One of the major themes of Ezekiel, a prophetic message given to a rebellious nation currently in exile, was an emphasis on God's holiness and the responsibility of His people to preserve it.
Without getting into a complex history (and revealing how little I know about it), the people of God had not kept His name holy and had been hardened against him. Ezekiel came bearing a message of the holiness of God and the need for repentance. This message came during a time of intense chastisement and we can imagine exactly how receptive the people were to it.
To plagiarize my pastor a bit, there are many kinds of "storms" we experience in life. Sometimes they are to strengthen us, to reveal God's provision, or sometimes they are intended to show us our sin. These are the worst because they come at a time when we are LEAST likely to hear to word of the Lord. This was the storm of Israel's exile, and the one which concerns me for today.
Undeniably, God's people have been hardened of late. I am no prophet so far be it from me to make a statement to God's people en masse, but there are some who ought to be concerned, those who have taken the name of the Lord lightly, who haven't given Him the holiness due to Him. Unfortunately, there are so many times I am in this dangerous area.
See, I fear that maybe we have lost the meaning of the word holy, or "set apart." Often we imagine holiness to be associated with stiff shows of piety, religious sanctimony, or strange ancient ceremonies completed under the watchful eye of stained glass renditions of the Christ's Passion with the smell of hot wax in the air.
I think maybe holiness and reverence is simpler than that. Perhaps we already practice holiness much more naturally than this. Think of the way we handle the expensive items in our homes. We lock up our valuables and take care to preserve them from dust, oxidation, scratches, or overuse. How much do we fear that first scratch on a new car? Personally, I am one of those dorks who leaves the plastic on the screen of a new phone for a week because I'm afraid of scratches and fingerprints.
This is not exactly the same "holy fear" by which we regard our God, but it us related, I think. If we truly could see the value of God's pure name upon us, His holy Spirit in us, we'd be more likely to fear pollution and "corruption." Do we fear contaminating His Spirit with sin and trivialities the way we fear contaminating our bodies with pesticides and carcinogens?
If we had even a clue, a hint, of the Holiness and greatness if the God that covers us with His Spirit, who marks us with His very NAME, we'd be in constant fear of creating and marring that sheen of perfection.
I think perhaps this is the holiness that we are to long for. Rather than false or hypocritical shows of self sacrifice and religiosity, God just wants us to value His name, His Self, so much that the idea of sin fills us with fear.
When I say "fear," I don't mean that crippling fear that locks us up and paralyzes, but that fear that sends us skittering across the room. I mean that super-humanly mobilizing fear that can only be inspired by truly horrifying things like...spiders.
I think of the many times I find myself skirting the edges of sin, waffling between obedience and indulgence. The whole time I'm chilling out at the end of the diving board, I'm waiting for that supernatural power from God that will enable me to walk away from the fun happening in the pool without feeling disappointed when, really, I should be getting the heck out of dodge (how many metaphors can I mix in one paragraph?)! I should be running my tail of because God help me if I take the name of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the One who gave life to my body and my soul, and make it something common or trivial.
Sin should be at least as scary as spiders.
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