Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.
— William Congreve (The Mourning Bride 3.2)
Few things deflate us more quickly than crushed hope. The baseball you hit bouncing off the top of the outfield fence, only to drop back into play. The sight of a sheltered campsite in the midst of a storm, just before your canoe overturns. A birdie putt heading straight for the cup, only to veer a couple inches down the grade. An emotional breakthrough with your child, followed up by a phone call from the police. The examples are endless.
. . .
Why did God bother to spare some? We have already read that a third of the population would be burned inside the city, a third would die around the city, and a third would be hunted down as they fled. Some of those who fled were allowed to live. Why? God offers two clear reasons:
- Those who flee will be dragged into foreign nations. Essentially, God gave them what their actions showed they truly wanted! Many Israelites had already worshiped the gods of foreign nations in Israel: let them now serve them in the foreign nations. While these people were living abroad, they would bring a glimmer of true religion to the world. They would “remember [God] among the nations where they are carried captive” (v. 9, NRSV).
- Here is the most compelling reason: they would have time to reflect on God’s judgment and come to “be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed” (v. 9, NRSV). It was not enough for God to completely destroy Israel, he wanted some of them alive to reflect on their own wickedness and begin to hate themselves for it.
. . .
Are you starting to see God’s heart in all of this? He sounds exactly like a lover who has been betrayed. He accuses Israel of looking with wanton hearts and eyes on the surrounding nations and their forms of worship. Listen to God’s heart:
I married you when you were worthless, and everything you have has come from me. I have loved you no matter how many times you have checked out the latest tramp who walked by. But enough is enough. For hundreds of years you have been sleeping around with anyone and everyone who would pay attention to you. I warned you to stay away from them, but you refused to listen. I won’t stand for it. I will give you to those other lovers. I want you to continually remember how you betrayed our love, and begin to hate yourself for it as your new lovers abuse you. You wanted them; they’ll have you!
The sexual imagery of my paraphrase is not exaggerated. In fact, scripture will become far more explicit as God’s word through Ezekiel continues. They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Try this: heaven hath no fury like a Deity scorned.
Idolatry and adultery are the same sin in God’s eyes. Both are betrayal. Both are unfaithfulness. Let’s search our own hearts, and ask if we too have been sleeping around on God.
. . .
O Lord our Bridegroom, bring to our minds any time we have been unfaithful to you. Let us remember our idolatry and adultery, and quickly repent. We know that your anger lasts for a moment, but your favour lasts a lifetime. Thank you for your faithfulness in the midst of our betrayal. In Jesus’ name, Amen.