Who is crying now?

Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up without having ever watched the evening news on TV or ever played a video game full of death?  The first time would be shocking.  The absolute abandonment of respect for others would be shocking; Unless of course that is your life and is the reality of the house you live in.  Without calluses toward the shock of violence, rape, murder, anger, theft, lying, we would daily be utterly crushed by the evening news.  Or having viewed it with no tears, we walk away with our self-righteousness intact, glad we are not like those people.

I’m reading Ezekiel with one of my Life Transformation Groups and I have been challenged with the question “Who’s crying now?”  God gave Ezekiel a scroll to eat and on both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.  And God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.”

So I’m wondering whose lament, whose mourning, and whose woe filled those pages?  God’s?  Was it God’s lament for a nation that was incapable of knowing, and loving Him.  Or was it the mourning of victims; Were those pages filled with the cries of those who had received no justice; who had only suffered at the hands people or a system out to steal even their hope?  Or did that scroll give voice to the regret of those who realized the folly of their ways?  Those who wish they could go back and do life over because of the pain their callousness had inflicted upon others?

The scroll was sweet to eat.  However, Ezekiel is totally overwhelmed by his encounter with the glory of God and the assignment from God to go to a people who would not listen.  He writes, “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in anger in my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me.  I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River.  And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days–overwhelmed.”  Ezekiel 3:14-15

The Gospel has a sweet taste but also creates a disturbance.  To respond to the reality of a world that is not as it should be and to our own complicity with rebellion against God is disturbing.  But I do believe the Holy Spirit fortifies us for honesty and promises, “joy in the morning.”  And Jesus promises, “The Truth will set you free.”

James encourages the followers of Jesus to humble themselves before God.  “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn, and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the LORD, and he will life you up.”  James 4:7-10

What does such humility look like?  Perhaps it looks like Ezekiel utterly overwhelmed sitting quietly by the river Kebar for seven days among the very people he was called to serve.

11 statements from James on the power of speech

  1. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.  James 1:19-20
  2. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  James 1:26
  3. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2:12-13
  4. The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrups the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  James 3:5-6
  5. …no man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:8
  6. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the both come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  James 3:7-8
  7. What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  James 4:1-3
  8. Brothers, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it.  James 4:11
  9. Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why you don not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  …as it is you boast and brag.  All such boasting is evil.  James 4:13-14, 16
  10. Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else.  Let you “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
  11. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  James 5:17