Stuck in the Past?
A Common Condition
From time to time we bump into folk who seem glued into a groove. For a whole variety of reasons, which they may or may not have caused, they linger on glory days, continue to harbor hurts, are paralyzed by problems, are frozen fast by providence, and won't or can't move on. Such people may be sinners. Such people may be saints. The thing they have in common is that they seem quite tired and sad. Decades later, standing still in time, nothing seems to change - they are locked into to a rut, with little, current, sign of prospect, hope or growth.
An Enlightening Example
This morning I saw a video about Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling (whose books or films I have never seen or read). A crushing combination of disappointment, death, divorce, and drugs, over decades, had spawned, in a would-be writer, grim, suicidal, thoughts. Then she penned her thoughts and got a publisher on board. You know what happened next - her whole life turned around, success swallowed up her pain. The moral of the video was simple and convincing: rejection and disappointment signals time to change direction. If earthly success is not the Christian hope, there is something we can learn from this optimistic bent.
A Prophetic Pointer
Each of the major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, brings something new to the table of Scripture: Isaiah's coming Servant-King promises a NEW HEAD (6:1, 5; 9:6-7; 32:1; 33:17, 22; 37:13; 41:21; 43:15; 44:6; 52:13-15; 55:3-5); Jeremiah's covenant offers Israel a NEW HEART (17:1-10; 31:31-34); Ezekiel, in addition to a new heart (18:30-32; 36:25-27), is the prophet who, in the climatic, dramatic, vision, pledges a NEW HOME - grabbed by the locks, whisked off in the Spirit, he sees the Glory of God returned to Zion's Temple and City (10:18-22; 11:22-25; 40:1-48:25). It is for, and to, this future hope that guilty, gloomy, exiles' must crave and cling!
An Eviscerating Exile
It's hard for us to grasp the trauma deportation inflicted on Jews: Babylonian Exile shattered dreams! Yahweh's Glory has gone, the Temple faces ruin, but those stuck in the past are unable to move on. Jerusalem sinners are hung-up on idol-shrines and stones (8:1-18). Saints in distant lands cling to unreal hopes of swift return. God's message, through Ezekiel, is both groups alike had made a big mistake: instead they should repent and, in their disorientated state, fix hearts, in faith, on His future happier, holier, House (11:14-20; 40-48) - Yahweh had moved on! So must all the Church!
A Purposeful Providence
Are you able to grasp the prophet's point? In God's good providence the past is gone for good. There's no use looking back. Jews must serve their sentence. Sins must be purged away. Discipline in the present was His road-map for the saints. That is the path to lead pained exiles Home. And so, in chapter 40-48, we get a vision of the future: don't take it literally, vast measurements aren't literal but hyperbolic and heavenly - the aim of this vision of glory is to fill souls with hope beyond anything experienced yet. If the present is bleak, trust God, the future is bright - blazing light beyond this world which far excels human words.
A Soul-Stirring Sight
This is a means of grace for optimistic exiles! They must linger over this sight until inner glory burns bright: there'll be glory in those courts (41-43); they'll be priests before our Prince (44-46); the river of Temple life will be so full and free-flowing that even fishermen at En Gedi will land nets on Dead Sea shores (47); their heavenly inheritance in the land exceeds any Palestinian portfolio lot (47:13-48:29); but better than life and land "the LORD will be there!" (48:35). Not so different, then, from the present believer's hope - the Spirit's River of Life that flows from the altar of Christ's Cross!
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure - 1 John 3:2-3.
An Optimistic Outlook
So you see the hope that traumatized exiles are to hold - the promise still holds good except we now know, more than they, the glorious God they'll spy through the contact lens of the Lamb - the beauty of His face, the goodness in His soul, the wounds on His limbs, the compassion in His heart! So we really have no excuse for getting glued to our groove - instead of being stuck in the past we should banish fear of the future and fix our heart on Christ:
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appear, then you all will appear with Him in glory" - Colossians 3:1-4
This is the hope that enables sinners & saints to repent, rejoice and re-engage the life God gives as we serve Christ all our days! Redemption will be complete, glory will be bright, all sheep will be safe, with Christ shepherding His flock, who will never thirst or faint.
A Courageous Conclusion
Dear brother or sister, have you been stuck in the past? Don't fear for the future! Ask your heavenly Father! Give me grace to draw courage from this sight. Fill my heart with hope to embrace, day by day, be those days bright or dark, whatever you have planned for my minutes that remain.