Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. (Ezek 16)
This is a summation of the what God considers despicable.
Arrogance: Thinking more of ourselves than we ought. Thinking we know better than God. Thinking we are better than others. Thinking we are right and everyone else is wrong.
Overfed: Having an excess of food while others go hungry.
Unconcerned: Prosperous ease, laziness, abundance of idleness, comfortable security, carefree ease
A summary of this indictment: Only thinking of self and comfort, egocentric to the point of ignoring others needs.
Although Sodom did all of these things, Israel did them even more. The Israelites, in following their own ways, made a complete sordid mess out of their lives. We read on in Ezekiel 16.
“ ‘I am filled with fury against you, declares the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute! …. I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. 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…. Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.’ ” (Excerpts from Ezekiel 16)
Just as He did for the Israelites, God made atonement for all of the vile, destestable outrageously unfaithful things we did. Because of this, we should be ashamed, humbled. We did wrong, got ourselves in a mess that was entirely our fault, but God provided a way out even though we didn’t deserve it. I need to be ashamed of the mess my life was at one time, and that God was the “cleanser of the mess I made.” How embarrassing would it be if someone cleaned up my vomit after I got drunk? This is so much more humiliating.
And more than that, because Jesus cleaned up the mess I made of my life, I need to “never again open my mouth.” My goal needs to be that I will never sin again.
When Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman, he told this story: Two men were in debt to a moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other 50. When they couldn’t pay it back, he generously canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the larger debt canceled.” Jesus told him, “You have answered correctly.” (Luke 7:41-43)
The sinful woman knew what a revolting mess she had made of her life, yet Jesus wanted to be involved in her life to help her get rid of the mess. Because of his forgiveness, she anointed him, loved him, gave her very best.
“Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore” (Hebrews 13:11-13)
Under the Old Law, the animals that were the sin offerings, once the blood was offered as atonement, were to be taken outside and burned up. They were unclean because they bore the sin. Thus, as a sin offering, Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem. It was a horrible humiliating thing he endured to clean up our mess.
He went into the filthy pit in which we were stuck and rescued us by taking on our death as a lowly criminal, all the while surrounded by the sludge and pollution of our existence.
And today we embrace what he did. It is unspeakably dear to us. It defines our life. We resolve to know nothing but the cross. We take communion every week and it is an intimacy of dying with Jesus, remembering the shame he suffered for us, denouncing the arrogance and self-centeredness that caused it.
But there is one more challenge for us. We need to actually bear his disgrace. We need to take up our cross. This is the life we have chosen: to die to self, to die for others. It will not be about us, being overfed, seeking ease and comfort. It will be about living his life here on earth.
The only way we can live this life is to recognize the gruesome dimensions of what Jesus did, and make an informed choice to follow him.