OT: Ezekiel 23:1-49
Well. Today we have another one of those "thirty year old" sections, so I'm not old enough to talk about it:).
I will say that as I was reading, I thought, "I see the point, but why is all this disgusting stuff coming out of God's mouth? Wouldn't there be a better way to make this point?" And then it hit me: God is not above using shock value.
There is a famous example of a preacher (I believe it was Tony Campolo) who used shock value. In a sermon before a large audience, he stood up and announced, "Three million people starved to death in Africa yesterday, and you people don't give a s--- about it." (I just made that number up, but he was obviously quoting a statistic.) His next sentence was, "And what's worse, you are more upset that I just said s--- in church than that three million people starved in Africa."
Now, I personally think I might have been more offended that he assumed I didn't "give a s--- about it" than the actual word. That said, I would have been offended by the word, and in the moment, his second sentence would have been true of me. I felt offended by the word just in hearing the example. It's kind of like God's vivid sexual descriptions in Ezekiel; there's a big part of you that says, "This is just uncalled for!" And yet, what's worse--the fact that God is using crude language or the fact that people are sacrificing their children in the fire? Disgusting imagery or direct rebellion? That's the benefit of using shock value to moral ends. The shock that you feel at the example reminds you of the shock you should be feeling about the tragedy itself.
NT: Hebrews 10:18-39
We get two very different sides of a coin in this reading. On the one side, we see the amazing benefits of having such a powerful high priest and of being covered with such a perfect sacrifice. As verse 22 says, we can now "draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water" (23). Yay! I love the fact that we can draw near to God with a clear conscience.
But lest we get too cocky and self-assured, verses 26-31 urge us NOT. to. take. Christ's. blood. for. granted. These might just be the most frightening verses for Christians, because they really do seem to describe post-conversion behavior. With many of the other stern warnings against sin, you can think, "Well, Christ's blood covers that. We aren't perfect, but we are saved through grace." But you get to these verses and it's like a slap in the face. Yes, we are saved by grace, but we cannot take God's grace for granted. It reminds me of Galatians 6:7, which warns us not to be deceived: "God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." When our lives as Christians make a mockery of Christ's death, I do believe that there is going to be some unpleasant reaping going on.
I have always wondered, though, whether this section really is post-conversion or not. It specifically talks about deliberately continuing to sin after receiving "knowledge of the truth." Maybe it is referring to those who hear the truth, but reject it outright, instead of accepting it. It compares this attitude to rejecting the law of Moses in verse 28, so maybe there is something to that interpretation. Regardless, I always take it as a stern warning to check myself. Do I deliberately keep on sinning? I mean, I sin every day, but is it a deliberate pattern? It's worth pondering.
David isn't feeling particularly merciful in today's psalm, which continues the theme of impending punishment that we found in both the OT and NT readings. Not the cheeriest of themes.
This proverb sounds familiar, but I'm not sure enough about the practices to which it refers to really understand what it is saying.