This is a brief thought, which I will try to keep short. Just a bit of advice for fellow Christians especially, but all people–really!–who feel spiritually dry or discouraged. I didn’t plan to write this post today, but it seemed right.
Yesterday evening, someone happened to mention lentils. Lentils, as in a type of legume–not to be confused with lintels, which refer to the top of a doorframe… Anyway, this casual reference put me in mind of the bread Ezekiel was commanded to make; apparently, lentils were among the main ingredients. This, in turn, led me to conclude that we–the entire family–needed Ezekiel. All of us. But especially me.
Accordingly, I ran and brought the Bible. Without really warning anyone that we were about to plunge into intense and perhaps even incomprehensible territory, I opened Ezekiel to the first chapter and began to read–first, of the date on which the hand of the Lord was upon Ezekiel, all the while recalling that the prophet’s methods of record-keeping were what inspired me to remember the dates of precious moments in the Lord. From there, it was just natural to read of the four living creatures Ezekiel saw–majestic beings, like angels, with four wings and four faces, and high and awesome wheels. I still don’t understand all the profound symbolism that lies in those descriptions of the wheels… Suggestions, anyone? I could have continued all night–reading next about the glorious One Who sat upon the throne above the firmament that was above the four living creatures’ heads. I could have read of those living creatures, turned to Revelation, and examined how John’s vision and Ezekiel’s confirm one another, in that they saw different facets of the same four living creatures. I could have ventured further into Ezekiel and read of a scroll that God caused the prophet to consume, that he might prophesy to many kings and nations of the judgment of God. And then, I could have turned to Revelation XIII to read a similar account–similar, but differing enough to assure all readers that John was not simply copying Ezekiel. I could have read for hours of God’s glory and holiness, of Ezekiel’s reaction when he saw the glory of the Lord, and of John’s similar reaction; of God’s condemnation of sin; and of His promises to Israel and to those who trust in Him; of God’s great redemption in Ezekiel XVI and of His marvelous mercy in all of Revelation; and of the perfect, God-ordained dimensions of the temple in Ezekiel, and of the river of life symbolized in Ezekiel and clearly discussed in Revelation; “The Lord is there”–“Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Ezekiel, Revelation”).
Sadly, there wasn’t time for such an in-depth study–not nearly enough hours in the evening to read both books for myself, much less share them with my loved ones. Someday, perhaps, if the Lord leads me to do so, I will explore those beautiful portions of Scripture here on this blog. But not at the moment–there isn’t time, and I have a slightly different point to convey today.
We all have our “First Love” books–those things we read when we first came to believe in the Savior. Yours are probably Matthew or Psalms or Luke or Ephesians or Isaiah. My father’s is Hebrews. My sister was always deeply moved by Jeremiah. And, impossible as it may seem to some of you, mine have always been Revelation, Ezekiel, John, and Daniel. Well–John probably isn’t that difficult to believe, but Revelation? Daniel? Ezekiel? Yes, Revelation. What I need more of in my life–ever, always, constantly–is a sense of the holiness of God. A sense of His sanctity, His magnificence and splendor and Shekinah glory, His power, and yet His comfort and love, all bundled into three or four chapters–or, in some cases, four or five verses–and tucked into my heart, there to produce such unbounded joy that I have to pause periodically just to sing His praises. Revelation and Ezekiel accomplish this. Such unspeakable joy always floods me in every aspect of those books that I simply must share them with someone, even if I really don’t understand all that is being said. Sometimes, we understand more in the Holy Spirit’s wisdom than what we can comprehend or explain with our mind and mouth.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because my First Love books have always been used of the Lord to set me free–whether the anguish was small or great. Case in point: I was contemplating yesterday the various reasons why I had evidently done nothing truly spiritually fulfilling with the whole household. True, we had read various devotionals and sung many a worship song, but that was usually as a dyad. When I took the Word into the living room and proceeded to read it, it was as though I was dispensing water to very dry soil–in my own heart, at least. I don’t know about the hearts of others, but I needed this with the urgency that plants require sunlight. It was as though my whole being were getting cleansed, washed, purified from all the lingering frustrations of the day.
How often I have found this to be the case! When surrendering to Jesus in 2003, or asking for His direction in 2010, or learning how to follow Him anew in that same year, or fighting false doctrine with the sword of the Spirit in 2009, or attempting to reclaim my joy and vanquish despair in early 2013, I have always found these books helpful and freeing. Of course, I have to actually pick them up and read… Part of the problem usually occurs when I deem myself unworthy of reading certain passages of Scripture, or waiting “until I feel more intense in the Lord”. Not effective… But every time I’ve read certain passages ofScripture, God has used them to shore up my heart an d bring breakthroughs when I felt unfruitful.
What is my point? Whether it’s Mark or I Corinthians, Proverbs or Job, I Peter or I John, you, too, have First Love books–books that the Lord used to touch your heart when you first came to know Him. Certain verses in those books stand out to you and have been instrumental in keeping you in the paths of righteousness, or leading you back to the Good Shepherd should you ever stray. Read them again. Whatever passage of Scripture speaks most clearly to you, take time to read it again. Remember how you first felt about it, or how you felt about it when you most recently read it. Have your thoughts changed? Is the Lord using that passage, or that book, to speak to your heart anew, or about something specific in your life? How can you expound on the context, like I did with both Ezekiel and Revelation? What do the reference notes in your Bible say? If you’re using the NIV, what might the NKJV or te Living Bible or the RSV or even the Authorized Version have to say? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you should wait “until you’re more righteous” to read certain Scriptures–all our righteousness are as filthy rags to Him, and it is His grace that is sufficient. Just open your Bible and read, as you did when you first dedicated your life to Jesus Christ, and see if it doesn’t fill you anew, cleanse your heart, and obliterate any pain or worry that had lingered in the dark, unswept corners of your mind.
I’m writing this because there’s quite a bit of despondency in the lives of certain my my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ–sadness that I cannot lift, or pray about to see it be carried away, or read about until the comfort of those holy words breaks through the cloak of unhappiness that these people are feeling. In other words, I can do little about the suffering I see. Perhaps you, or someone you know, are experiencing silent tears. I was, too–and have many times before. And, even though it doesn’t always set me completely free evry time, I have now found and remembered something that helps.
If you are feeling joyful–but especially if you are feeling sorrow, or to the loved-one(s) in your life who are, I say: Read your First Love books. Pour over those passages that you know have reflected Christ’s love back to you the most over the months or years, and let Him minister to you. Know, just know, that Jesus loves you so much, and that He cares for you. Cast your cares upon Him, and let His all-redeeming love surround you.