Daily Reflections September 13, 2017
In the entirety of Scripture, it is hard to find an image that is more beautiful or more tragic than that in Ezekiel 16. God speaks to us in ways that we can understand. He provides pictures and illustrations to help us wrap our small, human minds around his enormous, holy love.
Consider the image that Ezekiel is given in this prophecy: a child is discarded into the street. Still soaked in blood and afterbirth, this unwanted girl is picked up by a stranger. He washes the filth off her body. He feeds her and shelters her and she grows into a beautiful young woman. He clothes her with the finest linen and he provides her with extravagant jewelry to adorn her beauty. The whole scene conveys delight. He adores her. We see this imagery in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians where he describes the church as the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). God loves His people, and He has extended a scandalous grace to them from the very beginning.
Thus, it is a startling and tragic turn of events when this woman begins to prostitute herself to other men. She creates idols and defiles herself with them. She even goes beyond the prostitutes; they receive a fee for their companionship but she herself pays to be with foreign men. Perhaps you have been betrayed by your spouse, or you have seen firsthand the relational devastation that is caused by an affair. You are unfortunately equipped to understand this illustration. There is no person in the world who can wound you as deeply as your spouse.
The ensuing judgements shift in and out of the original imagery of marriage and the historical reality of Israel. The unfaithful wife is abused by the men that she had foolishly pursued. They rob her of her garments and jewelry – the gifts that her true husband had lavished on her – and they leave her naked and exposed. They stone her and leave her for dead. Shifting to the imagery of Israel, God foretells that the foreign nations that Israel had foolishly placed their trust in will come back to destroy. They will thrust the people of Israel through with swords and they will burn down their houses. Perhaps the most tragic image of all is the picture of God watching silently. The bride whom He loved has chosen to go down a terrible path and she has suffered horrible consequences.
It needs to be said here that every consequence Israel experienced was justified. As God stood back and watched in silence he was entirely in the right. Having been scorned countless times, He could have left Israel for good. In fact, most counsellors today would advise Him to do so – to finally break loose from an abusive and unloving relationship.
But God’s grace stands in a class of its own. Looking down at an adulteress, rebellious, unloving people, God says these amazing words:
“Yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.” (Ezekiel 16:6 ESV)
Store this verse in your heart and call it to mind every time you’re tempted to hide from God in your shame. Of course, it would be best if you lived in complete faithfulness with your God. Ideally, you will never stray from His commandments. But, if you do, and if you find yourself feeling naked, exposed and ashamed before Him, remember that His grace extends to you even in that moment. If you are in Christ – if you have turned from your sin and placed your trust in His life, death and resurrection – then you can be sure that God’s covenant love is yours to treasure. You can sing with confidence and joy, “Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me!”
Pastor Levi denBok
Psalm 58 & 59
Should believers pray the imprecatory Psalms? What is an imprecatory Psalm? These invoke judgment, calamity, or curses upon one's enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. David wrote a number of these (e.g. Psalms 7, 35, 55, 69).
O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! (Psalm 58:6 ESV)
You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. (Psalm 59:5 ESV)
Again we sense David’s palpable quest for retribution,
The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. (Psalm 58:10 ESV)
Should we be calling down fire on the bad guys? Didn’t Jesus tell us to love our enemies, do good to them and pray for those who curse us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27)? How do we reconcile Psalm 58 & 59 and the Sermon on the Mount? This is a complex question.
First, imprecation recognizes it is God who is the sole source of deliverance and righteous judgment. While Paul in Romans 12:14 instructs us not to curse others, he does not prohibit asking God to pour out his justice. Imprecation says, “God, act. Act now! Stop evildoers who destroy life. Stop the wicked who kill believers because they name the name of Jesus.”
Imprecation flows out of a heart that longs to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done. This is why we earnestly pray, “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 16:22, Revelation 22:20)! How did the early church respond when they were persecuted? They didn’t denounce the government or plot to overthrow the wicked emperor. They prayed earnestly and they preached boldly.
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness…(Acts 4:29 ESV)
Why, in obedience to Jesus, should we lovingly pray for our enemies?
1. It guards our hearts against bitterness (Ephesians 4:31).
2. It causes us to have a heart of compassion for the eternal destiny of even the most despicable. Our primary mission is to make disciples of all nations, not destroy all who are not God’s sheep! Did not Jesus from the cross even say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)?
3. By praying for our enemies we surrender the situation to God’s divine sovereignty and justice (Romans 8:28).
4. When we pray for our enemies we show we are trusting in God to work His will and judgment (Romans 12:17-21).
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 ESV)
God is the sovereign King of heaven and earth and He alone WILL ultimately judge the wicked for the evil they do. We can leave vengeance in his hands. We have read the end of the victory story. We know the righteous in Christ WILL receive the reward of glory. The unrighteous WILL drink the full cup of the wrath of God.
Therefore, believer in Jesus, hate evil in all its forms. Pray for God to stop it and all those who perpetuate it. Pray for their salvation. Pray for grace and strength to stay the course when winds of opposition grow. Pray for the persecuted church. In the presence of all forms of evil draw near to God. He is your strength, refuge and fortress.
Associate Pastor Jody Cross