My 12-year-old daughter recently informed me that she was going to read through the whole Bible, start to finish. Now maybe a Christian mom like me should have done a happy dance and praised her for this lofty goal. Instead I found myself offering words of caution…in fact, trying to talk her out of it.
Hey–I want to encourage my kids to set spiritual goals that will end in success. So a daily plan that breaks up some of the blah of the Old Testament with some Psalms and New Testament passages seemed, to me, more doable. But she was insistent and I remained concerned.
The reason is, I’m in the middle of that goal myself. Just finished Day 253 out of 365 in my Bible app daily reading plan. But I’m “stuck” in Ezekiel. Just as I was stuck in the books of Jeremiah and Leviticus and Numbers and others. There’s just pretty big chunks of what you wouldn’t call “Happy Texts.”
It can get boring. It can get bloody. And in the case of most of the book of Ezekiel, in the modern context of our chaotic world, it can get terrifying.
God is going to judge Israel for her sins. And then God is going to judge the whole freaking world for their sins. And he uses bloodthirsty people to do his bidding and bring about this judgment. Not the most encouraging start to my day lately.
But this morning, just like that, it got awesome. Happy-Text-in-the-middle-of-all-that-bloodshed-awesome.
God wants to be known for who He is: loving, compassionate, and very, very, very holy. Do you know that in the book of Ezekiel the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD” appears 43 times? All that He is accomplishing in world events, terrifying as it may be, is done to cause people to know Him as LORD. He wants to forgive us and save us and to be known by us. But as the rest of the book of Ezekiel shows, we will never earn it or even ever want it. So, he will just have to do it himself.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you; and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:25-28 NIV.
Oh my heart breaks at the lengths to which He will go just to be known by us. And my typically-stony heart breaks at the realization that I am just as likely to turn to all my idols to save me today as the people in Ezekiel that God will judge in wrath. “Prone to wander. Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”
But thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who has given me a new heart and a new spirit and has cleansed me through His Son’s sacrifice. No more condemnation. No more fear of wrath. Forever and forever. That’s a promise I can cling to no matter what the nightly news is.
And now hopefully I will remember to encourage my daughter to look for the threads of God’s holiness and grace throughout her upcoming reading about skin diseases and army censuses and slaughter. And those glimpses into God’s promises may see her through to accomplishing her goal after all.