Monday, September 03, 2012

Are You "Marked"?

I am reading through the Bible again chronologically, and am currently in Ezekiel.  I couldn't help but pause at Ezekiel 9:3-10, where it says this (NIV version):

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.

As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughterthe old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple.

Then he said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!” So they went out and began killing throughout the city. While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?

He answered me, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land; the Lord does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.

My Student Bible added information about the mark being the final letter in the Hebrew alphabet, a taw, which looks like an "x", and that Christians have noted its similarities to the cross.  There are many other things that I find interesting about this though.  While this is only a vision that Ezekiel is shown by God, it's not too different from other verses where God orders the total destruction of other cities or people, such as Deuteronomy 20:16-17 or 1 Samuel 15:1-3.  It's also similar to the passover that the Israelites experienced before their exodus from Egypt. It's hard to fathom how and/or why God was so ruthless when He gave orders to destroy cities and/or nations, but Hank Hanegraaff helps to give a good explanation here (link).

I thought it was interesting what qualified people for the saving "mark" though - "those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in (the city of Jerusalem)."  I had to wonder how that applies to me - do I grieve and lament enough over the detestable things in our culture?  Certainly sometimes.  As much as it should be though?  I don't know.

 I also thought it was interesting that "they began with the elders who were in front of the temple".  I take this to mean the people who call themselves Christians by name, but aside from this label they give themselves, they do absolutely nothing to follow Jesus or to pursue God.  They put up a spiritual "front" and even take positions of leadership within the church, but inside their hearts they are no different from anyone else around them.

 So I'm not sure about whether my level of righteous anger regarding our culture is significant or consistent enough (would I be "marked" based on that alone?).  However, based on my understanding of the rest of the Bible, I am still quite confident that I am marked with something more significant than ink - the grace credited to me through Christ's sacrifice, the measure of the holy spirit that is given to God's children who accept this gift of grace, and ultimately an eternity spent with the one who marked me as His child, and with others who are also God's chosen children.

What about you?  Would you be granted an "x" on your forehead in the circumstances described in Ezekiel 9?  Or more importantly, will you on the day that really matters - that of your demise?

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