October 11, 2015

Face God now? Or Eventually?

Ezekiel 23:1–49, Revelation 11:1–14, Job 35:9–16

A friend once said to me, “I don’t know why people think it is difficult to believe that Jesus died for the sin of the world. I don’t have a problem with that.”

I replied, “But what about your sin?”

There was a long pause, and he said, “Oh, I see what you mean.”

Human nature has not changed. Sin-filled people do not what to hear about it, even try to hide from hearing the truth. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid in the garden trying to escape God. We all do it, one way or another.

Today’s reading in the OT describes the sin of God’s people in graphic terms. The metaphors make me blush. Near the end of these descriptions, God says to Ezekiel, “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. With their idols they have committed adultery, and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. Moreover, this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my Sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children in sacrifice to their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. And behold, this is what they did in my house.” (Ezekiel 23:36–39)

A few verses later, God repeats how He will use their enemies to punish them. He says, “And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 23:49)

We don’t want to see our sin, and we don’t want to go face to face with the Living God. However, as this chapter describe, all who we resist God in this life, we will meet Him eventually.

Sometimes sinners will mask their resistance to God. They seem okay on the outside, even have a pious exterior. Job’s young ‘friend’ Elihu knew about those people. He said, “There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it.” (Job 35:12–13)

He spoke the truth about the way pride keeps us from a two-way relationship with God and how prideful prayers bounce off the ceiling. Yet Elihu erred by accusing Job of being one of those people: “Job opens his mouth in empty talk; he multiplies words without knowledge.” (Job 35:16)

Job may have been without understanding concerning God’s reason behind his suffering, yet God eventually said that Job spoke “what is right” so his words were not empty talk. He trusted God and spoke directly to Him. He was not afraid to let God examine his life or hear his innermost thoughts and fears. Job had not rejected God, even when he felt that God had turned away from him.

Sinners might think that God isn’t looking and He does not care about what they do, but the Bible is filled with descriptions of how God deals with those who reject Him. Even at the end, He speaks of those who mock the people who serve Him. He tells John (who wrote Revelation), “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:1–3)

In those final and terrible days, it seems sensible that everyone would turn to God and His people for help. Instead, God continues to describe the attitude of godless people. In this case, it is their attitude toward His two witnesses: “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 11:7–10)

Three and a half days later, God put life into those two. “They stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here!’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:11–13)

A witness is someone who describes what they have seen. These witnesses told people about God, and to do that, they had to know Him, not run away from Him. Turning from sin and facing the Lord means admitting sin and being honest with God. This is unpleasant at best, but the result is far better than the alternative, for the mockers die and the faithful witnesses live with God forever.

No comments: