I am blogging this Advent from #decolonizelutheranism’s Advent devotional, Shut Up. (That would be the sanitized version)
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:25-26 ESV)
God will do this.
God will do all of this.
There is a lot of if/then in scripture. Especially when God promises blessings and curses upon is Israel in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. “But if you do not listen to me … [and] break my covenants, then I will do this to you,” says the Lord in Leviticus.
And the promises of God here are terrible.
But God also promises redemption, and a unilateral redemption at that:
44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 26:44-45 ESV)
It shows us what is to come.
But what God promises to do in Leviticus for the sake of promises made to our ancestors, God tells Ezekiel that “I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name.” God acts for God’s-sake alone.
The story of Israel is the long story of God’s realization that we, the people God called, are incapable of saving ourselves, of being the people God called us to be. And of God slowly working his way to us, to meet where we are, and not where God would like us to be.
It’s a long surrender, a steep learning curve, which begins with God’s fierce anger as newly rescued Israel whines and complains and worships a gold statue in the middle of the wilderness, an anger so hot that in Leviticus, you can’t even breathe in God’s general direction without getting struck down.
It ends with God incarnate, on a cross, emptied of power and majesty, a God who came as a child to a poor and powerless human family, who loved and walked with and lived with human friends, dying the death of a rebel and as criminal, showing us — this is who you are, and this is who I am.
Cruel. Implacable. Demanding. Angry. Frightened. Violent. Alone. Abandoned. Broken. Sorrowful. Despondent.
“I will…” God says. And it is finished.