(Today’s post by Adam Cooper)
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help. Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the rowboat went on. Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the motorboat went on. Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the helicopter reluctantly flew away. Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!” To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
I have always appreciated this story because it shows that you never know how God is going to answer your prayers so you should always be prepared to act. In Ezekiel the Israelites that were in captivity prayed to God for a prophet and Ezekiel was raised up; and as prophets are known to do Ezekiel brings words from God prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem where some of the nation of Israel still dwelt. In Ezekiel 6 and 7 the destruction he speaks of is plagues, famine, and slaying by the sword. In 6:3-5 the Lord tells Israel,
“I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places. 4 Your altars will be demolished and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will slay your people in front of your idols. 5 I will lay the dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars (NIV).” This apocalyptic prophecy continues in 7:5-10, “Disaster! An unheard-of disaster is coming. 6 The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! 7 Doom has come upon you–you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. 8 I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 9 I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the LORD who strikes the blow. 10 “The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! (NIV).”
Ezekiel even prophesies the desecration of the temple in 7:22, “22 I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it (NIV).”
So, what’s the rub? Why was God so mad at the Israelites? Same story, different book and chapter: IDOLS. Israel, God’s chosen, had continued to turn from Him and now it was time to unleash punishment…..AGAIN! Some people use verses like these to try to say that the God Christians worship is an angry and vengeful God. Christians see God as a loving God who never changes. On the surface these two statements cannot coexist. However, the cross of Christ is what allows these two statements to be fully true. God is a loving God who poured out the balance of His anger and vengeance on Christ. Christ took the anger that would be used against us and now He stands in intercession for us.
Anyway. Back on topic. IDOLS. Just like the ancient Israelites this world is replete with idols. What takes your time? What prevents you from living for Christ every day? What keeps you from hearing the groanings of the Spirit? My guess is that you probably have many idols that occupy your time. If we are being totally transparent, I know I have my share of idols that I struggle with. One thing we do not need to do is become complacent. Christ took our punishment, punishment that could rival the punishment heaped upon the ancient nation of Israel, so He deserves our constant attention and devotion. Jesus took the proverbial bullet for us and that deserves more than one or two hours a week.
My challenge to each of us is to evaluate the idols in our lives. List them. Make them real. And then address them. If it’s your cell phone, cut it off. If it’s your television, cut it off. If it’s your job, evaluate your schedule and your priorities. If it’s your kids, evaluate your priorities. Begin to evaluate the things in your life that hinder your devotion to Christ and the sacrifice He made for you.