waiting in secret. It was time for genuine repentance. It was time to return to their forgotten God.
Our nation is made up of individuals who say they love God. They can point to the ornaments of a godly heritage, yet the substance of sincere love is missing. Nationally, we are much like Jonah. While the storm is raging around the believers and the ship is about to break in pieces, we are asleep in the bottom of the ship. We are pursuing our own desires which are directly opposite of God’s desires. When in desperation we are shaken awake, we yawn and say, “I fear the Lord” (Jonah 1:9) oblivious to the danger. Sadly, it looks as though our nation, the “ship” will finally break apart and we will lose what we thought we could never lose. The only hope for our nation is for those who call themselves Christians to wake up spiritually, repent of their apathy, and completely pursue God. The only hope is sincerely reacquainting ourselves with the forgotten God.