Monday, March 11, 2019

The Ever-Present God – Nuisance or Blessing? (or both)

I‘ve been studying and preaching from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. I know, everyone’s favorite book of the Bible, right? But wait! I’ve found so many gems in this book that are so often passed by. You really should give it a chance.
The basic message of the prophet is that Jerusalem will be destroyed because of Israel’s prolonged and brazen disobedience. Before you get to thinking that God is impatient and intolerant, read through the book and see all the atrocities going on in the temple. It’s pretty bad. The issue is not that God is angry, it’s that the people have drifted so far away from who they promised to be. They had an agreement with God, and they hadn’t kept their end of the bargain.  
The real mystery is not that judgment is coming. It’s how did it get this bad? How do people become so insensitive to sin? How do people become so blind to their rebellion? Ezekiel addresses these questions - questions that are not only applicable to 6th-century BC Israel, but also to us in 2019. God forbid we become indifferent to sin as they did.
There were many contributing factors, but one that seems especially significant is that they thought that somehow God didn’t see what was going on. They thought that God was oblivious to what was going on behind closed doors. They forgot, or at least chose to forget, that God knows all and sees all. If God didn’t see everything, then there was no problem with them getting away with a sin here and there.
How do you feel about that? How do you feel when you think about God seeing everything you do? How do you feel knowing that everywhere you go God is with you?  How do you feel that God even knows what’s going on inside your heart and mind? It’s troubling to think about, but a failure to do so will lead us down the same road Ezekiel’s audience took - a road that leads to destruction.  
I must admit the idea of God being all-present is disturbing to me. There have been times, and still are, when I’d really like God to run some errand and leave me alone for a while. There are times when I’d prefer God to turn his head away from me for a little privacy. Yet, at other times the idea of his always being there is comforting. It strengthens me to know that whatever I may go through that he is right there beside me. It’s reassuring to know that he’s always available to hear my thanks and my requests. He never puts me on hold!
God’s ever-presence is a double-edged sword, so to speak. But you can’t have the benefits of his presence without the perceived draw-backs. Our ever-present God will be there both to confront our sin and comfort our sorrows. Our ever-present God will be there both to discipline us and bless us.
Do we really except God to hide his face from our sins? What kind of holy God would that be? Do we really expect God to desert us when we really need him? What kind of loving God would that be?
He is both holy and loving and we can’t have one without the other. Knowing that, I prefer to embrace this ever-present God who will love me enough to expose my sin and still love me enough to walk every road with me.

Ezekiel has one of the best endings of any biblical book. With his last words he gives God a new name, Jehovah Shammah-The Lord is There.
God forbid we ask God to leave us alone. A life without God leads to destruction. A life with God leads to glory.