Open Your Bible
Ezekiel 20:32-49, Ezekiel 21:1-32, 1 Peter 3:18-21
In high school, I learned how to do back handsprings. I was on an intensely dedicated competition cheer team that practiced hours and hours nearly every day. My dad would often joke, “I sure hope your coaches get serious about this whole cheerleading thing.” My number one goal in life, at the time, was to demonstrate my awesomeness in front of the football team.
I wanted to be admired. I wanted the linebacker to be in love with me. I wanted my cheer coaches to be proud of me. I exhausted myself—determined to be the best and most strategic in my efforts to let everyone know I was the best.
A lot of toe touches, a lot of hairspray, and a lot of years and tears went into my efforts of being the bubbly, cheering god of my own little universe.
The problem was, I was never impressive enough. And even when I felt I was, there were never enough people watching. And if there were enough people watching, they weren’t watching well enough. If they were watching well enough, they weren’t responding loudly enough. It was never enough.
Today’s reading is such a beautiful chunk of Scripture about our one, true God. Our actually and legitimately worthy of praise God. Our Creator is the only being who genuinely has the right to demonstrate His goodness and perfection in the sight of all. We tend to strive to secure a worthiness that always feels false. But He is worthy.
I loved reading what God says to the house of Judah in today’s passage. “Go and serve your idols….But afterward you will surely listen to me…” (Ezekiel 20:39). And then, He tells the people, “I will demonstrate my holiness through you in the sight of the nations” (v.41). I may not have known it back in high school when I was doing my best God impression, but His Spirit was patiently and compassionately pursuing me, the way He did with the people of Judah thousands of years ago. He was loving me, in my exhaustion, toward the realization that He alone could satisfy.
In Ezekiel 20:42, God says, “…When I lead you into the land of Israel, the land I swore to give your ancestors, you will know that I am the LORD….”
Even though He was speaking to the exiled people, we see His character here, and we see how He deals with us and our own idolatry. We often spend time chasing our own desires and we end up empty. But God keeps His promises, despite our wanderings and failures. He leads us to the promised land, because He is a promise keeper! For those of us who accept the finished work of His Son, that “promised land” can be found anywhere on the map of this so-obviously-broken world.
Years after the prophet Ezekiel had come and gone, Jesus left heaven and came to this world, “suffer[ing] for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring [us] to God…” (1Peter 3:18–21).
We, too, have failed at being holy. We, like them, turned from worshiping Him to worshiping other things—ridiculous things like cheerleading and careers and compliments. But, God, in His mercy, has made a way for us to be restored. During this Lenten season we are reminded that He makes spiritually dead people abundantly alive through the extravagant and sacrificial love of His only Son, the only One worthy of praise.