Lesson #1: Only Holiness brings Hope
"It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name… so that the nations will know that I am the Lord." (Ezekiel 36:22)
The prophet Ezekiel sat with God’s people as their most precious city of Jerusalem was destroyed. What?! The city they’d built for God to dwell on earth, from which God’s blessing would flow to the ends of the earth. The one thing they thought secure – eternally – has gone. When Ezekiel describes the glory of God departing the temple, feel the axis of their world collapsing. Their hopes lie in dust and ashes. And amidst the rubble the symbolism is clear: God is on the move, ‘for the sake of my holy name’. That’s a constant refrain in the book of Ezekiel.
The prophet doesn’t pull his punches: exile is a sign of God’s judgement because the people have abandoned God’s holiness. Holiness is that utterly unique aspect of God’s character that encompasses beauty and splendour and transcendence rolled into one. It can’t be contained… in a building… it’s uncontainable! Of course God’s power and perfection is on the move, with magnetic irresistibility longing to draw us close, longing to envelope us in full belonging and total acceptance, longing release us from failure, from all that we’ve messed up by our sin. Ultimately it’s God’s holiness that holds us secure.
Instinct brings us to fear God’s holiness because we are not holy. Yet the first lesson of exile is that God’s holiness brings hope. Only God’s holiness brings hope.
I don’t know the rubble of your life, or what security may be crumbling: but will you allow God’s holiness to draw you close, and free you from sin that clings so tight and hold you secure under the everlasting wings
For the Old Testament people it took exile: total disruption with every prop gone and no choice but to come empty-handed, on their knees. But among the lessons and surprises was the joy of discovering that God’s holiness brings hope. Indeed, in the end, only God’s holiness brings hope.
"A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to observe all my ordinances… you shall be my people and I will be your God" (Ezekiel 36: 26-28)