Monday, 06 December 2010
Eat the food as you would a loaf of barley bread; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel.” The LORD said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.” Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.” “Very well,” he said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.” - Ezekiel 4
What's going on here?
God is showing the people of Jerusalem their future through Ezekiel, who will eat the worst kind of food in the worst way. The people of Jerusalem are going to be forced to do what Ezekiel is doing in order to survive.
In fact, God tells him to cook his food with human excrement, a clear violation of Old Testament law, which states that human excrement must be covered with earth and God tells him to cook his very food with it. Yet when Ezekiel protests saying that he has kept the law from his youth God relents and lets him use cow dung instead.
What does this tell us about God?
God, being the Creator of All and the embodiment of Good, cannot command anything against his nature. He cannot contradict Himself or command evil.
As we are told by Jesus "The man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath for man" (likewise, man was not made for the law, but the law for man, in particular, sinful man - 1 Timothy 1:9) and also that which "goes into the mouth does not defile a man," but what proceeds from our heart.
Yet Ezekiel's conscience is tormented at God's command. In some sense, Ezekiel is trying to be holier than God.
How often do we do the same?
With the intention of avoiding sexual immorality my wife and I, when we were dating, decided we were not going to kiss until the wedding. After a while, kissing became a stumbling block for our conscience. We wanted to kiss, but were so wrapped up in how we had decided not to that we missed the point. The point was to stay pure, not to stay "kissless."
Likewise, growing up in a more legalistic tradition I was told never to drink, smoke, or watch R-rated movies. I have since learned a bit about the perfect liberty of Christ, that the pleasures of His creation should be received with joy and thanksgiving. These rules attempt to make sure we follow certain commands from God, such as avoiding drunkenness or avoiding impure thoughts, but we often take them so far that we deprive ourselves of pleasures God has not deprived us of.
God does deprive us of pleasure from time to time to draw us closer to Himself and away from the passing things of this world, but depriving ourselves of pleasure for its own sake is akin to self-mutilation, and we all know what Paul had to say about that. So let us remember, "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
Can you think of a time when you were trying to be "holier than God"?