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Rockville, MD, 20850
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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 5/19/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

EZEKIEL 7:23B-27

  For the land is full of bloody crimes; 
          the city is full of violence. 
  I will bring the worst of the nations 
          to take possession of their houses. 
     I will put an end to the arrogance of the strong, 
          and their holy places shall be profaned. 
  When anguish comes, they will seek peace, 
          but there shall be none. 
Disaster comes upon disaster, 
          rumor follows rumor; 
     they shall keep seeking a vision from the prophet; 
          instruction shall perish from the priest, 
          and counsel from the elders. 
  The king shall mourn, 
          the prince shall be wrapped in despair, 
          and the hands of the people of the land shall tremble. 
     According to their way I will deal with them; 
          according to their own judgments I will judge them. 
And they shall know that I am the Lord.

No one needs to be a defender of God. The God of the Holy Scriptures will be Who He Will Be. A variant interpretation of YHWH is in fact "I Will Be Who I Will Be," in contrast to the more traditional rendering of "I Am That I Am."

Why am I starting this morning's devotional this way? I have a twofold reason: (1) passages such as Ezekiel 7:23B-27 clearly allude to God's judgments and (2) the overriding mood of today resists accepting God's judgments. Even a decade ago, the theological mood was different. God's Holiness, God's Wrath, God's Judgments were all pretty much accepted as Biblical truths. (I am talking within "evangelical" churches. The mainline denominations have always had a hard time accepting these Scriptural features of God for decades.) Within these more Biblically-based churches, however, the mood is clearly shifting. Some of the reasons for the mood swing is healthy -- e.g., moving away from an always angry, scary God who gets upset when people aren't following His rules. This caricature is not the God of the Bible. But other reasons are simply reflections of the general cultural change in the area of moral sensibilities -- sensibilities arising from the growing sensitivity to the rights of the LGBT community, the counter-reaction to negative-conservative politics, the awareness that religion in the news (militant Islam, fundamentalist picketing of soldiers' funerals by Westboro Baptist Church, etc.) is often portrayed as bigoted and hate-filled. We want to say to everyone, "Hey, the God of the Bible is not like that! He is nice and loving toward everyone!"

Books by various evangelical authors are coming to the rescue of the "true God" of the Bible. (A book worth reading actually is Bradley Jersak's 
A More Christlike God. Authors like Jersak have something important to say about the nature of the Biblical God.

What is important is to understand as much as we are able the nature of God as God is described in the Bible. The God we fashion -- or the God we would like to worship and follow -- can certainly be given shape by our own preferences. We can easily (and sadly do!) picture God as we want. If you don't like the notion of God's wrath, well, cut that portion out, like a surgeon does with a malignant tumor. If you don't like Jesus as the Judge who will administer the Last Judgment, edit that portion out of the movie. Jesus comes back with a warm smile and hugs for everyone. The End. If you don't like future conflicts and wars and rumors of wars as describe for the Last Days, delete this out too. Anything we don't like, we can simply do without. And unfortunately Christians have been doing this for quite awhile.

The harder thing but the more faithful thing is to wrestle with the Scriptures about God's nature and how the Triune God interacts with creation and human history. How does God respond to "bloody crimes," "violence," and "arrogance"? Does God not consider the awful things that are committed by fallen creatures? Is God blind and deaf to injustices around the world? Does God remain silent and indifferent to all the evil done under heaven? An unloving God would do nothing. An unholy God would not care about the ugly unholiness of how people treat one another. The God of the Bible is loving, the God of the Bible is holy. The Triune God is involved and is committed to righting wrongs and redeeming the broken. The God of the Scriptures is far more loving and holy than we could ever conceive. The God of religion can be precisely defined and characterized, but the God of the Scriptures is far more mysterious and hard to pin down. The God of the Scriptures will be Who He Will Be.

Let's pray: O Lord, in a day when people fashion you according to their own lights we repent of any willful and unwillful distortion we have of you. Help us to be honest and faithful to you as you are depicted in the Scriptures. Help us to be faithful to your statement that if we see you, we see the Father. Keep us humble and hungry to grow in our knowledge of you. And in that place of deeper knowledge, may our worship of you grow as well. In Your Name, Amen.