True confession: I find it difficult to read the prophets. I mean, difficult. Like, I-was-reading-over-ten-chapters-of-the-Bible-every-morning-but-now-I've-been-reading-two-chapters-a-morning-since-I've-been-in-Ezekiel difficult. Why?
Because sometimes it is hard to see how the Bible applies to my life. No, better: how my life is explained by the Bible. The inward struggle as I have read Ezekiel: what does the story of this prophet and this ridiculously wayward people and all their wickedness and disobedience and these messages for all these different nations have to do with me? What does it have to do with today!?
Hey, I'm not proud of that, and it is not the kind of feelings I want to have toward this portion of God's revealed Word, or any portion of God's word. But I would like you to know, dear reader, (maybe as you judge me) I haven't given up. I still grab my Bible and head down into the living room each morning and ask God to open my eyes, so that I might learn something from him, of him, in his Word. Because I know that his Word is life, every part of his Word, so despite my current difficulties with appreciating Ezekiel, I simply asked God this morning, again, "Please show me something. Please."
And you know what? He did.
“Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord:
I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it.
I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. 23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. 24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.* 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
28 “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. 30 I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines. 31 Then you will remember your past sins and despise yourselves for all the detestable things you did. 32 But remember, says the Sovereign Lord, I am not doing this because you deserve it. O my people of Israel, you should be utterly ashamed of all you have done!
33 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I cleanse you from your sins, I will repopulate your cities, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The fields that used to lie empty and desolate in plain view of everyone will again be farmed. 35 And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This former wasteland is now like the Garden of Eden! The abandoned and ruined cities now have strong walls and are filled with people!’ 36 Then the surrounding nations that survive will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted the wasteland. For I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I say.
37 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock. 38 They will be as numerous as the sacred flocks that fill Jerusalem’s streets at the time of her festivals. The ruined cities will be crowded with people once more, and everyone will know that I am the Lord.”
(Ezekiel 36:22-38, New Living Translation)
So here is what God did with that text in, and to, my heart today - the Bible speaks a message of restoration that finds its source in God, no matter the sins of his people. That, my dear reader, is breathtaking.
It's like a little puppy that has run away from its master, and has wallowed in the mud, and ignored the commands to return. And the master comes, and grabs it by the scruff of the neck, and not because of anything it has done, quite in spite of what it has done, grabs the hose, turns on the water, washes the mutt off, cleans it up, and places it back in his home.
You see, in spite of my sinful wanderings, which happen over and over and over again, God restores me. Not because I deserve it, but for the sake of his holy name. He sprinkles clean water on me, making me clean. My filth is washed away. He puts in me a new heart, and a new spirit, and a responsive soul. He cleanses my filthy behavior. He provides great harvests and fruitfulness. He makes my life like the garden of Eden! He hears my prayers, and gives me the increase.
So that everyone will know: he is Yahweh.
And that truth, that glorious, breathtaking, life-changing, God-honoring, Good-News-in-the-Old-Testament, pointing-to-the-cleansing-blood-of-Jesus, found-it-in-Ezekiel proclamation of my restoration to the God of the Universe, my Father, has brought delight to my soul all day long. And not just me, but to at least two other people God brought in my path who, because of their sin, needed to hear that message of restoration too.
So, my dear reader. Don't give up reading the Bible, every part of it. God still speaks.