Have you ever experienced the frustration of loving someone who isn’t loving you back? It is a common human relational reality. Spouses that are scorned or betrayed. Kids neglecting their parents, and parents neglecting their kids. Friends that don’t care when you are struggling.
Have you ever considered that God might feel like that? In Ezekiel we find God in the position of scorned lover.
In the previous post, God told Ezekiel to prophesy that the end has come! What “end” is God talking about? And what will happen at this end? Let’s keep reading. Look at verses 3-9.
Brutal words from God, aren’t they? Imagine being the people living around Ezekiel there in Babylon, as he conveys this prophetic word from God. Good times, right? I can imagine them saying, “Man, Ezekiel, you are really downer. We don’t even live in Israel anymore. Why are you telling this to us?”
If they listened closely, they would have heard why he was saying this to them. First of all, it was a message from God. Isn’t that alone enough reason for them to pay attention? Just because this message was from God. God is speaking! Well, apparently it was not enough reason, because we know the people did not pay attention to God. They hadn’t paid attention to him for decades. Which is not that hard to understand, because you and I often read God’s word and then go and do something different.
But there is another reason why God was communicating this message of doom and gloom through Ezekiel. As God says in verse 4, when the end comes, they will know that he is God. The insinuation is that they currently did not know that he is God. They might have said in response, “Uh no, that’s not true. We believe in God.” But their actions told the real story. Observe their current practices, and the people did not show that they knew that he was their God. That’s not hard for us to understand either. We can say we believe one thing, then live a life that is inconsistent with that belief.
So the people of Israel have wandered far afield from God, and therefore the end will come. Then they will know, God says, that he is Lord. We heard God says this phrase, “Then you will know that I am the Lord” four times in chapter six. Why does he keep saying it?
What we hear in that phrase is God longing to be close to his people. They don’t know him, and he wants to be known by them. He wants restoration and reconciliation with his people who have turned their hearts and minds away from him. That emotion from God, that longing from God is continuing here in this next prophetic word in chapter seven.
It causes me to think about why this would have happened in the first place. Why should God have to be in this place of longing and crying out for his people? Think about it. Last week in chapter six, God said he was so upset because the people were worshiping other gods, who were actually false gods, meaning that they weren’t even gods at all. There is only one true God. And his name is Yahweh. How often do you think about that? God has a first name. He actually uses his first name many times in Ezekiel.
Notice in Ezekiel 7 verse 4 that the word Lord is in all capital letters? Most English Bibles print it using a capital L, then small caps for O-R-D. When you see that, the translator wants you to know that the Hebrew word being translated there is the actual name of God, Yahweh. You might ask, why don’t English translations write out the word Yahweh? It is out of respect for Jewish culture and practice, which views the actual name of God as so holy and revered that they do not say it or write it. But translators of our English Bibles still want us to know when the actual name of God is being used in the Hebrew. So look for that capital L-O-R-D. When you see the word Lord with a capital L and lower case o-r-d, however, it is the generic title for a Lord, a ruler, a master, not the name. That helps us know when the personal name of God is being used.
I point that out because it shows us God’s heart. He wants to be in a first-name basis relationship with his people. He wants to be known by them, to be in a genuine relationship with his people. He cannot fathom that they have allowed their hearts and minds to be wooed by gods that aren’t even gods at all. Worse, there might have been demonic forces behind idol worship, including demons performing supernatural acts. No doubt, that display of power can be enticing. But we know demonic power is nothing in comparison to the power of God. What’s more is that the people of Israel had plenty of evidence in their history to remind them of the power of God. How could they have allowed themselves to be enticed to the point where God would say, “They don’t know me anymore”? You can hear the sadness in God’s voice.
I wonder if that resonates with you at all. Do you feel a distance from God? Could God say the same to you, “I want you to know me”? He does want you to know him, to be in a real relationship with him. Evaluate your relationship with God. Have you turned away from him? Can it be said of you that you are not striving to grow a relationship with him? And why? What might entice you to ignore God? What tempts you? The Jews in Ezekiel’s day were tempted in other ways too. And God, through Ezekiel, points another specific temptation that very much relates to us today. Check back to the next post to learn about that temptation.