Many years ago, my wife Michelle and I sat in the living room of a young couple listening, somewhat shocked, as only one year after having done their pre-marital counseling and wedding ceremony, one of them said to the other, “I don’t feel love for you anymore.” The other spouse burst into tears.
How is it that a heart changes? And so fast. We clearly remembered the overwhelming joy of their dating years, their engagement, and finally on their wedding day, we could feel the burning hot glow of love they had for one another. What happened? Sadly, this story is all too familiar. A heart on fire can grow cold.
We can feel this toward God too, can’t we? What is the temperature of your hearts? If your heart is cold, is it possible for a cold heart to grow warm? Turn to Ezekiel 35, as we seek to answer the question, how does a heart change?
Chapter 35 is a prophecy against Edom, very similar to the prophecies against the other surrounding nations, which we studied in chapters 25-32, one prophecy of which was a brief prophecy against Edom. Now God gives Ezekiel another longer prophecy against Edom.
In verse 1 we read God asking Ezekiel to perform The Prophetic Stare once more: “Set your face against Mt. Seir,” which is located in Edom. Edom is, historically, a sister nation of Israel. If you go way, way back in ancient Israel history, there were twin brothers named Jacob and Esau. Their grandfather was a guy named Abraham, and their father was Isaac. Jacob was the younger twin, and thus he was not to have received the birthright and blessing from their father Isaac. In our day and age, this would mean that the oldest son would receive a much larger inheritance. But sneaky Jacob deceived their old blind father Isaac into giving him the birthright, and as you can imagine, when Esau found out, he was really angry. If you’ve ever had family drama around an inheritance, you know the feeling. So Jacob fled for his life, and eventually, with the blessing on him, God changed his name to Israel, and Jacob became the father of the nation. Esau, however, didn’t do so bad either, starting the nation called Edom, located just over the Jordan River to the east. Eventually the two brothers made up, but in the centuries to come relations between Israel and Edom on a national level were not always so great. And that’s why God now a couple thousand years after Jacob and Esau, asks Ezekiel to perform the Prophetic Stare against Mt. Seir in Edom.
Remember that the Stare has no power. It is just shining the light of truth on a situation. Because the truth that God wants to share here in chapter 35 is so similar to what we’ve heard many times in Ezekiel, I will only skim over it. In this new prophecy God calls out Edom for being opportunistic which Israel was suffering the devastation laid on them at the hands of Babylon. Look at the connection to the ancient history between Israel and Edom in verse 15. God mentions the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate. What Jacob long before stole from Esau is now desolate, as Israel lost the land to Babylon.
Now God says that now Edom will be devastated, and multiple times he says, “Then you/they will know that I am the Lord.”
That’s the key phrase of Ezekiel. God wants to be known. By his people Israel, as well as by the people of other nations around. I am so glad that we are hearing this phrase again and again and again. It begs the question, “Do we really know God as deeply as we say we do? Do we really know God as he wants to be known?”
I’m concerned that we know of God, but maybe our knowledge is quite intellectual or shallow, but not close relationally or meaningfully. Do you remember back a few chapters when we talked about the difference between information and formation? Do we know the information about God, and what it means to believe in him, but do not have much of a relationship with him? How much do you really know God? How much is God really a part of your day? Your life? Is it possible that deep down in your soul you wonder about this? You wonder if there is supposed to be more to a relationship with God than accepting him as your savior, praying a prayer, and then going to church, reading your Bible and maybe participating in church events until one day you die and go to heaven. Do you wonder why during your earthly days, God feels distant and somewhat uninvolved? Is there more. What does it mean when he says, “then they will know that I am the Lord?”
Let’s not answer those questions. Let’s just allow them to cause our minds to wonder, as we continue with what God goes on to say in chapter 36. I think you’ll find it quite fascinating. We’ll start chapter 36 in the next post.
And that couple I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the couple in which one spouse said, after about one year of marriage, “I don’t love my spouse anymore”? They’re still married. They did the work of honest self-evaluation of their hearts and minds, work that led to still more work to nurture actions that showed hearts can change. We’ll learn more about how our hearts can change in the rest of the posts this week.