I’ve spent a lot of time reading the major prophets lately and this morning was Ezekiel 22 – a pretty heavy chapter in many ways describing Israel and Judah by the vivid imagery of two prostitute sisters.
The language is graphic and the content X rated. But the analogy it is making seems timeless.
I was somehow under the impression that the pre-exile period was possibly the darkest time in the history of God’s people, but the more I have read and reflected the more it seems to mirror much of our own behaviour as the church today.
Are we really that much better at listening to and following Jesus than they were at following Yahweh? I’m not sure we are.
If idolatry, injustice and rejection of the sabbath were core to their rebellion then it’s hard to see ourselves as virtuous – certainly no more virtuous than those Hebrew people were.
I have beaten the drum about this before so I won’t labour it, but while we may not have Baal & the like today, our idols are the holy trinity of career, family and home ownership and interestingly they are all intertwined, but also in tension.
The curse of ‘aspirational living’ is so foundational to the western worldview that we don’t even realise we are worshiping at the altar of these 3. But ask any parent what they hope for their children and after ‘happiness’, (an interesting desire also) it will be career success, a happy family and to own their own home.
I don’t think Jesus is opposed to any of these per se, but if he were asked the same question I seriously doubt he would answer the same way. I imagine he would come back with a question – something like; ‘what would the kingdom of God look like if it were to take shape in your children’s lives?’
We may not sacrifice our children to Molech, but we so easily give them over to the Gods of our own culture in the hope that they will be ‘blessed with success and affluence’.
If these are our idols then our injustice surely shows up in believing we are doing it tough while having one of the highest standard of living in the world. And because we feel we are poor we lack generosity – or if we give it’s a token rather than a sacrifice. As a nation our commitment to overseas aid is laughable but of course it reflects our national psyche – to ‘look after our own’ first. And as for the reffos… well they can stay locked up until they are willing to go home. Justice ain’t our strong suit.
Then of course the idea of sabbath keeping (in principle) cannot be taken seriously while aspirational living rules the imagination.
Exile was the circuit breaker for the Hebrew people – a period of devastation where they were forced to recalibrate their identity in light of their new situation. They had to re examine their calling as a people and then consider realigning themselves with Yahweh and his plans.
I’ve heard it said that if God doesn’t do something about the immorality of the western world then he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. In the vein of that sentiment I get the sense that we must be pushing the boundaries of his tolerance as a church awash with idolatry, injustice and compulsive busyness.
But we are the frogs in the hot water not realising that one day it will boil.
Analogies aside (as they are limited in their application) the human condition just doesn’t seem to change.
Whatever sophistication we may have as a society does not make us wiser and better at avoiding perennial stumbling blocks.
We are just blind to our own compromises and give ourselves a free pass on the the stuff that Jesus would consider beyond the pale.
And to make it worse, the system in which we live almost makes it impossible to live differently. I have spoken to many friends about working part time to create space in life, but that is easier said than done for most.
But there must be those who live differently and who call out in others the counter cultural spirit that is the at the heart of the gospel and the Kingdom of God.