Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coming Home

I don't know how dogless people can stand it, returning home after a week vacation and not be met by the joyful exuberant greeting of the dogs who have mourned your loss for a week. Honeybun and Lucky were well cared for by our good friend Josh while we were gone, but they still know who controls the food bank account. No one is more beloved than their masters. When we walked in the door, Honeybun resorted to the rare honor of licking us quickly to be sure we tasted the same, and Lucky whined, his version of shouting, "Praise God, they returned!", and brought us a toy to offer at our feet. The dismay over leaving the wondrous beach was somewhat mitigated. The outpouring of emotion of these two creatures whose joy in living revolves around us made the homecoming a delight.

In sharp contrast, my reading in the Bible today was Ezekiel 24, where God tells Ezekiel that the love of his life, his wife, will be taken that day, and he is forbidden to mourn. His actions are to be a sign to God's people. Say what? This sounds so cruel, that on first blush, one wants to throw rocks at heaven. However, the very day Ezekiel loses his beloved and is forbidden to mourn her death, the temple in Jerusalem is destroyed and the Jews dragged off to exile. This horrific event was in response to the continual willful and unfaithful desecration of their lives before God. Ezekiel, a prophet of God, was the symbolic example of what God was trying to show His people. God had begged, cajoled, pleaded, encouraged, and lamented over their descent into utter decadence and immorality and disobedience. The people ignored Him. As the Bible shows over and over again, we ignore God's gentler warnings at our peril. In the end, He had no choice but to up the ante. He pulled out the very land from under their feet, and hoped that when they finished sprawling on the ground in despair, they would finally look up to Him again.

What was so perplexing to me was the apparent calm with which Ezekiel took this pronouncement of his wife's death. A Jewish person, faced with the death of a loved one, normally goes through a period of mourning where he will sit "shiva", a ritual of prayer and lament, and a week of fasting. To not do so undercuts the fabric of the Jewish sense of tradition and heritage. Not only was the love of his life swept from him, but he was not allowed to express despair at her passing. Why? How could he comply with such a command?

The only logical conclusion I can come to is that Ezekiel was so in tune with God, so trusting, so certain of His goodness, that he KNEW he would see his wife again one day, and that Israel and her temple would be restored. The proof of that comes in Chapter 37,when the image of the dry bones being resurrected and dancing in the desert is shown to Ezekiel.

I can not imagine returning to a home where my dogs would not show their devotion and delight any more than I can imagine squelching all sign of mourning for the death of a loved one. But I can imagine that to walk so totally in faith before a God that one is certain is GOOD would give me the ability to do far more than I think I am capable of doing. Utter faith results in utter assurance that the best is always given to us, if not at this moment, then one day when we enter the final homecoming.

Ezekiel 36:22-28 (NIV)
“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. [23] I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. [24] “ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. [25] I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. [26] I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. [28] Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

-save a dog-

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