Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Gap

My daily Bible reading has me in Ezekiel right now.... not the most uplifting reading material. Mostly it's about how God's chosen people have turned their backs on him time and time again, and now he has sent the prophet Ezekiel to tell them that they are toast. He goes into great detail in describing all the "detestable" things Israel has done, even saying their behavior makes Sodom look righteous in comparison (wow.) I am disturbed by a few passages I've recently run across; they seem a little to "close for comfort."

Ezekiel 16:49-50 says "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen." These two verses really stood out to me. I am in the process of reading a book called Radical by David Platt which discusses the reality of America's "watered down" Christianity. It's a fascinating read; I highly recommend it. The short version is: we've become so caught up in our own creature-comforts, we've forgotten what the gospel of Jesus is really all about. I have to admit that whole days, even weeks, go by when I don't think about all of the people in the world who live in abject poverty. To them, my house is a palace and they would gladly eat the food I throw away. The money my family spends on clothes would easily support their families for a year. In that context, these two verses in Ezekiel seem like an indictment.

Ezekiel 22:28 says "Her prophets whitewash these deeds (ignoring God's laws) for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, 'this is what the sovereign Lord says' - when the Lord has not spoken." This verse reached out and grabbed me because I tend to gloss over the parts of the Bible that make me uncomfortable. Let's face it: the constructivist idea of no "absolute truth" has invaded modern Christianity - in the form of "what's right for me may not be right for you." But God's law has remained the same... Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the law but to complete it. I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but I am saying that I think we (American Christians) have become too comfortable with ignoring the parts of the Bible that don't "fit" with our modern lifestyle. And I wonder if the consequences are more dire than we realize.

But finally, I came across something in Ezekiel that comforted me. On it's surface it is perhaps the most damning indictment of them all. But it served to remind me of how grateful I am for Jesus. Ezekiel 22:30-31 says (God speaking) "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord."

Like I said, not the most uplifting reading material.

If each of us had to stand before God on our own merit, we could not hope to be righteous enough to be in his holy presence. We would deserve his "fiery anger" simply because of all the times we have ignored his laws and followed our fleshly desires. But praise God, in his mercy, he provided a way for us to be restored to relationship with him. Jesus lived a sinless life and then offered himself up as a sacrifice to cover all of our sins; past, present, and future. He stands in the gap between us and God's perfect holiness. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6). I am so grateful that a way has already been made. The least I can do is offer my life as a living sacrifice (Romans 12), wholly submitting to God's will.

Reading through my Bible in a (little more than a) year has been a tremendous blessing in my life. It has also been a challenge in that I am finding a lot I have yet to "wrestle down" in my Christian walk. But the effort is worth it... the discomfort of conviction leads to repentance and realignment. And a closer walk with the Lord is the greatest reward.

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