TODAY’S READING: Ezekiel 16–17
The Church has no beauty outside of being the covenantal, missionary people of God. The people of God are only attractive when we focus on living for the glory of Jesus among the nations. God chose Israel when she was weak, naked, and infantile, wallowing in her own blood and uncared for (Eze. 16:1–8). God ransomed an abandoned baby from Canaan’s land who had Amorite and Hittite heritage, loved her, and made her attractive so that her fame went out among the nations because of her beauty, for it was bestowed by His splendor (v. 14). God’s intention has ever been to woo the nations through example. What He does with His weak, helpless, ugly abandoned children, He wants to do to all peoples of earth.
Unfortunately, the Church often commits the same ghastly betrayal as did Israel. Ezekiel compared Israel’s treachery to the ritual temple prostitution of the day. In a twisted act of religious devotion, the nations around Israel used sexual rituals in their worship. Israel in effect does the same thing with Egyptians, Philistines, Assyrians, and Chaldeans (vv. 26–30). Israel does the doubly unthinkable: Not only did she cheat on the only One who purely loved, rescued, and married her (that person also happened to be Jehovah), she cheated on Him for the disgusting filth of demonic lovers who never loved her.
We sit in comfortable review 2,500 years after Israel’s spiritual adultery, dignified in our horror. We sagely shake our heads at the foolish fornication of a beloved people who traded the splendid love of God for the sordid lust of the nations. But are we any better? The prophetic books of the Bible are intended to both shock and convict us, to shake us into the realization that they describe our reality, not just the heinous acts of history. God has not changed, and unfortunately neither have His people. God still finds us wallowing in our blood, unloved. God rescues and nourishes us and by His splendor makes us beautiful. God does this both to love us and to love all peoples with us, to set us up as a display of His goodness, an example of what He longs to do for all the nations of the world. In our folly, because we are admired by the world, we lose our head and give our hearts to what is vile. The attention flatters and seduces us because we want more, and we cheat on God just like our fathers did. And God warns us that He will deal with us, we who despised Him by breaking the covenant, as we have dealt with Him (v. 59).
Whenever the people of God do what they do to gain attention, we take steps towards adultery. Our beauty is only real when it remains a reflection of God’s splendor, when it serves as an invitation to all peoples that the splendor of God can make them beautiful too. How amazing that our reconciliation is linked to both our older and younger siblings joining the covenant and to quiet, repentant humility (vv. 60–63). Despite our serial adultery, there is yet hope, and it combines humility and missions. If the Church of God can once again be humble and missionary, we can once again be beautiful.