Tuesday, December 15, 2015

He Saved Me

Ezekiel 16 is not exactly a G-rated chapter of the Bible. In fact, it's rather scandalous. But for some reason, I find myself drawn to it. I'm both inspired and repulsed by the images. I'm both challenged and comforted by the message. It reveals something of God that I think I've watered-down.

I'm starting to realize that we might not actually like God as He really is, so we clean Him up for church. We pick and choose the images of God we want to keep, and we ignore the rest.

Gentle Shepherd--Good! Keep it. Paint it. Hang it in the nursery!

Jealous Lover--Bad! Skip over those verses.

Faithful Father--Good! Use it. Sing it. Write books about it!

Angry Ruler--Questionable. Keep it in the Old Testament. Gloss over it.

Just Judge--Good! Preach it. Exegite it! Use it to evangelize!

Proponent of Social Justice--Sketchy! Too focused on the world. We care more about saving souls.

And while it's a struggle to understand what God says about Himself, it's almost impossible to accept what God says to be true about US. About ME. The tuth is too shocking, too harsh, too raw, so we sugar-coat it to make it more palatable. And again, we pick and choose the images.

Lost sheep--Good! Sweet and fluffy. Poor thing just wandered off. He couldn't really help it.

Cheap Whore--Yeah, that's not so pretty. Let's not talk about that one.

Salt of the Earth--Good! Yes, we are change agents, we add spice, we purify the earth. Yea, us!

Enemies of God--Well, that seems a bit harsh...

Children of God--Good! I like it. One, big, happy, family.

Wretches--I'm not sure that's fair. I'm not perfect, but I'm no wretch!

Ezekiel 16 begins with Jerusalem being represented as an abandoned baby:
As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths. No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.
Last year in my Old Testament class I learned that the ancient Hebrew custom was that a baby was not considered "alive" until the father chose to adopt it. If the father rejected a baby, the baby could be left in an open field to die. So the Lord is telling Jerusalem that it was not even considered worthy of life from its very birth. But then he goes on to say this:
“When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’" 
God, in this admonition to "live" has adopted Jerusalem. The baby does nothing to earn this right of life. The baby is a mess. "Abhorred." Squirming in its own blood. Until God gives it life.

God bends down. God has compassion. God shows mercy. God loves and cares for the unwanted child. God bestows every possible blessing. And still, God is rejected.

This is the human condition. This is the reality of our corruption. Our sinfulness is not something that we do every now and then, it's not a blemish on our skin. Our sinfulness is woven through our nature, apart from Christ it is the essence of who we are.

When we don't get that--when we don't grasp the depths of our depravity, we miss out on being able to appreciate the enormity of the grace that we have been given. We love when Paul talks about being transformed from "glory to glory." We forget that John wrote about receiving from Christ "grace upon grace."

Over and over we are told not to forget who we were before we met Jesus. What we are apart from grace. And this rememberence is not meant to shame us. It is meant to hold us. To hold us in that place of awe for the God who stooped down "while we were in our blood"..."while we were yet sinners." For the one who clothed us in His righteousness, because even our very best is like "filthy rags."

The fact is, we want to be worthy. I want to be worthy. I want to be a child of God because I'm lovable. Because I'm cute. Because I'm good. I don't want to think of myself as a discarded baby. I want to think of myself as somehow, in at least some small way, worth being saved. Can't I please play some part in my own salvation?

Does the bloody baby play a role?

When I was replete with sin, as I lay squirming in my own blood, I still bore the image of God. God has graced humanity with His image, and by giving us His own reflection, He placed in each human being an innate worthiness. A worthiness rooted in Himself.

So while I don't play a role in my own salvation, I know that He deems me worthy. So worthy that He sent His only son. In Jesus, the father says, "Live!"

And with that Word of Life, I am recreated. The old, bloody baby is gone, the new has come. But as I live into that reality of who I am in Christ, I stand in awe of the one who rescued me from certain death. Not by works of righteouness that I have done, but according to His mercy, He has saved me.

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