Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me.
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
“Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?
“Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols,
in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”‘
This blog post has been birthed out of much frustration, and a lot of looking inwardly at my own sin and struggle. In fact, getting my thoughts right on this subject has been so difficult that as I have written about it, and as I continue to think about it, I almost despaired of sharing it altogether. Idolatry is not an easy topic, because for so many of us it brings strong conviction. But the root from which the plant of disobedience comes is misunderstanding God’s character. We have to deal with the root issue which are the problems we have in our understanding of who God is, before our actions and thoughts will truly be transformed.
What I want to address is our inability, at least in American culture, to dwell on the dissatisfaction and discontentment at the core of our being. The reason the root of our sin is not destroyed is because we are unwilling to sit in repentance long enough to see it’s there. Let me explain.
I’m going to use this example because I see it as a common struggle among young Christian women (including myself), but really the principle can apply to anything. There are a lot of young Christian girls who long for and desire marriage greatly. And this is a good desire. We want to raise godly children, support our husband and work alongside him in ministry, we want to disciple young girls, and we even want to adopt other children, taking care of the orphan. I personally desire all of those things. BUT the Lord has not given me a husband. There are many other single women that I know much older than me who desire marriage greatly and still have not been given a husband. What I often see is young women who go from “liking” one guy to liking the next, hoping one will work out. We intentionally put ourselves in situations where we think we will meet our husband. We manipulate, and even pursue relationships ourselves (when, by the way, men are supposed to pursue. But thats a different blog post). But what is the root of that sin? Why do we feel the need to create scenarios we know only God can give? We don’t believe He is who He promised in His Word He would be.
There is an invisible tension that exists between us and God. The tension is that we believe in Him, but we don’t really believe ALL that He is. Our theology is flawed, because we’ve picked only the attributes of God we want to believe. I believe that God is good, but when I seek satisfaction in a dating relationship I’m not really believing that He is good enough. I need to sit in repentance and brokenness long enough to realize that at the root of that sin is that I don’t really believe God’s ways are perfect. I don’t really believe He gives all good gifts to His children. I don’t really believe that He knows what is good for me better than I do. We are dissatisfied with God.
And we need to recognize that. We need to recognize that our constant need for affirmation in money, education, and other people comes from our disbelief. We need to sit in that tension and repent. We see this in Lamentations.
Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?
Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.
We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven;
We have transgressed and rebelled, You have not pardoned.
We don’t need to blow through repentance without recognizing the heart issue, the root problem of our sin. Recognizing our dissatisfaction will cause us to deal with our apathy or even our anger towards God. In the Ezekiel 14 passage, God says He will not be consulted by the elders of Israel until He first deals with their heart problem. Their idolatry. Too often we come before the Lord seeking His will, or we come for emotional “quick fixes”, when what we really need is for Him to deal with our sin. Our heart issues. But we aren’t willing to sit in silence for long enough to recognize we even have a problem. We come before Him petitioning and asking for all sorts of things, and we think God can be manipulated into giving us what we want. His love is not that small. He loves us too much to leave us in our rebellion. He wants to deal with our wayward, wicked hearts, so that our desires will be one with His, and we will be transformed into the likeness of Christ.
As we sit in the tension, and realize our disbelief in the true character of God, we need to flood our minds with truth from His Word on who He really is. Preach to your own soul.
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.
We hope in Him, and wait silently for Him, because we know He is faithful. We know His character is true. I can rejoice even in the midst of so great a desire for marriage and a family because I know God is faithful! Today He sees it fit that the best way He can show me His faithfulness is through me being a single woman. Or take illness. God allowing our perfect health, which perhaps we’ve even worked so hard for, to be destroyed. We can still rejoice because God is still our hope, and we know that He is sanctifying us in the midst of all our affliction.
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. Psalm 42:5
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
In light of these truths we can be satisfied in God. In whatever I see that He has or hasn’t given me, I can rejoice because these are the things He knows I need or don’t need, to be closest to Him. When I see a day in His courts better than a thousand outside, that is when I forget that I ever “lacked” anything at all. When I hope in God, I may still desire marriage, or a completely healthy body, but my soul isn’t restless. Those desires exist in me, but my hope in God causes my soul to be quiet like a weaned child.
A Song of Ascents, of David. O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.
When my soul is quieted in me, even in the midst of deep longing, I won’t be driven into sin. Because I know the character of my God. His work is perfect and His ways are just, and I trust He will give me more of Himself. He loves me too much not to deal with the wickedness in my heart, and He will reveal to me His steadfast love in whatever way He chooses; affliction or abundance.
“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. – Deuteronomy 32:4
So sit in the silence. Be broken over your sin. Come to terms with the fact that you’ve been dissatisfied with God in one way or another.
Then flood your mind with Scripture. Renew your belief in His true character. Meditate on His wonderful works. And know that His ways are higher, His thoughts far above ours. Hide in Him. Hope in Him. Let Him quiet your weary, restless soul.
And shall I pray Thee change Thy will my Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But no, Lord, no, that shall never be, rather
I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.
I pray Thee hush the hurrying eager longing
I pray Thee soothe the pangs of keen desire.
See in my quiet places wishes thronging,
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.
And work in me to will and do Thy pleasure.
Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content my Wellbeloved’s leisure,
At last, at last, even as a weaned child.
– Amy Carmichael