…‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake that I am about to act, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy reputation, which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will magnify my great name that has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I magnify myself among you in their sight.
–Ezekiel 36:22-23 NET
The other day, I took our daughter out to an empty parking lot to teach her how to drive. We went through the paces for about an hour when a policeman showed up. So, I jumped out of the car and asked if everything was alright. “License and papers,” was the reply, with no smile. So, I pulled out my papers. “Not yours, her’s,” he snapped. “She does not have them because I am teaching her…” I started to say but was cut off in mid-sentence. “No, cannot!” came the reply.
The stilted conversation went on for a few more minutes when he finally told us to drive home immediately, “you, not her.” “Of course, sir. I am sorry, I did not know…” Without another word, he got back in his car and then followed us to the highway.
The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. He could have been nice. He could have said something like, “That’s great! You are a good Dad. However, in Hungary, we do it differently. I need you to stop now.” He didn’t. I bowed outside but bristled inside. Rules are great when I’m enforcing them. It’s another story in my heart when I’m hit over the head with them.
Apparently, the house of Israel had problems with rules, too. They could not live up to their end of the covenant. Not even close. In the end, they defiled the land God gave them (Ezekiel 36:17-18). Worse still, wherever they went, they profaned the holy name of their God (Ezekiel 36:20-23). But why is that such a big deal? By shedding each other’s blood in the land, they communicated that people don’t matter much. By turning to idols, they told the surrounding nations that God can’t be trusted—they needed help from other gods.
Jesus reminds his listeners that the two greatest commands, which summarize all commands, are to love God and love others—something Israel didn’t get right. We are not much better at it. Try as I might, I felt little warmth toward that rude policeman. However, his rudeness was not the problem. I was. Something in me is wayward. On my own, I cannot live up to the “rules” God set forth in Deuteronomy. Neither could Israel.
We all were doomed from the start. The code was too much to keep. We need help. So, God renegotiated his agreement (covenant) with us. Read Jeremiah 30-32 and Ezekiel 36:16-37 and just count how many times God says, “I will.” Bottom line, the new arrangement is no longer up to us.
Stay tuned. We will unpack this incredible story and its implications for us today.
ACTION: Take some time this week to read the passages in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Let God’s “I will” sink in as you envision him saying it to you. Jot down a few thoughts and feelings as you ponder God’s agreement with you.