Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Obvious Answer …

… is not always the correct one. We all make assumptions. With our limited grasp of the big picture, we take many things for granted.

Ezekiel did this. He saw a man — an elder, a symbol of authority in Israel — struck down before his eyes. Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died. It appears the man keeled over right when Ezekiel was in the middle of prophesying about his wickedness.

That would be an intimidating event to witness. Every believer would like to be used by God. Nobody wants to be the agency of destruction. You might feel just a little implicated. Ezekiel quite reasonably fell on his face. He was blown away by the power and urgency of God’s judgment. It made him wonder if anyone in Israel could survive the righteous retribution of an angry God.

“Ah, Lord God! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel?”
The answer is always no. The Lord has no interest in making a “full end” of anyone. He goes out of his way to preserve a remnant that he can bless, even when they really, objectively don’t deserve it. So he reminds Ezekiel of the obvious:
“ ‘Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ ”
This is something the Lord tells both Ezekiel and Jeremiah. As far as those Israelites and members of the tribe of Judah are concerned, “Please [if I may paraphrase] take your lumps. Admit your wrongdoing. Submit to your punishment. If you do, I will surely bless you later.”

There is no magical way back to God’s favor when we have sinned. There is no really cool, miraculous path by which he erases all the wicked things we ever thought and did, and makes them like they never happened. Sometimes we have to take at least a portion of the hit we deserve. But God’s desire is to bless, and not to curse. His will is our good, not our endless suffering.

What have you done? It probably can’t compete with the wickedness of the elders of Israel in the days of Ezekiel, but let’s pretend it’s equally foul.

The Lord is determined to bless. You can either submit to his discipline and find yourself the beneficiary of unexpected pronouncements like “I will give you the land of Israel”, or you can resist his correction and end up like Pelatiah the son of Benaiah.

It happens. How do we respond?

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