Standing in the Breach

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.

Ezekiel 22:30 ESV

In exile, still, God declares “me you have forgotten” (Ezekiel 22:12), but the ultimate guilt is laid on the prophets and priests. They have acted selfishly (22:25) and presumptuously (22:26).

The irony is that these priests are so full of their own opinions that they fail to realise what they are doing. God’s accusation is that they “have done violence to my law”. To the extent that as church leaders we propound our own opinions and not God’s we are doing violence to his law. Yet it can be done in all sincerity, due to proud lives that fail to wait on God – we think we are speaking God’s word but we speak of ourselves.

The result is a whitewash – a thin veneer of superficial religion glossed over that which is insubstantial and godless – self centred and self serving. As a result of this failure of leadership the people fall away. The awful truth of the situation is expressed in verse 30 “I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land … but I found none.”

There are two requirements for this role: godliness and willingness.

Firstly, the man of God must listen to God, and God alone – not speaking of his own, but faithfully doing justice, and not violence to God’s law. As with Ezekiel, and Jeremiah before him, these men wait for God hear what he speaks regardless of what everyone around them is saying.

Secondly, the man of God must be willing, like Ezekiel and Jeremiah to speak into a society that rejects God’s law and in an environment where, for whatever the reasons, Christian leaders are speaking ‘of themselves’ and not faithfully speaking God’s word.

The young Samuel was told by God that if he faithfully spoke everything that God gave him to speak, without watering it down or changing it not a word would fall to the ground. This is the Hebrew concept that words ‘do things’ – they go from you, achieve their purpose and return, or just fall to the ground and fail.

The good news is that God is looking, seeking for those who will build up the wall and stand in the breach. The question to this generation is: are you listening, are you willing, am I?

Relationship, Really

But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt.

Ezekiel 20:9 ESV

Where God is concerned, relationship comes first, rules follow. God, in the Biblical prophets, such as Ezekiel is dealing primarily with relationship: idolatry breaks the relationship with God first, and breaks his law second. Israel disobeys the law because it has already broken with God – law breaking is the natural expression of that broken relationship.

God acts firstly for himself: he has made a covenant with his people before the nations, therefore he will redeem them. It is for his name’s sake that he makes and keeps covenant.

God’s actions reveal his nature to the nations, not just to Israel. Salvation, redemption is always a testimony to God’s grace to all people, and an invitation.

God made himself known to his people in the act of redemption! God reveals himself most personally and intimately in the act of ‘bringing out of the land of Egypt’. This pre-emptive act of redemption is a commencement of relationship, or more accurately a re-commencement, a restoration of what was and what was always intended. In revealing himself in this way God reveals his character and restores the relationship, giving us the reason to obey: our redemptional relationship with God.

It is truly awesome that the God of the universe should choose to make himself know in and through this very act of redemption! That such a sacrifice, such a turn around, such a transformation of our position before God should not only allow us to know God, but actually reveal him to us. Have you been ‘brought out of the land of Egypt?’, then that is the point at which God first makes himself know.

Lord, thank you, praise you for this grace, this making yourself known to me in your redemption of me – to the praise of your glorious grace!

Hope in disastrous circumstances

The prophet Jeremiah lived through the greatest disaster that befell the nation of Israel: the final stages of its conquest and exile. There was nothing left to hope in. In the throes of this disaster Jeremiah finds it easier to believe in God’s judgement & wrath than in his mercy & joy in his people. That is the state that Jeremiah is in when he questions God over buying a field, a possession in Israel, when all is lost (Jeremiah 32:25). He can’t see past the present judgement to a future hope. We can find ourselves in the same position.

God is straight with Jeremiah (32: 36-44) on the coming judgement, and equally straight about the future hope. Just listen to what God says:

“Behold I will gather them.” 32:37

“They shall be my people, and I will be their God.” 32:38

“I will rejoice in doing them good.” 32:41

“I will plant them … with all my heart and soul.” 32:41

In the depths of disaster and difficulty it is always hard to hold on to the promises. And yet, the promised disaster arriving was straightforward proof that God was following through on his promises, and if he has followed through with promised disaster he will follow through on promised good.

Not every difficult time is a judgement on us, Job’s story proves that conclusively, but in every difficult time we have the promise of good through a faithful God who has fulfilled every promise he has made. When he promises “they will be my people and I will be their God” he will do it!

That this same God rejoices in doing us good and plants us with all his heart and soul should give each one of us cause to rejoice in him, and live in him and with him with all our hearts and souls.

In the depths of disaster and difficulty let’s hold on the the precious promises that God has already given us, knowing that he will fulfil them.

Simply Walking

In Genesis 5:24 we’re told that Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. It’s one of those enigmatic sentences in Scripture that is just loaded with meaning if we would just stop long enough to understand it.

