Thursday, August 18, 2005

For God's sake

There is a danger in reading too much into providential situations. The sky clears overhead in time for your parade, and you (properly) bless God, but don't recognize you may be participating in someone else's direct intervention. The blue sky was not about you at all, though you're welcome to enjoy it when it comes.

I was reading in Ezekiel recently and noticed, again, how directly he speaks to our generation. In chapter 20, the elders of Israel came to the prophet seeking a word from the Lord; His word, it seems, was "Go away".

"Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, '"Have you come to ask of Me? As I live," says the Lord Jehovah, "I will not be inquired of by you."'" (20:3)

He then lays out the pattern of Israel's history -- God reveals Himself to Israel, who then ignores or repudiates His commandments, leading God to purpose judgment against them ... but repeatedly, to relent. Why?

"But I worked for My name's sake, that it should not be profaned before the nations among whom they were" (20:9, cf 20:14, 22)

This went on from 1447 B.C. to the 590's, when Ezekiel began his ministry.

The blow falls in verse 39 -- "'And you, O house of Israel,' so says the Lord Jehovah: 'Every man go and serve his idols, and do so from now on if you will not listen to Me. But never again defile My holy name with your gifts and your idols.'"

To be written off by the only Hope is a fearful thing.

We are fools to think that God's apparent mercy toward us in our rebellion is solely for our good. Here is God's own chosen nation, placing itself in opposition to Him time and again, and spared -- not because they are worth it, but because it would dishonor God's name in the sight of the world to do otherwise. Israel was not chosen because they were special, but the other way around. And their time eventually ran out.

We need to pay attention here, individually, corporately, nationally. Even in repentence, He reminds us of the same overriding fact:

"'And you shall know that I am the LORD when I have worked with you for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel,' says the Lord Jehovah." (20:44)

It is a hallmark of His providence that any blessing bestowed is a matter of grace to the undeserving. Ultimately, it's not about us at all, ever; it's all about God, and His honor. For what, indeed, is the chief end of man?

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