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Ezekiel 20:1-22:16

08.21.2010

While the reading for today was longer, the post will focus only on chapter 20.  The oracle from God comes to Zeke about a year after the scary temple vision from chapters 8-10.  That actually raises an interesting question for me:  what does Zeke do in between visions and prophecies?  Does he have a circle of friends that understand that every so often he gets a glazed look in his eye, followed by the need to go around preaching?  Does Zeke have hobbies (besides canal fishing, of course) that don’t involve lying on his side, playing army men with little brick towns, or messing around with swords (see chapter 21)?  I think Zeke needs a reality show.

20:9 | As God recounts the times throughout Israel’s history that He wanted to destroy them but didn’t, he repeats the claim that he acted to save them ‘for the sake of [His] name.’  It’s first made in v. 9, then again in vv. 14 and 22.

That phrase reminds me of the time in college I went to hear John Piper speak.  In one of the most influential sermons of my faith journey, Piper hammered home the point that God is not all about us.  We are not the center of the greatest story ever told.  We are not the protagonists.  The primary motivation behind the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection is not my fate but God’s glory.  Piper’s ministry is centered around the profound idea that when we pursue God only as a means to a better life for us, we are missing the picture and are bound to be disappointed.  It’s only when we pursue God for His greatness and His glory that we really achieve true happiness.  We were created to worship God.  If He is the center of our existence, and not ourselves, then we are aligned with our purpose and can be the most happy.  When we put ourselves at the center of our lives, even if we pursue God, our priorities are out of whack, and we cut ourselves off from the fullness of God’s blessing.

I have since realized that this God-centered worldview can be dangerous if not paired with an appreciation for God’s love.  I am not the center, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t love me, want the best for me, and care deeply about me.  It’s about God’s glory, yes, and the fullest purpose of our existence is to be a part of a creation that worships and glorifies God.  However, that does not mean we are mere cogs in His cosmic machine.  He loves us, and it is impossible to separate that love from His glory.

In these verses, God uses the phrase to put the people in their place.  He is addressing an assumption that presumably arose that God saved them because of their merit.  God is emphasizing that they are not more valuable than any other people.  I almost hear an exasperated parent in His tone here, saying, “I bail you out not because you don’t deserve the punishment you get in but because it reflects poorly on me when you go through this stuff.”

20:44 | God employs the phrase a fourth time here, but He adds an element that changes the underlying tone to me:

And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.

The content is still the same here.  Their deeds are corrupt and their ways are evil; so God has to save them again.  But here I see that God is saying that He will not look on their deeds and ways but on His righteousness.  I see this as a reference to Christ’s righteousness blotting out the sins of Israel.  God will deal with them as represented by Christ, not according to their wicked ways.  His forgiveness and grace is present even in His frustration.

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