I have dealt with back problems just about all my life. Sometimes the only way to relieve the tension is to lean on something. So I have gotten into the habit of leaning in some way or another, usually without thinking about it. On more than one occasion I leaned against an island or a big chair only to feel it start to give way under the pressure of my weight. It looked solid, like something that could ease the tension, but in fact it was unstable. Which in turn made me unstable and I had to catch myself.
The embarrassment and discomfort of stumbling in the way I have just described is short term. It leaves no lasting damage. What happens when we lean our lives against beliefs that turn out to be unstable? What happens when we find out the truths underpinning every decision is really a lie? Sometimes it means a breakdown, sometimes only a stumble, but a lot of the time we stop and ask God, “Why?”
Ezekiel 13 describes this very situation, life decisions built on false promises, and paints the picture of a wall that is built and reinforced with un-tempered mortar between and around the stones. Which means the stuff holding it all together is the wrong mix and unstable. At some point the mortar, which looks fine during peaceful weather, will show its true lack of quality and give way in the face of a real trial. One strong wind, one strong flood, one additional pressure from new weight, and it’s over. The wall comes down.
Ezekiel compares this picture to the false prophets in Jerusalem just before its fall to Babylon. They prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying peace was coming. When the LORD said no such thing to them. He was sending word to His true prophets that trouble was coming. Therefore the Israelites did not deal with their sin and built their lives for peace instead of adversity. They took the stones of their beliefs about themselves and their lives and built them up with the un-tempered lies of peace. So when the floods and winds of Babylon came along they fell.
What’s interesting about this passage in Ezekiel is that God claims to be the one who sent this destructive force to Israel. At first glance it sounds like God is angry and intent on harm towards His people. “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it.’” (Ez. 13:13 NKJV)
However, the next verse gives us a clue to where God’s anger is actually directed towards and it’s not His people. “So I will break down the wall you have plastered with un-tempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know what I am the LORD.” (Ez. 13:14 NKJV) God is angry with the lies Israel has used to build itself up apart from God.
I think God knew the reality of how unstable a life built on lies truly is, and rather than wait for trouble to come and destroy His people He pushed first. God used enough force to reveal the lies and enough gentleness to keep Israel from being utterly destroyed. God wanted to take the proverbial wall back to its foundation (aka Himself) and rebuild that wall with truth and stability so Israel could go on.
It reminds me of the scene in the classic movie The Philadelphia Story where Katharine Hepburn is discovered in the back garden with Jimmy Stewart in compromising circumstances. At which point Hephurn’s fiancé and ex-husband show up. The ex-husband is played by Carey Grant, and is on friendly terms with Stewart. So when he sees how scandalized the fiancé is he jumps in and punches Stewart right on the chin. The fiancé is flummoxed, to which Carey Grant replies, “I have the right as a husband until tomorrow.” The fiancé leaves. When Stewart protests to Grant about the punch, Grant points out that a punch from him rid them of the fiancé and he hit softer than the fiancé would have done.
God gives the false prophets one more word before chapter 13 ends, “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ez. 13:22-23 NKJV) The false prophets may have had their day, but that day is over. The day of lies is over, and a new day, the day of the LORD and His truth, has dawned.
I can’t help but feel like this last word to the false prophets also points to the future salvation of Jesus. Those who are sad and down-hearted will find comfort. The hands of the wicked will be weakened in order for them to realize the state of their hearts so that they might turn from their wicked ways. Their lives will be saved through repentance. The source of deliverance is the LORD, and the revelation of the LORD.
Jesus is the incarnation of God. He is the ultimate revelation of God that allows us to know His heart, His motives, and His purposes. Not only for us individually but as a whole too. It is through Jesus that we are delivered from the sin that destroys us on the inside as well as sinful forces that try to destroy us from the outside. Jesus delivers us from the lies that get built into our lives, choice-making habits, and internal narratives. With the lies removed we can see Jesus clearly and we can rebuild our lives on the Rock with the truth of His Word.
In Jesus we have something to lean our lives on and He will not give way under its weight. If we invite Him into every part of our lives He gets integrated into it. Until we’re not just leaning on Him, He is inextricably apart of every element that makes up our lives through the power of His Holy Spirit.
The Philadelphia Story. George Cukor (Director). MGM Studios. 1940.