Monday, November 19, 2018

Anonymous Asks (14)

“How do you stay on a spiritual high?”

Hmm. I think we might be asking the wrong question here.

Ezekiel was probably never closer to God than the day his wife died, but I suspect that day was in many ways the lowest point of his life. A “spiritual high” it was not.

God chose the loss of his prophet’s favorite person, the “delight of his eyes”, to symbolize a wicked people’s loss of all the things in which it took pride: the benefits of their association with God, the splendor of Solomon’s temple, and their own children still living in Jerusalem. The temple would be completely razed, the swords of Chaldean soldiers would take the lives of sons and daughters, and those that survived would be exiled from their home.

The people of Judah were about to lose everything.

The Biggest Loser

But they were far from the only ones losing. God, who had associated his reputation in this world with Israel and had invested himself in building that nation up to prominence and political greatness, was compelled by their rebellion, idolatry, injustice and social evil to tear down 1,500 years worth of his own handiwork and essentially start from scratch.

There was no other choice. The people of Judah had become so morally degraded that they burned their own children as sacrifices to false, pagan gods. As he said to another prophet around the same time:
“Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up — that is, the whole land.”
So Ezekiel lost his wife, and Israel lost their national status, their temple and their children. But God lost more than anyone.

We should not forget that.

In Tune with the Heart of God

Thus, in the moment Ezekiel’s partner was taken from him, the emotions he experienced were in all likelihood more completely in tune with the heart of God than at any other point in his life. Spiritually, he was in exactly the right place.

And I’m pretty sure he was utterly miserable.

This is not an uncommon thing in the Bible. Job was more useful to God in suffering than in riches. That’s how we know about him in the first place. Abraham was never in a better spiritual place than when he told Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb”, and took out his knife to offer his own beloved son in obedience to his God. The Lord Jesus was surely at his most dependent in the Garden of Gethsemane, all his desires fully in harmony with Heaven, when he said, “Not my will but yours be done.”

From a human perspective, they were all in terrible places doing things we would never, ever choose for ourselves.

Mountains and Valleys

We tend to mark our spiritual progress by the moments in which we experience the greatest joy, peace and apprehension of beauty; when we think we can “feel” the presence of God with us. Few of us associate the moments in which our hearts are torn in two with being truly close to God. I suspect we have things precisely backwards.

Feelings are ephemeral. They come and go as they please. Good feelings about ourselves and our relationship to Heaven are more a product of our circumstances, our health or our digestion than they are an indicator of spirituality or genuine proximity to God. In a fallen world, drawing near to God is a matter of obedience, purity, prayer and attention to his word, not a matter of attaining a pleasing emotional state. Sometimes it requires tears.

Life with God is not a series of mountaintop experiences, as wonderful as that would be. The psalmist speaks of green pastures and still waters, but he also speaks of walking with God through the valley of the shadow of death. The key to being near to God is to recognize his presence with us in all life’s experiences, both good and bad, not just in the enjoyable ones.

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