My wife and I have recently started to read through the book of Ezekiel. Coincidentally, the chunk of scripture that we decided to chew on a couple of nights ago were chapters 5-7. Those chapters may or may not immediately jump out as significant to you, but as I was reading them aloud and at length, letting my voice take on the tone of the proclamation, it became clear why Pulp Fiction decided to borrow from Ezekiel when it decided to fabricate a bible verse. You could have your pick of dour single word summaries of those chapters, but my mind settled on the word “wrath”.
In our discussion of these chapters, 2 Timothy 3:16 came up as well, and it came up in this context;
In what way is this extended passage of judgement and great anger profitable to us?
I’m sure that we could drill down into individual verses and passages and come away with many valuable lessons on who God is, who we are, what is pleasing to God, mostly what is not so much pleasing to him, but the one great takeaway from all of this for me is just how great God’s love for us is.
It is often difficult for some to reconcile all of the judgement, fury and wrath that is rightly attributed to God in our Old Testament with the person of Jesus as described in the New Testament.
First, on somewhat of a tangent, try reading aloud those chapters from Ezekiel right alongside Jesus’s “woes to the Pharisees” and tell me that they are not being spoken with the same voice. Secondly, and more importantly, is that Jesus is the vehicle of the love that seeks to cover all of that justified wrath.
I can see love in the words of a wrathful God who is telling his people that they will know that “I am the Lord” when they feel that wrath because I know the one who took that very wrath that was intended to fall on me upon himself.
Read those chapters. Hear the way that God felt about the people that he had called to bear his name. Know that those feelings would more or less be directed just as furiously at us in the absence of the person and works of Jesus Christ. Also, know that you don’t have to dwell there very long because you are NOT in the absence of those realities of the Christ.
We may serve a God who uttered these words;
“I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon them.” [Ezekiel 25:17]
But he also said this;
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” [John 15:13]
Paul goes a step further in talking about how Jesus laid down his life for us.
“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” [Romans 5:7-9]
Take that “while we were still sinners” and contemplate the judgement that we see described toward Israel in the prophets and elsewhere. While we were still those whose God’s judgement desired to smite off the face of the earth Christ died for us. Picture the flood. While we were still those that God needed a rainbow in the heavens to be reminded not to drown, Christ died for us.
Ezekiel contains many “they will know that I am the Lord” statements, pretty much all of them declarations of wrath. These are the words that he spoke to his people through his prophet, “but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son…” [Hebrews 1:2]
Because of the life of the Son, the death of the Son, the resurrection of the Son, the words of condemnation and judgement spoken through the prophets are no longer our words. We have new words, spoken by the Son.
These come to mind;
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” [John 10:10-11]
I can be thankful for those former words because they enlarge my gratitude for the latter, and there is hardly a more profitable lesson for the scriptures to teach.