I don’t know about you, but I have seen the capacity within my own heart for treachery against the Lord, and it is a truly sobering realization. We all know the verse in Jeremiah in which the prophet reminds us that “the human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked,” but when you acknowledge the fact that your heart can be deceitful and wicked, well, it ceases to be just mere words in the pages of a book. I have to confess that the potential for weariness, bitterness, and even rebellion lurks at the soggy bottom of my heart.
I was reading in Ezekiel 20 this morning, and when I read verse 32, I thought to myself of how treachery and turning away from the Lord sometimes begins with the desire we have to simply be like everybody else. Here’s how the verse reads, “[The Lord says,] what is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.’” God had called Israel to be a people particularly for him. He gave them rules, instructions for worship, Sabbath days, and so on. He did this so that they might know him. (Check out how many times Ezekiel 20 contains the phrase, “…that they might know.”) But they grew weary, and rebelled against the Lord. They began to look upon his ways as being grievous and burdensome. They looked at the people around them and were seduced by what they saw. Their heart went after the gods of the nations around them, and in spite of the Lord’s affection for them, they dealt treacherously towards him, and said, “We just want to be like everybody else!”
Really, I don’t think much has changed. Even today, we who call upon the name of the Lord often look around at the things we see in the world, and begin to be seduced by what we see. Our culture, movies, and TV present a life without God as being so carefree and wonderful. It’s all so silky smooth and seductive. The Christian sometimes begins to see his walk with Jesus as grievous and burdensome. We begin to be like the Psalmist who complained, “I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else…Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long…” (Ps.73) If we’re not careful, we can come to the place where we say, “You know what, I just want to be like everybody else. God’s ways are just too much.” Have you been there? Are you there now?
I think the answer may at least in part lie in the way we think about God. For so many, walking with Jesus is just a religious ritual consisting of a gigantic list of “DO’s” and DONT’s.” Remember how I said that in Ezekiel 20, the Lord repeatedly says, “That they might know.”? Well, knowing God is more than keeping a bunch of rules. While we do live holy lives and seek to please God in all that we do, the holiness and the doing are to flow out of our intimate knowing. God doesn’t simply want us to mechanically serve him, adhering to some dead religious code of ethics, but rather desires that we be captivated by Jesus, and serve him from a heart filled with the love and knowledge of God. Remember Jesus tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Yep, we all have soggy bottom hearts. There’s all kind of stuff down in there. But before you throw in the proverbial towel, and think that it would be so much easier to just be like everybody else, remember that God wants you to know him! His ways are not heavy and burdensome, but designed to bring you into deeper love with him. Delight yourself in the Lord!!