From Garden to City reading: Ezekiel 6-9
Jason asked me about hell yesterday and why a loving God would send people there. Really, it was more of a discussion than a question. And the discussion centered around grace, and God's standards, and his claim that God is not loving.
I did my best to explain God's holiness, our sin, the separation between us and God, and his desire to have fellowship with us. The conversation provided no brilliant epiphanies for Jason.
But honestly, these are tough questions. Why does God hold such tough standards when he knows that so many of us will fall short?
I'm okay with the answer, that we were created to live in fellowship with God, whose standards of holiness were established in eternity. But I can't tell you by whom because God has no beginning and no end. And I'm okay with discussions of God's grace that delivers some but not all. Although I know God "is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). But the key is repentance.
And I'm okay with not having a logical explanation for everything. But right now Jason's more into debate than argument.
And now I will try and tie this discussion into our discussion of Ezekiel and God's judgment on Israel. When God intervenes in our lives, he does so to connect with us. Our response to love and mercy is thanksgiving, surrender, worship. And when we reject him, he disciplines us to lead us back to him.
His goal is reconciliation.
And so God unleashes judgement on Israel. He says, "I will spare some . . . and they will know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them." (6:9-10)
And they do know.
Ezekiel tells that all who survive "moan like doves," mourn, and hang their heads in shame.
What they don't do is repent. In fact, they decide that God has abandoned them so they can do whatever they want (8:12-13). In the temple.
And the Lord God unleashes another round of judgement and even more die.
Why does a loving God destroy His people, the people He has chosen, the people He has delivered, the people He loves?
To demonstrate His holiness.
To show that He is the Lord.
To bring them to repentance.
My explanations break down when I imagine the faces of men and women and children in terror, when I imagine their moans, their screams, they cries.
I think I will never fully understand this. I'm not sure understanding is possible, and I don't need to understand. God is God.
And incidentally God tells Ezekiel that he will judge them not by his standards of holiness, by their own standards (7:26). Yes. They can't even follow their own standards. And honestly, we can't either.
I'm so very grateful for God's grace, for His forgiveness, for Jesus' sacrifice. I'm grateful for God's deliverance. My response is worship. My response is obedience. My response is love. My response is loving people who haven't yet experienced reconciliation, praying for them, representing Jesus to them in the way I live.