Sunday, December 26, 2010

The LORD and the Wife

I needed to read the passage of Ezekiel 16 in order to find context for some verses I was invited to recite. I was supposed to read the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation, but stumbled across the New International Version (NIV) first. Both had something unique to bring to my understanding (and each link directs you to its rendition of the passage). Wow. It's passages like these that leave me with in firm agreement that if it was not for the fact that the Bible is the basis of Christian faith, it's one of the books many would be trying to get taken off of the shelves. Its content is not tame.

The story of the adulterous wife...and some renditions are more graphic than others. And yet - I find it to be such a depiction of the Gospel message. Through Israel's example, it sets up the unmerited love of God; our vile, sinful rebellion (in shades that we would not otherwise like to admit); and God's merited wrath at such unfaithfulness. The problem of sin is clearly set up. God's pain is evident. His broken heart is there. And yet, in the face of Him promising the consequences of such actions (His wrath), He still offers restoration at the end.

Again, the heartbeat of His love carries through. He promises in verse 60, "Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you" (NIV). God, in the image of the betrayed husband, offers to His wife more than any human could ever offer considering the magnitude of betrayal.

The passage ends with Him describing the new relationship in verses 62-63, "'Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,' the Lord GOD declares" (NASB).

Pause for a moment and let that sink in.

This passage is directed at the nation of Israel, but we can still learn from it and see how it points to the cross. Just as Israel fell short and was unfaithful in the covenant with God, so we as indivuals also rebel. Pride fills us individually (and as a society). We are good. We are beautiful. We are young. We are strong. We don't need God. We can do it on our own. least, that's what we often wish to believe. We work harder and harder to convince ourselves that these things are true, and our frenzy consumes us. And when we are faced with the truth about our character, it can be devastating. This is true of ME. This is true of YOU.

Yet, God speaks of a covenant. Looking at the covenants in scripture, they became more inclusive and more one-sided as God offered then on the contingency of His own faithfulness (rather than ours). Ezekiel 6:60 promises an eternal covenant. Through Christ, his (innocent) death on the cross (for our sins), and his resurrection, that covenant offers redemption to the unfaithful. The humiliation spoken of is not one of vindiction. I think it is merely the recognition of realizing the depth of the depravity that we were saved from. We no longer boast in our own goodness, because we realize that our goodness is there because of God.

The cost to God was unimaginable to us. In the face of the heartache at being rejected, betrayed, and stolen from, He then gave more of Himself - to the point of a sacrificial death on the cross - in order to bring about a restoration of the unfaithful. This is true of me. This is true of you. And that love is what saves us from destruction when we have our masks pealed back so that we might see how bad off we really are. The strength of God's love rescues us from being crushed beneath the weight of our sin.

I don't understand that kind of love. I mean, I cannot fully comprehend it. But it is my prayer that I come to understand it more.

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only son
To make a wretch His treasure

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Hug and a Kiss

At the end of this night, I have to tip my hat to a holiday that I love so much. Yes, "cynics" are right when they say that Christmas has been smeared with commercialism, consumerism, watered down to mean nothing more than "magic and childlike happiness," over-produced and under-enjoyed (and I have to admit that there are times when I get caught up in that)...but my heart is captured by the meaning and purpose of Christmas. I find Christ in Christmas. The wonder and love of a God who would miraculously send His son to earth does not escape me.

I've heard it said by some that Christmas is a lesser holiday compared to Easter when considering theological importance. However, I disagree. Christ's death on the cross, burial, and resurrection from/conquering over death was crucial, I agree. Yet, on the day of Christ's birth he started on that physical, linear, time-lined path to the Cross. I don't really see one holiday (holy day) as more important than the other. I see them as intermingled. Both were actions of love that stand out as markers on the Christian calendar.

Christmas was the embrace that led to the kiss of Easter.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Created Beauty" - from The Beauty of God

I'm currently reading a book given to me, called The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts. It's a series of essays and the first one is entitled, "Created Beauty," by Jeremy Begbie. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

"The deity celebrated in Christian faith is not an undifferentiated monad or blank "Absence," but a triunity of inexhaustible love and life, active and present to the world as triune and never more intensively than in the saving life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. " (Begbie; p. 21)

"We are not overpowered by God as a sublime truth; we are romanced by God as pure beauty." (Rosty Reno, quoted by Begbie; p. 24)

"...a theological account of created beauty will speak of creation as testifying to God's beauty, but in its own distinctive ways. Much here turns on doing full justice to a double grain in Scripture's witness: the Creator's faithful commitment to the cosmos he has made, and his commitment to the cosmos in its otherness. Creation testifies to God's beauty, but in its own ways; or better: God testifies to his own beauty through creation's own beauty." (Begbie; p. 25)

"The vision is rather of the artist, as physical and embodied, set in the midst of a God-given world vibrant with a dynamic beauty of its own, not simply "there" like a brute fact to be escaped or violently abused but there as a gift from a God of overflowing beauty, a gift for us to interact with vigorously, shape and reshape, form and transform, and in this way fashion something as consistent and dazzlingly novel as the Goldberg Variations, art that can anticipate the beauty previewed and promised in Jesus Christ." (Begbie, p. 44)

*I think I will update this with more quotes as I continue to read the rest of essays in the book.*