The Ezekiel Factor

“The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD on me. And I came to the exiles who lived at Tel-Abib near the Kebar River. And I sat where they sat overwhelmed among them for  seven days.” (Ezekiel 3:14-15)

The intent of the above verses follows on very much from the previous post concerning Jesus’ view of Nicodemus and the uniqueness of each individual. Two vitally important things are inter-twined in them! The first is that Ezekiel had already received the heart of the Lord concerning the situation into which he was being sent in order to speak the Word of the Lord; but the second is that he also then had to embrace, feel and share the hearts of the people in those situations before uttering a word!

The Hebrew of the text conveys the idea of the silence of deep mourning, anguish and distress. In other words, it wasn’t enough for him to feel what the Lord was feeling concerning the people he was being sent to, he had to also feel what they were feeling in the situation, thus sharing in their pain and distress, before delivering the burden of the Lord to them. Hence the need for him to sit silently with them for seven days so that he could become properly identified with them, share their hearts, and feel their pain. This is what compassion is: to enter into the distress and anguish of those you are seeking to share the Lord with. It is to feel their pain, to vibrate in sympathy with the distress they are going through, only then bringing to bear any truth or wisdom such as they need to hear. It is what Paul means in 1 Corinthians when he says that believers should “weep with those who weep.”

This is yet another facet of a theme that anyone who knows me will know that I return to again and again: the biblical relationship between grace and truth, stated elsewhere by Paul in terms of the need to “speak the truth in love.”

We should never just dole out truth and advice left, right and centre, irrespective of how true and scriptural that truth might be, or how biblical, inspired and wise the advise. No! Not in a million years! We are to rather bring the Lord’s heart to bear on the hearts of whoever His burden through us is for. This means that, like Ezekiel, we must first actually receive His heart and mind concerning whatever the burden might be, but then become one with, and feel the pain of, those for whom the burden has been given. This is what intercession is, and what compassion actually looks like. It is to become one, and to vibrate in sympathy with, the pain of those to whom we are called.

Truth is obviously always objective, but what we are highlighting here is that so often we lack this subjective emotional element of actually feeling for people, of resonating in identification with their hurts, joys and fears. It is not mere sentimentality because what we are speaking of issues from, and will always apply, the objective truth of God’s Word. No! It is rather to become more and more like the God Who feels the pain of every man, woman and child whom He has created.

At the heart of everything God is, and has done, is incarnation. In the Lord Jesus He has incarnated Himself into every aspect of human life. And this He has done because not only is He the God of Truth, He is also the God of all Grace. And what this issues in is a principle that underlines everything concerning the manner of His dealings with us, and it is simply this: God beats the problem by becoming the problem! Think about it! What was the problem? Human beings! A fallen human race! So what did God do? He became a human being called Jesus! He beats the problem by becoming the problem! But of course it’s so much more than just that because what was the underlying problem that had made men, women and children a problem in the first place? Sin! Human beings are a problem because of their problem with sin! So what did the Lord do about that?

“God made Him who knew no sin to become sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21. Emphasis mine.)

In our relationships with both unbelievers and our fellow Christians with whom we fellowship, incarnation is at the very heart of how we should live, and the kind of people we should be. Seeking to identify with those around that we might feel what they feel. That we might vibrate in sympathy with them, and sit where they sit, overwhelmed among them, in order to discern, and then meet, their needs.

“And I came to the exiles who lived at Tel-Abib near the Kebar River. And I sat where they sat overwhelmed among them for seven days.”

 

A Little Bit More on Aliens!

Many moons ago now, when I was a young man and dinosaurs ruled the world, I (of course) went to the cinema to see the (then) groundbreaking first Alien movie. It was, to my mind, both a masterpiece and complete revelation. However, what spoiled it somewhat was the fact that it was slightly out of focus, a fact I complained about at some volume at one point during the showing. (Yes, I know! But I was young!) How ridiculous, I mused, that a projectionist can’t focus his projector properly. But hey, no-one’s perfect all the time!

A few years later, whilst I was still young man but recently and gloriously married to Belinda, I quickly discovered that I had a little helper in the car. She helped me with all kinds of things…how fast I was going….when traffic lights were changing….when someone was crossing the road in front of me etc etc. And one of the things I couldn’t help but notice was that she would see what road signs said a few seconds before I did. This, I concluded, could only be down to one thing, so off I went to an opticians……only to find…..yes, you’ve guessed……that I needed glasses for distance viewing.

In the days that followed after getting my first pair I couldn’t believe how sharp, colourful and crystal clear everything was, and just how much fine detail I had been missing all that time. And then I remembered…..going to see Alien…..and complaining that the film wasn’t properly in focus. We have a word here in England that describes anyone functioning on significantly less than a full brain-load of grey matter….pillock! And yes, I felt a right pillock! It wasn’t that the film was out of focus and that the projectionist wasn’t doing his job properly, it was that my eyes were deficient and that I wasn’t seeing the screen properly.

You probably know where this is going now, and indeed it is! I have learned to be very careful to not jump to conclusions when I perceive something to be wrong, and not to make quick judgements until I am happy I have all the angles covered. I still get things wrong at times, of course, but the principle stands! But the main point I want to make here though is this:

I have spent a lifetime teaching things from God’s Word which no-one has ever actually been able to refute from that Word! I have been disagreed with and disavowed by lots of people on many occasions, but the things I teach that so upset folk have never been countered and shown to be error actually from scripture itself. Somebody once well said that it wasn’t the bits of the Bible they didn’t understand that troubled them, but precisely the bits they did. There are bits in the Bible that are obviously there, but which just don’t suit a great many Christians.

The next time you knee-jerk react against something you hear someone maintain to be biblical because it offends you, make sure you first establish whether it is actually biblical or not. Then still don’t react, but rather respond! There is every chance that it is not that something unbiblical is being said, but merely that you just don’t happen to like it and want to justify and excuse yourself! Or to put it another way, it’s not that the projector isn’t in focus, but rather that we need glasses!