Editor’s Note: Thanks to guest blogger David Hundert for continuing the Ezekiel series this week.
Have you ever felt like things are so bad, there’s no hope? The “story” is ending at the moment of failure, and there is no way things could possibly turn around. Life can seem like that. But with God, there’s always more to the story. In the previous post, we talked about how in Ezekiel chapter 20, God is telling the history of the nation of Israel. In today’s post, let’s look at that story, and the unique way God tells it.
The way their history is relived before them, is that it is broken down into essentially three generations. Each new generation is confronted with a fresh revelation of the Lord. The basis for this revelation wasn’t Israel’s merit, but a covenant oath sworn by the Lord. Open a Bible to Ezekiel chapter 20. Starting with the last half of verse 4, read through verse 29.
The three generations that we read about there are: the generation that lived in Egypt at the time of the exodus, the generation that lived in the wilderness, and the final one is their descendants.
Now to each generation, you can see the history broken down into six different cycles:
The first is the Lord’s revelation to that generation.
The second is a call to complete devotion to the Lord.
The third is the rebellion of their generation against the Lord.
The fourth is the threat of the Lord’s wrath.
The fifth is His divine wrath being deferred for His name’s sake and the last and final cycle is an act of limited judgement.
Each time that the Lord gets frustrated with them to the point of wanting to destroy them for their disobedience, He withholds His wrath because if He follows through with it, it would profane His name among the nations that witnessed His power, might, and love toward those He chose.
So instead of Israel leaving Egypt and finding themselves in a land flowing with milk and honey, and instead of them being destroyed for their sins against God, they find themselves in the desert. The desert generation, instead of finding themselves in the promised land, and instead of being destroyed for their sins against God, they wind up dying in the wilderness. The final generation finds themselves in the promised land, but instead of being destroyed for their sins, they find themselves scattered amongst the nations.
I’ve heard scripture described as a love story from cover to cover. I’ve heard it talked about as the description of a Holy God creating us for fellowship with Him and even though we’ve sinned, He provides a way. This hasn’t changed, even in this reading of Ezekiel 20. Admittedly, this telling of the history of Israel seems kinda bleak, right? The Lord is frustrated with Israel to where he refuses to hear the petitions of the elders of the exiles, regardless of their reasons. They are still in exile and they are still serving idols! But as the three generations of history that Ezekiel reminds them of shows…
Cycle number six can NEVER be the end of the story!
One commentator says it well: “God’s people cannot be destroyed completely, not because they do not deserve it but because God has staked the reputation of his own name on the covenant promises made to them. He may and indeed does chastise them and judge them, but he can never abandon them utterly. His divine nature requires faithfulness to his promise, even in the face of unrelenting human sin.”
I don’t know about you, but that fills my heart with hope! This may come as a surprise to many, but you are still a sinner. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I sin, the Spirit of God burdens my heart and it grieves me terribly. It drives me to my knees to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to grasp that the Lord would still love me when my nature is to rebel against Him, time and time again.
With God, though, the end of your story has yet to be written, because his forgiveness is real and there is always hope of new life.