|Photo by Hunta1, courtesy|
Sometimes the synonyms we find for passion, like zeal, fervor, fervent, enthusiastic, etc. refer to God's desire for our hearts, His excitement with our lives, or His heartbreak over our childish behavior. Other times, it refers to his determination not to let us go on forever in willful sin, throwing away our future, and our hope.
Let me illustrate: We spent a recent Sunday at Calvary Memorial Church, in Gering, NE and the Pastor said something that really tied up some loose ends for me. He said the history of Israel can be summed up in a cycle of three words: calling, compromising, and chastening.
Israel was meant to be a light for the rest of the world; set apart to point others to God. They were the first called. Unfortunately, the people struggled with being in, but not of, the world around them. Sound familiar?
They always started out loving God, being grateful for the last time He got them out of hot water; but sure enough over time, the Israelites slowly lost their passion for God and began sinking into the culture around them, to the point of taking on their evil practices of idol worship and human sacrifice.
They began to compromise, just a little at first, just leaving up one or two idols, just small acts of disobedience, (look, nothing happened, see, God doesn't even know what we are doing) then more and more, until the Israelite was unrecognizable from the people around him.
God gave them some rope, often for centuries, giving the people prophets to first plead with their hearts to return to God, then to offer dire warnings of what was coming down the pike if the Israelites didn't repent. Finally, to announce the consequences, the chastening, of refusing to obey.
It's tough love at its, toughest. You're a parent, right? Or a child. Think of it as a monumental count of "1 . . . . 2 . . . don't let me get to three young man . . . OK, have it your way, 3."
Read Ezekiel 5:13-15.
13 “Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath on them, they will know that I the LORD have spoken in my zeal.
14 “I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. 15 You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I the LORD have spoken. NIV
This is one of those "3" moments when no matter what God did or said, the Israelites just weren't going to listen. They were depraved, doing vile and disgusting things inside the very temple of God, from sexual acts to child sacrifice. Hard to believe, isn't it? It's hard to believe anyone could fall so far. Yet, they did.
God had warned them and warned them, and the Israelites, chosen or not, were so mired in their evil desires that a major shake up was the only thing going to get them out of their own mess. They were in love with their own depravity.
Sometimes my husband and I read parts of the Old Testament and just want to scratch our heads at the stubbornness of this people. I mean, we're thinking, if God led me out of captivity with a pillar of fire at night, and a pillar of cloud during the day, fed me with manna, then meat, and made water come out of the rocks, I wouldn't need a sign every five minutes to follow him! Nor would I need to be told more than once that I was getting off track, right?
Or would I?
How often do I question God's attention to the details of my life when things are not turning out my way? How often do you?
Now, think about this: How much pleasure do you think Satan gets out of leading the called, the chosen ones, the light of the world, into compromise, even depravity?
Nearly every year some story breaks (substantiated or not) about a Protestant or Catholic leader involved in sexual impropriety on church property. Now in relation to the rest of the world, it's likely an extremely small percentage of the population, but it sure gets headlines, doesn't it? And why? Because these are some of the called.
If Satan can convince you that no one, no one, is sincere about their faith, then how easy do you think it will be to get you to start crossing your own line? Not a big line. Just a tiny, inconsequential one . . . at first.
Do you think the Israelites, or Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, or countless Catholic priests, do you think they woke up one day and said, "today I will defile God's temple, or today I will take advantage of the trust of a child?" . . . or do you think a series of small compromises led to a completely distorted sense of right and wrong?
Understanding the cycle of calling, compromising, and chastening might clear up a few things in our lives, what do you think?
So, where are you in your faith right now? Ask yourself honestly. Are you being called? Are you compromising? Are you being chastened?
If you are being called, what is your response?
If you are compromising, this is your chance to re-evaluate on your knees, asking God to help you before things go all to pot.
If you are being chastened, are you going to thumb your nose, or welcome a wake up call? We don't waste our time chastening people we don't care about. It's the ones we love that we don't give up on, no matter what. It's those we invest our energy in, calling, and even chastening when needed.
God loves you. He will call you, and after giving you enough time to have it your own way and really get yourself turned in a knot if that's what you insist on doing, He will finally chasten you.
Where are you? What's your response?
Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for refusing to let me stay in depravity! Help me to listen to your voice and see the beginning of compromise before it's too late. Help me to see Satan's plan to undermine my joy, my light, my calling and instead give me ears to hear Your call, and a spirit to obey. In Your name, amen.