TODAY’S READING: Ezekiel 5–8
Christopher Wright states that the prophets gave the people of God the explanation of exile that they least wanted to hear. “It was not that YHWH was defeated; on the contrary, he was as much in control as ever. YHWH was still in the business of dealing with His enemies. The question now was, who is YHWH’s real enemy? Or more pointed still, who was Israel’s real enemy? Israel by its persistent rebellion against their covenant Lord had turned YHWH into their own enemy.”
It is the multiplied disobedience of God’s people that makes Him furious and leads Him to a public display of being against His own people, exercising judgment in the sight of the nations (Eze. 5:7–8). It is the missionary disobedience of His own that infuriates the God of glory. The inclusion of all peoples in His kingdom is something so central to the heart of God that when His children stray from that assignment He takes drastic action. This drastic action underlines that God has no favorite children. “God’s impartiality in dealing with the nations, with its correlative truth that there was no favorite status for Israel, is upheld by those prophets closest to exile… Ezekiel set Jerusalem ‘in the midst of the nations’, but only to show not some kind of elevation beyond punishment but rather the horrific deformity of the fact they were behaving even worse than the nations that did not know YHWH.” No nation can claim a favoritism that exempts it from God’s discipline. No matter if you’re the first born, the natural child, or the grafted-in, if you stray from God’s passion for all His children through selfish, sensual, disobedient living, He will deal with you furiously.
God’s fury is connected to His pain. It is staggering to realize that our spiritual adultery can crush God’s heart (6:9). That the almighty God of glory makes Himself vulnerable to our infidelity is mind-blowing, yet even His fury is intended for us to be a means of knowing Him (vv. 12–13). To envision a God above pain and above wrath directed at His disobedient loved ones is to make an idol of Him and to miss the heinous reality of what our philandering has done. No person, mission agency, church, or nation is exempt from the wrath of God if we disobey His command for us to live holy lives that He might use us to woo all nations to Him. Our glorious God is not bound to our idolatrous theology nor to our idolatrous buildings. If we will not be God’s missionary people, He will leave us, too. We are in the season where He lifts us through the Spirit by a lock of hair, childish and petulant as we are, that we might see from where we have fallen (8:3). Let us shudder at the reality that we could now become God’s enemy. Let us remind ourselves that being missionary is how we prove we are His friends.