Monday, 7 November 2011

Does Your Username and Password Match?

I laughed when I saw this cartoon. How many times hasn’t my username and my password not been in agreement with each other? However, there is a deeper and more sobering message in this cartoon as well. Outside the pearly gates St. Peter seems about to turn that poor fellow away because, as I interpreted it, his profession doesn’t agree with who he really is.

Jesus said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to … Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” (Luke 13: 24, 26-27; NIV). Is it possible that there will be people who, though they may remember their username, don’t have the correct password to go with it? Is it possible that some people will be turned away at the gates of glory, so to speak? I think it is very possible, and I think that one of the reasons for it seems to come out of Ezekiel.

“And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had a sensor in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures?’ For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’” (Ezekiel 8: 11-12; ESV)

The footnote in my ESV Study Bible says, “The presence of Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan among the 70 elders may have been a shock. He was probably a member of the clan of Shaphan (2 Kings 22: 8-10) which had proved so loyal to the cause of Yahweh in Jeremiah’s ministry (eg., Jer. 26:24). This identification is not certain, but would explain why Jaazaniah is singled out for mention here.” Jaazaniah’s password did not seem to line up with his username.

I was reflecting on this passage for a while. In a vision, God had revealed to the prophet Ezekiel that a horrible abomination was going on in the temple. There in the temple, of all places, “engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 8:10; ESV). It’s one thing to sin away from the temple; it seems quite another to blatantly do so right in the temple. Their username and password were not in agreement.

Now maybe we’re reading into this text, but when it speaks of the “seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel,” it is easy to make a connection between those seventy and the Sanhedrin of ancient Israel. What was the Sanhedrin? According to the New Bible Dictionary, “Both before and at the time of Christ, it was the name of the highest tribunal of the Jews which met in Jerusalem.” According to tradition, it had its roots with the seventy elders that assisted Moses back in Numbers 11: 16-24. Essentially, the Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of religious Judaism.

The troubling part was that, here the spiritual leaders of the nation were involved in something that God called an “abomination” (vs. 13). What was that abomination? It was a “done-in-the-dark secret,” or so they thought, right under the nose of God Almighty.

“Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger?” (Ezekiel 8:17).

As I thought about these things, my mind drifted to a question I once again heard asked recently. The question wasn’t really so unique, for I’m sure we’ve all asked it too. What was the question? It was, “Why does it seem like the church has lost its power in the world today? Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the Ezekiel text.

We say, “Wait a minute! That was Old Testament! We can’t apply that to the church today!” Can’t we? The more I look at it, the more I see the New Testament church as a carbon copy of the Old Testament. I am not saying that the church is somehow to be equated with the Old Testament temple; far from it! What I am saying is that God’s nature hasn’t changed. “I the Lord do not change,” God said in Malachi 3:6. Likewise, human nature certainly hasn’t changed either. Sin is still sin. The things the ancients wrestled with are wrestled with today too. Abominations and idolatries that were a problem for the nations of Israel and Judah are still problems today in the church. We are very naïve if we think that we cannot make the same mistakes today that the ancients made.

How many elders/pastors in the church today wrestle with the same sins that the Sanhedrin and leaders of old wrestled with? How many have a secret “room of pictures” that they go to in the dark when no one is watching, be it issues with infidelity, alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, or whatever? Though we may not see; God sees all the idolatries, and they are an abomination to Him! Every once in a while we hear through the media or the church gossip networks of another leader who fell when their “room of pictures” was exposed. How sad! This begs another question, “How many others among the spiritual “seventy men of the elders” are there who simply haven’t yet got caught? Human nature hasn’t changed. The same devil that tempted them, tempts you and me today too.

Matthew Henry said, “The sins of the leaders are leading sins.” When leaders, the “seventy men of the elders,” blatantly and non-repentantly sin, they drag others down with them. Perhaps that is why James said that teachers will be judged more strictly than the average person (James 3:1).

Where is the power in the church today? Could it be that the power is gone because many of us today are not walking where God would have us to walk? Could it be that there are too many of us with “secret rooms of pictures?” Could it be that we have shrugged our shoulders at the “abomination” part? Could it be that “sin” has become a politically incorrect word, not just in the world, but even in the church today? Could it be that our passwords don’t line up with our usernames?

The good news is summed up in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness.” James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” We pray for revival, but I dare say that there won’t be revival in the church so long as leaders continue to have “secret rooms of pictures.” If the leaders don’t confess and repent, then how will the church confess and repent? Confession and Repentance comes before Revival.

The password must agree with the username. Does yours? Does mine? Hmm, I wonder.

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