One of the things that I love about our new location is the walks – we can just step out the door of the house and be in true countryside in a minute. There’s something about walking together that allows for a different pace of conversation, a different way of talking. There’s space for silence, for communication, for reflection on what has been said. Somehow, the act of walking makes those spaces easier, more natural. In Bible terms then, walking, is more than just moving in a certain direction, it’s walking with communication – not the non stop noise of today’s world, but an easy companionable moving with someone else in the same direction and with a common understanding and purpose.

Enoch understood this – it is rare to have such a straightforward relationship with God, but it is the goal. From Adam and Eve in the Garden before the fall, through to the heavenly city a relationship with God is what is on offer by God and desired by God.

If Enoch could, then we can. I think this, in part is what Brother Lawrence was trying to express in his ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, I believe other godly men and women through the ages have done the same. The wonder of Enoch’s story is that as he walked and talked he and his God became closers and closer until God just took him home. As a believer, as a child of God, what better hope could we have for our lives than that we too could walk with God until he calls us all the way to be with him forever?

What If?

Simple Pleasures

I’m sitting on a weathered green plastic sun lounger in the back garden of a suburban English home; the sun is warm, not hot; the wind ebbs and flows in soft cooling gusts across my face and arms. There’s a simple pleasure in these things that goes beyond the sum of the elements. In fact it’s more than pleasure, because even the act of enjoyment draws out a deeper joy – a joy in the fact of being alive and of enjoying it. How can something so simple be the source of such pleasure? This observation of simple pleasures defeats all the mechanistic explanations given to us by those who claim to know.

This simple pleasure: the fact of the pleasure, not the experience that produces it; this fact and the question of where the joy comes from draws me, directs me towards a deeper, more profound one…

What if?

What if the wind on my face and the pleasure, the joy that it provokes are much more than simply the interaction of atoms and energy? What if the very fact of the existence of pleasure, of joy is evidence that there is much more to life than what we can understand from a science textbook? What if the simple pleasures of enjoying life and the world around us point to a real source of that pleasure?

What if, after all, this universe and all that it includes aren’t just the (statistically impossible) result of random interaction of elements from an unknown source, but of a deliberate act of creation by Someone greater than it all, but Someone who also knows joy and pleasure: pleasure in the act of creation itself, joy in the act of creating creatures to inhabit His creation and to enjoy it in their turn?

What if this Creator actually let us in on the knowledge of what was going on in this universe – its origins, its purpose, its ultimate destination? What if that knowledge was passed on from generation to generation in plain and simple words that everyone could understand? What if that knowledge is freely available here and now to anyone who wishes to know?

Our Story

The good news is that this Creator, who brought this entire universe into existence has told us what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do! The plain and simple words are to be found in the Bible. It is God’s statement to us of our origins, our purpose our ultimate destination and it has been passed down from generation to generation even as God was working out this story in the lives of men and women.

The Bible is our human family history, our ‘Who do you think you are?’ of the human race. Want to know where you came from? Read the Bible! Want to know why you are the way you are? Read the Bible! Want to know the true purpose of life, the universe and everything? Read the Bible!

While not being a science textbook the Bible is compatible with our scientific understanding of our universe. It is history, our history, but even the future is presented as something that is as good as done – the Almighty God who made the universe can and will complete what He has started – it’s simply a matter of time, not ability.

The opening question of the source of simple pleasures still goes begging – I am convinced that a living, loving, pleasure enjoying God is the source and the end of this entire universe and of every creature within it. I am convinced that my experience of joy is because God created men and women in His own image. I am convinced that the explanation of my origins in the book of Genesis are true. I am convinced that the explanation of my ultimate destination presented in the book of Revelation is also true. I rejoice that such a God could and would provide at His own cost a means for me to enjoy this ultimate destination and that the end of this world will be the beginning of another with the same God, the same Creator.
I know that many of the intellectuals of this world would argue that none of the above is true, that the fact of our existence, the fact of joy, the fact of our self understanding is all pure chance. They tell us this while ignoring the science of statistics that tells us that the existence of this universe is statistically impossible. The possibility of such a mind bogglingly complex system coming into existence and then growing and improving is so infinitesimally small as to be not scientifically acceptable. It also defies some of the most basic observations of our environment.

And all this still doesn’t answer the question: how can I find such simple pleasure in sitting in the sun and enjoying the breeze? I believe that the answer is in God’s Word to us, the Bible. I am wholeheartedly convinced that the Bible is the plain statement of all that we need to know to comprehend our existence – until we get to see our Creator face to face.

I’ve made my choice, I’m convinced already, I’ve read the Bible cover to cover. My final question is: have you, will you?

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