“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will defile my Temple, the source of your security and pride, the place your heart delights in. Your sons and daughters whom you left behind in Judea will be slaughtered by the sword.” (Ezekiel 24:21)
Even though the Israelites were in captivity, their identity was that they were God’s people, the temple was the symbol of who they were. It’s just like we as Christians today can say we are Christians, even though we don’t live like Christians — that is our identity.
The Israelites held onto the thought that they would be able to go back to Jerusalem and the temple. But God took that comfort away, the “source of their security and pride.” He took away their illusions of somehow still being right with God. He took away their back door, that they could procrastinate, and always come back to him later. There would be no Jerusalem. There would be no temple.
Today as I was praying I thought, “I only have a brief time, a short window before someone I love becomes ill or passes away, or before I become ill or pass away. Then that situation will dominate my life. This time of relatively carefree living is limited.”
Contrast this with what the Israelites thought: “I can always repent tomorrow.” God made it so there was no tomorrow for them to repent.
I watched a well produced video yesterday showing real people giving advice to their 16 year old self. They had some humorous advice, but the real message was that they shouldn’t seek that ultimate tan, or they were going to get bad sunburns and later develop skin cancer. And this skin cancer wasn’t treated by just removing a spot. They would have horrendously long chemotherapy treatments.
What advice would I give my 16 year old self? My 26 year old self? My 36 or 46 year old self? I think I would say, “All those things you’re running after aren’t worth it. The popularity, the partying, the achievement, trying to be perfect — it’s not worth it. Seek and invest in what is really meaningful.”
What advice would my future self give me today? What choices might I regret in later years? What choices will I never regret?
So what did I do after I wrote this? Did I go and rescue a homeless person? No, I fixed up my bedroom, put up some cool new prints of pictures I took at the beach, dusted off the ceiling fan and got rid of all the clutter. “How materialistic!” I thought. “Maybe I’m not getting the point.”
But then I through about the importance of living in a good environment. They say people are happier when they make their bed in the morning. My decluttered and spiffed up bedroom reflects a good state of mind! There have been periods of my life when I couldn’t bring myself to dust, much less fix something up. Dwelling on our material surroundings may not be healthy, basing our happiness on our material state may not be healthy, but fixing up a room can be a celebration of God!
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Ps 90:12
This morning, in the uncanny way God works, I randomly chose a sermon by Francis Chan to listen to, and it was about how short life can be. Francis talked about a man who preached that you could die at any time, and then he died. There may not be a second chance to make things right with God.
Then he discussed what it is going to be like when we face God one day upon our death. Chan said, “Is there anything more important in your life than hearing God say the words, ‘Well done,’ when you get to heaven?” That puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?
Bowing and trembling before the fearsome majesty of God, and hearing Him say, “Well done.” Wow.
Can he say that to me? I know by grace He can and will, but I think of the state of my heart, and the things I’ve done and thought this week, and I just go, “Wow. I’m ashamed. I don’t deserve that.” But it is the most refreshing and comforting thing in the world to think He could say that to me.
Hamilton did a lesson last night at church on self control. He said part of the way we build up self control is to write a list of every verse that will help us in an area, and then read that list every day, until it is internalized and it helps us get where we need to go. That is what I need to do. There are some things that I need to work on so that I can hear God say, “Well done.” I will never deserve to hear those words. I will never get all the way there. But I can get better.
Going back to the verse I started this blog with, what is the source of my security and pride? Let me put my confidence in the most solid things. Time is short. What is really meaningful? How do I make each moment count? What do I need to do better?
Let me lay down the refuse of my self pleasing, my desire for recognition, my expectations, the desire to look good. Let me instead get on my knees, with my face to the ground, and let Him make me into the person to whom He will say, “Well done.”