Ezekiel speaks a lot about the rebellion of the people of Israel. How, despite many warnings and interventions by God, they continued to choose a path of rejecting His authority in their lives and continued to choose less than adequate substitutions for God in their lives. It is easy to sit back and shake our heads at the foolish Israelites, it is easy to agree with the judgment God was preparing to mete out in His anger - He had every right to be angry with them! Right?
But what about us? Good, Christian us. We thank the Lord for our food. We know how to look up a verse in the Bible, maybe even can recite the books of the Bible in order. We pray for other people, we give money to the church, we put in our time being Christians. Certainly we wouldn't be labeled as rebellious! Ezekiel wrote to people facing God's judgment who thought everything was OK much as Jesus spoke to people under judgment (Herod was their King) who thought everything was OK. And we are a people who live in a 'Christian' nation and think things are OK. Well, we wouldn't be as blind as the people in Ezekiel's day, right? The Jews being carried away as captives to Babylon - we'd notice judgment that severe! We'd notice the oppressive government over the people of Israel in Jesus' day as judgment and recognize our needs!
But have you ever noticed how many wrong people there are out there and it doesn't very often seem to be me? or you? When you drive, do you notice your reckless driving and the laws you break (maybe passing on the right, speeding, rolling stops, unsafe lane changes, 'beating' the red light . . .) or do you notice how many other morons are on the road? Right, me too.
It makes me wonder if the same blindness impacts us when it comes to God. I don't have to wonder long. David recognized his blindness and asked God to search him, try him, and see if there was any wickedness in him. He knew he couldn't always see it.In Ezekiel 20, God repeats 3 times that the actions He took were "for my name's sake."
"But I wrought for my name's sake that it should not be polluted
before the heathen" (Vss. 9, 14, 20)
But Israel could only see the unfair treatment they were receiving from God. Again and again Israel was polluting God's sabbaths and going after other Gods. Easy for us to see, in their situation.
So should we see judgment in every hardship? Absolutely not! (After all, we'd far more likely apply the "everything bad is judgment of God" attitude to others long before we did it to ourselves.) We'd be just as wrong in doing that as in not being willing to see our own rebellion. Ezekiel 20 also focuses on the mercy and grace of God. It repeats again and again all that God did for the people of Israel and all that He will do for them to fix the problem of their rebellion.
As rebellious children (since maybe we ought to assume we are, rather than assume we aren't), we need to focus on God's mercy. Our need for God's mercy, God's goodness in showing us mercy, the depth of God's mercy that each of us requires. And along with that, we need to place a priority on God's name. As a Christian, we carry it. If God is jealous for His name sake, and we are polluting His name by the lives we live, the thoughts we entertain, the things we feed our minds, well, we should realize that everything isn't as OK as we think.
"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with
Christ Jesus (by grace ye are saved)" Ephesians 2:4-5