Wednesday, 29 March 2017

He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. – Ezekiel 8:3

Today’s Scripture Reading (March 29, 2017) Ezekiel 8

As a culture, we have a negative reaction to the concept of jealousy. B. C. Forbes. The Scottish financial writer and the founder of Forbes magazine even called jealousy a “mental cancer.” Saint Augustine argued that anyone who was jealous was also “incapable of love.” So it is a little surprising to have the word applied to God. However, jealousy is applied to God in several places, including in this passage. So the only question that we can ask is this – when we speak of jealousy as a characteristic, is the jealousy of God the same as the jealousy that we experience as part of the human race? And the answer to the question is a qualified no.
The jealousy that we have an adverse reaction to is the illogical emotion that causes so much damage in our lives. This jealousy is closely related to lack of trust. And Forbes and Augustine are both right, this kind of jealousy is a cancer and it prohibits the experience of love. This green-eyed monster reacts with too little evidence and causes damage to relationships that could be healthy if it were not for the jealousy. This kind of jealousy is always self-directed and selfish in nature.
God’s jealousy is different. For starters, it is never based on a lack of trust, nor is it selfish in nature. God’s jealousy is always in defense of his creation, and it builds on a covenant that he has made with his people. Because of this covenant, God and his message are to be carried to the world. God’s words to Abraham at the beginning of the story were that all of the earth would be blessed through God’s blessing of Abraham. God loves the world that he has created, and desired to be a blessing, but the path of this blessing was always supposed to be through a group of people.
But the people rejected God, and therefore the blessing that was meant for the world was never given. And this is what aroused God’s jealousy. The people of Israel and the world that he loved were suffering and, for God, there was no other possible response. It was not a selfish jealousy, but rather one borne out of love for his creation.
So God gives Ezekiel a vision. He takes him to the temple gate and shows him the image in the temple that had caused God to be jealous – and Israel to lose the power that should have been theirs. We don’t know what the idol was that provoked this reaction from God, most experts believe that it was an image of Baal, but it doesn’t really matter. Any image would cause God to be jealous and for his blessing to cease to flow to his creation.
There is still a people that God wants to use to bless the world. I believe that this people is still Israel, but that the Christian church, the adopted children of Abraham, have been added to the fight. But that can only happen if we put our idols away and allow God to bless us. Any other response will do nothing but arouse the jealousy of God one more time.
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 9

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. ‘Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ – Ezekiel 7:27

Today’s Scripture Reading (March 28, 2017) Ezekiel 8

There is a “WKRP in Cincinnati” episode where Cincinnati is about to be hit by a tornado. The radio stations, including WKRP, are asked to get the word out about the coming storm and what to do in case a tornado strikes in your area, but Les Nessman, WKRP’s news anchor, does not have a script to follow concerning tornado’s. But the boss remembers that Les did pen a script about the attack of the communists on the city of Cincinnati (I mean, in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is the more obvious danger – and attack by communists or the possibility of a tornado.) So on the bosses instructions, Les reads his warning bulletin on the assault of the communists and substitutes the word tornado every time he sees the word communist. Although the subject matter of the episode is deadly serious, the resulting news release is amusing – and at least once Les gets to say the phrase “godless red tornados.”
It is the beginning of storm season. I am hearing warnings of tornado clusters (and I am not sure that I have ever heard it phrased quite that way before. Maybe if Les were running the news release maybe we would get to hear the phrase “godless red tornado clusters.”) And there have already been damages and death caused by the early tornados of the season. Hurricanes are also beginning to brew over the warm waters of the world’s oceans. All of this is to be expected. But in recent years it seems that the storms have gotten worse.
One writer recently commented that we need to begin to think about removing the phrase “Act of God” to describe these storms. It might be that Les Nessman is actually right. The storms that are attacking are godless. While this planet has always suffered from severe storms, the magnitude of the storms we are facing today might have less to do with an unpredictable “Act of God” than it has to do with being the very predictable result of the things that we have done to our planet. We are the ones who have decimated the earth’s ability to handle the various storms of the earth, and the result has been that the storms have become more threatening, more dangerous, and have involved much greater loss of property and life than ever before. And the only ones that we have to blame are ourselves.
Ezekiel writes one of the scariest lines of the Bible in this passage. Writing about the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah, Ezekiel says that God will “deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards [he] will judge them.” Basically, God has decided to leave them to their own devices. The same comment might be applied to us. In the same way that God allowed the rulers of Judah to destroy their nation so that they would finally recognize that God is God over all, he maybe has allowed us to destroy the entire planet so that we will realize the same thing. And there is a bit of a strange epitaph that could be added here. It is not in the beauty that we understand God (a sunrise is never called an “Act of God,” although I believe that it is.) It is in the storms that we see God. And I think that is sad, but deep down I also know that it is also our choice.
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 9