Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 43-45
Today’s Reflection: Ezekiel 44:6-8
6) And say to the rebellious house, to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, 7) in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. 8) And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, God chastened Israel for inviting Gentiles into the covenent practices that symbolized the relationship between God and His people, going so far as to call it an abomination. What was God’s real issue here?
Was the issue foreigners coming into the assembly of God’s people? Well given the way God welcomed other foreigners like Ruth and Rahab into Israel, even making both of them part of the lineage leading to Jesus Christ (Joshua 6:22-23; Ruth 4:13-22), clearly being non-Jews was not the concern. Was the issue that these foreigners were not in keeping with all of the covenant practices, specifically circumcision? Again not likely. God actually expresses exasperation with Israel’s obsession with keeping feast days and making sacrifices while denying their underlying purpose (Isaiah 1:10-17). So if God doesn’t have a problem with foreigners, and isn’t caught up in religious ritualism, what is His issue? It’s the heart.
The physical act of circumcision was always intended to be a symbol of spiritually cutting off the fleshly desires and devoting oneself wholly to God and His cause. God did desire for His people to faithfully carry out the practices associated with their covenant with Him, including circumcision, feast days and sacrifices, but the value of these practices was the way they taught about God’s plan of salvation and His great love for His people. These covenant practices were to take place in the context of a relationship with God, not as a ritualistic substitute for a relationship with Him. From God’s perspective, there is little benefit in doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Put another way, circumcision of the body has little value without circumcision of the heart.
Matthew 7:21-23 – 21) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Rahab and Ruth both made the decision to follow God with their whole heart (Joshua 2:8-13; Ruth 1:16-18) which is why God gladly received them and richly rewarded them, but the foreigners spoken of here by Ezekiel were allowed to enter sacred aspects of Israel’s assembly while bringing with them practices God found detestable and which corrupted the behaviour of the children of Israel.
This text calls each of us to examine our own behaviour. Are you doing the right things, yet without true relationship with God? Do you claim His name with your words, yet deny His power by being double-minded—trying to do His works and live out your rebellious will at the same time? It would be a tragedy for you to be in church every weekend and serving in ministry throughout your life only to reach the finish line of life and hear God say to you “depart from me, I don’t know you.” Take the opportunity to enter into real transformative relationship with God today.