Meditations for Troubled Times
Scattered or Sheltered
We continue in our “holding pattern” due to the COVID-19 virus, and it looks like we may still be a few weeks or more away from resuming our normal Sunday worship. We all miss the fellowship we enjoy on the Lord’s Day.
As we think about the spiritual implications of what may be happening with respect to this global virus, it might be profitable to review a familiar passage in Ezekiel 36 where the prophet describes what the Lord did to Israel as a result of their wholesale apostacy and turning away from him. Beginning in verse 16, the prophet says the LORD “scattered Israel among the nations.” Here is the explanation (verses 16-21):
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.”
This is seriously bad. But it did not end there. The Lord’s concern for his own glory led him to act, as described in the following verses (23-28):
“And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
What a passage! God delivered them from those things that took them captive. This principle applies equally to all his children, of course, even those currently segregated from family and friends while “sheltered in place.”
But now carefully notice the response of the onlookers (the people out in the world around them) in verses 33-36:
Thus says the Lord GOD: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
Of course, we’re not those who are guilty of apostacy and turning away from the Lord. And we’re not scattered.
BUT, MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT I;, God is at work in some way among the people of the world who have turned away from him. He purposes either to draw them to himself or bring judgment on disbelief and unfaithfulness.
BUT HE IS ALSO WORKING AMONG THE FAITHFUL. And the world is watching how we as believers react to the stress of all this. Please join me in these two points of prayer:
- Pray specifically that God would cause the “spiritually scattered” (the lost around us) to see that this international, global event evidences, at least in part, a judgment on godlessness in many, many cultures. Could the Lord be using this event to get the attention of the spiritually dead? Absolutely. Pray for a worldwide awakening!
- On the occasions when we have opportunity to interact with others, let Christ glorify his name in each of us as we show love and concern for those around us. Be patient. Don’t be grouchy. Don’t complain.
May God empower our “hearts of flesh” to be mindful of these things, and may he shelter us with his watchful hand.