Summary: Pentecost 7: The condition of humanity is depravity - unrighteousness before God. Even though this is grievous to God, He nevertheless calls us to repentance through his Word and the Cross.
Yesterday Sofi and I watched an old Joan Crawford movie on TV. The movie was named Mildred Pierce. It tells the story of a woman who wanted to give her two girls everything that she never had. And so she worked her fingers to the bone to make extra money so that she could afford a piano and singing lessons and new clothes for the children. This myopic devotion to giving her children things cost the woman very much. And even though she experienced great success, she paid the price by losing her marriage, by being taken advantage of by a variety of men who were more interested in her money than in her.
Things got worse for Mildred Pierce. But the real tragedy what happened to her oldest daughter, Veda. Even though the mother gave Veda everything that money could buy, the daughter grew to become a young woman who hated her mother. She became a completely materialistic human being who had no use for those who loved her. She was a user. Veda despised the fact that her mom had had to work as waitress and as a baker. She told her mom that she smelled like grease. Veda thought that mom was too much of a commoner and unworthy of for company. But mom continues to try to win her does everything that she can to win her daughter back – even going deeply into debt to acquire a huge estate. She even marries a cad that the daughter held in high esteem. But to no avail – the daughter continued to reject her mother. Eventually, this daughter even had an affair with the cad that her mom married.
This movie has a tragic story-line doesn’t it? One can hardly imagine that humanity can sink to the depths that this picture portrays. Is it possible that people can be so ungrateful that they would reject those who want nothing but to love them? Is it possible that people could be so self-consumed and selfish that they would despise those who’ve sacrificed for them? Those questions are what we will deal with today.
We begin our consideration of this topic by reading the words of Ezekiel – an Old Testament Prophet called to serve people that have, at a minimum, taken the Lord for granted, and at worst, have outright rejected and rebelled against God. Let’s read the words of the Old Testament Lesson together: [read Ezekiel 2:1-5]
“Go,” God tells Ezekiel, “Go to these Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me.” The original language says this in a way that would bring shock to the original hearers. Gods words are literally, “I send you to the people, to nations of rebels who have rebelled against me.” The contrast here says to the hearers, “Your rebellions have made you like the gentile nations. You are outside of my covenant. Your idolatry and rebellion have splintered the unity of the nation and you are no better than the pagan nations surrounding you.”
Wow! The Lord was sending a powerful message to the rebellious people. First, they clearly see that they have been ungrateful. Here is their God – who went to great lengths to carve out for Himself a people through whom to bring the Messiah – to preserve the witness of the Living God – the Creator – among all the nations of the world. But like the daughter in the movie, Veda, the temptations of materialism and the desire for things other than what God offered them cost them the dearest relationship they had – the one with their God. The people were unfaithful, and they continually had affairs with other gods.
And so Ezekiel is sent on the mission of bringing the people back. God Tells him to let them know how far they’ve strayed and the danger in which they find themselves. The work of the prophet is to be like a scalpel that is used to cut away the rottenness in order to allow the body to heal. But the Lord knows that this won’t be an easy job. There will be those who hear the message and reject it. They will literally try to kill the messenger. Nevertheless, God wants the people to avoid the destruction that their rebellion will ultimately work. And so He tells Ezekiel in the last verse of our text and in the two that follow: “And whether they listen or fail to listen - for they are a rebellious house - they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” (Ezekiel 2:5-7)