Read His Words Before Ours!
For far too many years, I sat on the sidelines of Sunday morning worship. While the people around me lifted their hands and wiped away tears, I shifted uncomfortably, praising the Lord with my lips but questioning Him in my heart.
It took me years to confront the disconnect I experienced. When I finally did, the Holy Spirit revealed that my inability to connect with a hymn on Sunday morning was merely a symptom of a much larger heart issue. A heart issue that was affecting not only my ability to worship God with my words, but my ability to worship Him with my life.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we learn God never intended worship to be confined to a fifteen-minute interval during a Sunday morning church service. Instead, worship was meant to be an all-encompassing attitude and way of life! We were meant to worship God with every act of our body (Romans 12:1), every word of our mouth (Hebrews 13:15-16), and the very breath in our lungs (Psalm 116:2).
Worship, in its purest form, is living our lives completely surrendered to, and in step with, God. This requires both holiness and humility. Through the story of Ezekiel, we see how powerfully God will use a life fully surrendered to Him, and how devastating it is when we choose pride and sin instead.
A Look at Ezekiel
I love the opening lines of Ezekiel, as they set our scene much like a play. In them, we find Ezekiel sitting alone on the banks of the Kebar River, which runs through the land of Babylon. In the very first verse, we learn this day is Ezekiel’s 30th birthday. As a member of the Levite tribe, this should have marked the year Ezekiel was initiated into his priestly duties (Numbers 4:2-3); instead, he is denied his destiny and lives in exile, thousands of miles from Jerusalem and the Lord’s Temple.
While Ezekiel is sitting on the riverbank, imagining all that should have been, the Spirit of the Lord seizes him and Ezekiel experiences a vision. (Ezekiel 1:2) In his vision, Ezekiel sees God, sitting on His throne, set upon a sparkling crystal platform. The platform is propelled by four turning wheels and held up by four fearsome creatures he later identifies as Cherubim. From within His cloud glory, the Lord speaks to Ezekiel, who is to be called into God’s service after all; this time, as a prophet and messenger to His people, the Nation of Israel. (Ezekiel 1:4-2:2)
The Lord’s Indictment
Fast forwarding to Ezekiel 8, we see the Spirit of God transporting Ezekiel back to God’s Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Once there, he is taken on a tour, where a guide shows him scene after scene of Israelites worshiping other gods and performing sickening pagan rituals in the very house of God.
This flagrant display of sin and pride not only incurs God’s righteous wrath and jealousy, it actually forces the Lord out from the temple and pushes His presence away from His people. (Ezekiel 10:18)
Angered and heartbroken (Ezekiel 6:9), God calls Ezekiel to warn Israel of the destruction they are bringing upon themselves. He instructs Ezekiel to put on a series of prophetic plays before all the people in exile. Many of these ‘plays’ demand Ezekiel endures a level of humiliation and suffering, laying on one side and then the other, bound for months on end (Ezekiel 4:4-8), eating bread which had been baked over cow dung (Ezekiel 4:9-15), and shaving his head and beard (Ezekiel 5:1-4). Fully surrendered to the will of God, Ezekiel obeys God’s call on his life and body, faithfully demonstrating true worship in the face of the blazen idolatry among his kinsmen.
What This Means For Us
The book of Ezekiel serves as a sober warning to the people of God, as well as a reminder of what true worship requires.
Worship requires an intimacy, a closeness with God that can only be achieved through holiness. Because our Holy God cannot be in the presence of sin, we must purify our hearts and hands in order to draw near to Him. (Psalm 24:3-4)
For the Nation of Israel, holiness was earned by strictly adhering to God’s Laws and regularly performing animal sacrifices. As modern-day Chrisitans, however, holiness is not something we achieve on our own. Instead, it is imputed to us by Christ, as He covers us through His sacrifice on the cross and washes us in His blood if we will surrender to His love.
Worship requires humility, a willingness to lay down our pride, our rights, and our very lives at the feet of the only One who is worthy of all praise. In this place, nothing is off limits to God, as we live fully surrendered and available to His call.
As I look back on those years where my love for God was stifled, I can see the sin and pride choking my heart. Just as He did through Ezekiel, God called out the darkness in my life and drew me back to Him through an attitude of holiness and humility. Sisters, I invite all of us to live every day in surrendered worship to Him, for through God’s great mercy, He will peel back the layers of death surrounding us and regain our hearts for Him!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!