This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant. And in the midst of our study, I asked some important questions:
What do the visions have to do with me? What does this story have to do with me? I am not a part of Israel, nor am I a part of the Old Covenant, with all its stipulations and requirements. I live in the age of Jesus. I live in the age of grace. I live under the New Covenant!
That’s true. Hallelujah, that’s true. But this is also true—while the covenant we live under is a new covenant, it is still a covenant. And while that covenant may be new, the metaphor of marriage has remained the same. The Apostle Paul used it when he described what it means to be a part of the New Covenant people of God, when he was teaching about marriage. He says in Ephesians that this great thing, marriage between a man and a wife is a great mystery, and “I am saying it refers to Christ and the church.”
Do you see? We are still a bride, and God is still a bridegroom. And being a disciple means we have made a covenant, and there are stipulations, and we have to keep them. Our great Bridegroom himself said that to keep his commandments was a sign of and how we would abide in his love (John 15). And his closest friend and disciple, John, would later write that to love God was to keep his commandments, and they they were not burdensome (1 John).
And just like those to whom Ezekiel spoke, there are consequences when we break the covenant, when we stray from our vows, and sin against our heavenly spouse. In other words, when we willingly enter our own “graves of exile” (Ezekiel 37:12) from which we need to be rescued and reanimated by the Spirit of Grace.
As God’s people through belief in Jesus, this identity as a bride unites us all as one. And yet, at any given moment, we find ourselves in varying places on the spectrum of obedience to our covenant vows, as disciples of our great Bridegroom. It may be that you are a Delighted Disciple, or a Dry Disciple, or a Denying Disciple, or a Deceptive Disciple, or a Despairing Disciple. And Ezekiel and his prophetic pronouncements hold out answers and hope to each and every one of those disciples.
Maybe you can identify with one (or a few) of those categories of disciple. If you’d like to know more about how Ezekiel functions as a source of hope for such disciples seeking to remain faithful to Jesus, I invite you to watch or listen to the sermon on Ezekiel. And if you’d like to study the book beyond merely the sermon, head on over to the Ezekiel page at the Bible Project, where they have videos, blog posts, and suggested resources to assist you in your quest.
This coming Sunday, we will enter into the world of the “Return from the Exile” as we continue in The Whole Story. A great way to prepare would be to read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
See you Sunday!
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