I am teaching through the book of Ezekiel again with a different group, and we looked at the first chapter last night. I found myself once again amazed at this incredibly dramatic picture of God and His power.
The vision Ezekiel sees is a vision of a cosmic chariot, pulled by angelic beings. These four living creatures are representative of ultimate power within creation, and they are God’s agents. The four living creatures can go in any direction, see in any direction and act in any direction. They are connected to four wheels, and the wheels support a platform, on top of which is a throne, and on the throne is “an appearance of a likeness of a man”, glowing like amber and surrounded with a rainbow from the waist up, and from the waist down a pillar of fire. It is the chariot of God, and it is coming from the north, toward Israel, in the posture of an enemy.
Israel’s great mistake was their attempt to define God down. They wanted to compartmentalize Jehovah, look to him for help for certain aspects of their life, but to leave other parts of their life ungoverned by God. In those days that took the form of the worship of other gods as well. They committed syncretism, the mixing of religions. But the heart of that sin is the sin of self-worship, that I will decide what God is good for and limit Him to what I give Him. It is the desire to manage God, negotiate with God, contain and control God.
But this vision of God at the beginning of Israel absolutely blows away any idea of such a God. The God that Ezekiel sees cannot be managed. The only possible response to such a figure is surrender, unconditional surrender.
This is why repentance is an absolutely fundamental and necessary element of salvation. Salvation simply isn’t possible without it. Repentance is another word for surrender. Until I stop trying to run my own life according to my own rules, I am not dealing with the God that exists. He’s not some kindly old man with a big beard and his hands held out offering just as much of Himself as we’re willing to take at the time. He’s a consuming fire, a conquering king. Accepting His salvation means accepting His rule.
In Luke 14:22-33, Jesus calls us to count the cost of discipleship. He talks about the one who only goes halfway in an endeavor and therefore fails entirely. He also talks about a king who has ten thousand soldiers and is being attacked by a king with twenty thousand. Recognizing he cannot win the fight, he makes peace and asks for terms. Whatever he must surrender and give up to his enemy is better than what he will lose if he fights and is defeated. So he asks for terms. Whatever the cost, he must make peace.
Jesus says, so it is with us. We must forsake all, or we cannot be His disciples. Because that is who God is. There is no half-way salvation. The idea of accepting Jesus as our savior but not as our lord is utter nonsense, asking God to lie about who He is, which He will never do. We must forsake all. Because anything God requires of us, anything we lose, is nothing compared to what we will lose if we keep fighting against God. And by God’s grace, it is nothing compared to what He will bestow on those who surrender and accept His glorious and gracious rule.