Being Bethlehem

I was reading in Ezekiel today (chapters 5-8) and listening to God tell the prophet about all of the destruction He was going to send on Israel.  They had sinned and sinned, and earned the punishment.  But that is always true of us.  What was bringing the anger was the fact that they would not listen to God, would not change, kept offering fake worship at church, and then lived a “secret” life that they were convinced He couldn’t see.  They had tuned Him out completely, and He was left with no other way to get their attention other than strip away everything that would distract them.

I got thinking about how this would “cost” God.  I mean, He chose to bless Israel so that they could be a blessing to the world.  In doing so, they would help the people around them know God and love Him.  He kept up His end of the bargain, they never did.  So, they never blessed the other nations, or pointed them faithfully to God.  Well, at least not consistently.  There are brief windows of time in the Old Testament where the nation does okay, but never for long, and never consistently.  In doing so, they run God’s name down among the other people.

Now, destroying the nation He had chosen would further undermine His name among the other nations.  They would see it, and think that He couldn’t care for His people.  All because of their disobedience.  But, He did it, because He loved them.

Now, granted, none of this actually affects God.  He was not sitting by, worried about His reputation.  He didn’t lose sleep because people thought poorly of Him.  That is not the concern.  The concern was that in living this way, the Israelites were not showing the other people a fair image of God.  Therefore, the nations around them were not turning to God, and were living and dying without Him.  They were living and dying without His peace, hope, love, joy, etc.  All because the Jews wanted to live their own way.  They wanted to live more like their neighbors who didn’t have God.  What a mess!

Yet, we do the same thing today.  God has called us to live lives that are different, better, more like Him.  He gives us the chance to follow Him, He lives within us and offers to change us, all we have to do is follow Him.  Yet, we don’t.  We want to be more like the very people He wants to save.  He wants to call people to be more like Him, to leave their brokenness and hurts behind, and we, His children, want to be more like the broken and hurt people of the world.

That’s why we need Christmas.  That’s why we need Jesus.  That’s why the baby had to come.  We need a King, a Healer, a Savior.  We need Jesus.

I know I do.  So, my prayer for each of us today is that we will turn away from the roads we are trying to run down, and run towards God instead.  A lot of our families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors are depending on it.  They need to see this Jesus in you, today.  It is your chance to be Bethlehem, the place where Jesus is born for everyone to see.

Peace on earth, great joy to everyone.