Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ezekiel 16

I read a story yesterday—a story sad, wonderful, and all too true.

There was a man walking in a field alone when he heard a pitiful sound. It was the sound of newborn baby. The man stopped and stared. This child, a girl, had been born moments ago it appeared. But no one was around. The child had been delivered and cast, unwanted, into a vacant field to die in her blood. The man decided to give the child life. He took the girl away from the field and saw to it that she was able to live.

Many years later, the man encountered this girl, now a woman, again. She had grown up, but her appearance remained undesirable. She lived in poverty with no hope of advancement in life. But the man had other plans for this woman. Though she had nothing to commend herself, he took her as his wife and clothed her in the finest of apparel and gave her many jewels and ornaments of love. Silver and gold, rubies and diamonds adorned the once neglected and bloody body. You see, this man was the king. He had unlimited resources at his disposal for honoring his beloved. And she was honored above all other women in the kingdom. Clothed in the finery of royalty, she possessed a beauty unrivaled by any. She began to notice the admiring looks of many others besides her king.

How wonderful to be sought after! She began at first to try to attract the attention of passing men. When she met with success in this venture, she was spurred on to greater and greater improprieties, until, at last, she was not content to live in the palace with her husband and king. She preferred the company of the worthless and vile. She drank in their adoration and bawdy professions of infatuation. She disregarded the king’s attempts to draw her back to her home.

Messengers were dispatched from the palace. “My lady, our gracious and kind king requests that you reject the lovers whom you are now pursuing. Return to your husband and he will receive you again.”

But the messengers returned to the king bewildered. “My lord, she will not come. She loves her liaisons too much to return to your care. My lord. I shrink from describing to you her debauched condition. She plays the harlot with anyone who will have her. Nothing is too low for her to engage in. My lord, it is not as though she has need of provisions and thereby must sell herself. You have promised to provide all she needs and more. And she takes no money. No, my king. She—my lord, how shall I tell you? She takes nothing from them but rather bribes her lovers to come to her. It is your silver and your gold she gives away in this fashion. Your majesty, will, I suppose, reject her from being queen. She will, no doubt be destroyed as many others who have not done as much.”

The covenant stood. The king had made her a promise. Go again. Warn her of the end of her ways!

“My lady?”
“What do you want?”
“My lady, you are transgressing against your king. Shall he not destroy you?”
“The king has said nothing.”
“Nothing, my lady? He sends again and again to urge you to return, to warn you of your impending destruction! Has he not cut off many others whose wickedness did not exceed your own?”
And with a toss of her head and short laugh, the queen dismissed the warning, “I am the chosen of the king. He could not destroy me. He will not. I will go on just as I am. If he wishes me to stop, he must stop me.”

Time passed. Messengers spoke again and again to the queen. They returned every time with heavy hearts to report still more atrocities.
“My lord? The queen—I cannot continue.” His voice broke into sobs.
Another spoke up, “She bore you a son, your majesty. The child was rightfully yours.”
“Yes, was!” began a third, more vehemently than the other two. “The wicked woman you loved and honored so has slain your child. With her own hands she has sacrificed him to her gods.”
“At the urging of her lovers,” was the heartbroken conclusion.

The messengers knew the end of the queen. Her ways would lead her to a pit out of which she could never climb until she reached the very lowest point. The king had no choice but to allow the lovers, who all along had wanted nothing but her riches, to ravage her until she was bereft of every joy she had ever known. Every joy but one. The love of her husband, her king, remained unchanged through all her treachery. And some day, the king knew, after her unfaithfulness had been completed, she would return. And to the awe of the messengers and the servants, he would forgive her. He would restore her to more prominence than she had before. And all the world would worship and adore a King so loving, so faithful to His promises.

The King is Yahweh. He chose for Himself a nation. The nation behaved like the queen. And Yahweh will restore her; He will make her beautiful and splendid once again. But in that day, she will not turn to others. She will have a new heart and an unfailing loyalty to her Beloved.

And here the story cannot, nor can any one story, contain the whole of the truth of the situation. Because the King is infinite. And His plan extends beyond an unfaithful ethic group. He deserves to be worshiped by all peoples of every language. He has determined to bring poor, vile sinners of every kind into His great banquet hall. And the story of the queen is held up to those people groups as a gleaming example of the richness of the faithfulness of the covenant of a God who will forgive the worst of treacheries and will pardon all iniquity and sin for any who come to take shelter in His abundant righteousness.

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