“I gave them over to worthless decrees and regulations that would not lead to life.” Ezekiel 20:25
I almost fell off my chair when I came across this verse today! Except I wasn’t on a chair when I read it, I was already on the floor. To be so bold and obvious in His statement shocked me. And yet, there it is all the same. This entire section of Ezekiel, actually most of Ezekiel so far, has been about the rebellion of Israel. In today’s reading some of the leaders of Israel actually come to Ezekiel seeking a word from the LORD only to have the LORD tell them, “How dare you come to ask Me for a message? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I will tell you nothing!”
In the verse above God is pointing out their true sin, they started worshipping the law rather than the law giver. They were so focused on following the law that they lost sight of the LORD who gave them the law to follow in the first place. The purpose of the law was to bring them to a place where they realized that they simply couldn’t live up to its standard.
Yesterday I was invited to speak at Hills Baptist Church in Sheridan. I was so excited about the message that God had given me to speak, mostly because I myself had experienced its liberation first hand. I ended up taking years worth of scripture and prayer and heart wrenching experience and squeezing it into a twenty minute sermon – with slides! I’ve got to be honest, it took a lot of restraint for me not to verbally vomit everything on them at once, there was SO MUCH I wanted to tell them, and so much I COULD have told them. But God helped me and led me in where to go with this particularly precious group and we gave them the most concentrated drop of Grace they could possibly handle in that moment.
I left the script for the message with the Deacon who invited me and told her that it really would be great for a Bible study if they would so choose to use it in that way. I should go back and count, there were SO MANY scripture references in there! I was so blessed in the writing of that message!
Well, wouldn’t you know as God would have it, it lines up perfectly with the message of today’s Word of the Day and the verse we picked out. “I gave them over to worthless decrees and regulations that would not lead to life.” (Ezekiel 20:25) The Israelites were turning to other gods and idols, instead of THE God who needs no idol. So He “gave them over”, He let them have their way and do their own thing with the worthless decrees and regulations that wouldn’t lead to life but rather to death. I can hear you asking, how on earth does the Law lead to death? Because it relies solely on OUR efforts to follow it to the letter. And we simply can’t do that. Which is why God gave us the Law, it leads us to the ultimate conclusion that no matter how hard we try it’s impossible to follow flawlessly for an entire lifetime. Well, with man it’s impossible, but nothing is impossible for GOD.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul writes:
“4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one[c] turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[e] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
You see, it’s not about us. It never has been and it never will be. It’s always been about Jesus. It’s always been about His ability and willingness to FORGIVE and to FORGET our crimes against His crown. Why He is so gracious as to do a thing like that I may never understand this side of heaven. But just because I don’t understand His reasoning in doing so doesn’t mean I can’t still accept that precious gift and cling to it like a child’s beloved stuffed animal.
It’s the Grace of God that allows us to say,
And then to actually DO IT!
He was and is and will always be the Creator of the Universe, the King of Heaven and Earth and the Commander of all of the hosts of Heaven. He is the holder of the keys to the gates of Hell for heaven’s sake! And in the Bible we find over and over again the TRUTH that He is FOR US! He promises that He will never forsake us in our weaknesses. He is too good for that! He loves us too much to allow us to destroy ourselves. In Ezekiel 20:26, the verse immediately following our verse of the day, He says, “I let them pollute themselves with the very gifts I had given them, and I allowed them to give their firstborn children as offerings to their gods” WHY? “- so that I might devastate them and remind them that I alone am the LORD.”
There are going to be times in our lives when we cry out,
And He answers with something we find unpleasant. But that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love us. In fact usually it means quite the opposite! He loves us too much to allow us to stay where we are. He plants our feet firmly in fertile soil where we will grow. You know what that means; He puts our feet in poo. Why? In order to help us stretch and grow and become everything He intended us to become. He loves us too much to allow us to dry up and become useless un-moldable clay.
Every time I look at this picture my heart leaps.
For the longest time I thought I was the merchant searching for the pearl of heaven. But read it, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.” Jesus is that merchant searching for fine pearls! Guess who the fine pearl is? YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! The verse says that when he found ONE pearl of great value He went and sold all that He had and bought it. Did Jesus not “sell all that He had” in heaven and here on earth just so that He could buy you?
We have been bought with a price and that price was the life of Jesus. Not just the six excruciating hours that He hung on the cross, but with His entire 33 year life! He laid aside the prestige and royalty and splendor of heaven in order to be born in a barn with the other sacrificial animals and everything that they bring with them – including more poo.
You are ONE pearl that is of such worth and great value to Him that He would give all of heaven up in order to buy you back from destruction. No matter what you’re going through today, no matter how stinky your situation, just remember:
Lie down in the arms of your Heavenly Father today and allow Him to remind you just how MUCH you mean to Him.
*Here is a copy of my sermon from yesterday if you’d like to read it verbatim. Letting Go of Perfect.