The Lord gives us (as His children) every opportunity in life willingly… voluntarily… of our own accord… to humble ourselves before His splendor and magnificence. And if we ignore – or belittle – such opportunities… He eventually takes it upon Himself to humble us for our own good!
This is certainly the lesson which Ezekiel sets before us this morning! And believe you me, Ezekiel understood! For he was one of the 10,000 exiles taken by the Babylonian king – Nebuchadnezzar – when he captured Judah. He saw first-hand the humbling of his people as they were lined up and marched over a thousand miles north into captivity in a strange land where they lived on the shore of the River Chebar [key’ bar] (which was really an irrigation canal for routing water from the Euphrates River to the surrounding areas which became fertile with the addition of life-giving water). Some of those ancient canals, incidentally, can still be seen today!
Ezekiel was one of the two “exile” prophets of the LORD – the other being Daniel. The name Ezekiel means “God will strengthen.” He was married, but his wife died suddenly. Because of his work for God, he was not allowed to mourn. God speaks to His people through Ezekiel, but what does he say? He says that God was about to crush His enemies and return His people to their homeland because their humbling was now complete.
In verse 26 read together this morning he says that God had allowed them to dwell safely in their land… and that He had shielded them from all their foes which would have threatened them and made them afraid. But what was their response? Gratitude? Thankfulness? Appreciation?
Not at all! All He received in return was their shameful displays of self-centered transgressions… overweening pride… and arrogance. Not once. Not twice. But at every turn!
God in essence said to Himself, “If they will not humble themselves… then I certainly will!”
We might do well to take this to heart as those living in the Year of our Lord 2017, for we enjoy the same general peace and the same wide-ranging protection from His Hand. We enjoy what appears to be “prosperity.”
But, we should also take to heart that which we do not like to acknowledge – that we often exemplify the very same folly and the very same death wish as our counterparts of old!
We are living in a day – in an era – which has been termed “post-truth.” “What, pray tell, does ‘post-truth’ mean?” we ask. Like the proverbial frog sitting in the pan of water on the stove that does not jump out because it is slowly being cooked to death… we need to jump out of mankind’s cauldron… his new matrix -- his new self-deception -- for just a moment to look back in and to understand the new world “mankind” is constructing… mankind’s new social context!
In 2016, "post-truth" was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries' Word of the Year (with a 2,000% increase in usage over 2015)… because truth in this world has by-and-large now become secondary. Secondary to what? Secondary to “falsehood” to put it politely… or to “lies” in the vernacular! Secondary to whatever will get you what you want! The end justifies the means, according to post-truth!
This is clearly seen in the news media now with the advent of what has become known as “fake news”… “fake crises”… fake “stories” – none of which are true, but as a form of modern (or ancient) propaganda that gets people, agencies, companies, and nations to their “goals” before others can recover from the “wave” of fabrications that has buried them!
This, as you might have expected, has produced “fake men” and “fake women” in which there is found no truth. And worse… no God Who is the author of truth!
And with the growth of social media – and the incredible leveraging effect it offers to the post-truth purveyors, a post-truth tsunami has been launched upon the world which is frightful, indeed.
It was Blaise Pascal, the French theologian, mathematician, inventor, and physicist entering this world almost 400-years ago, who stated it so well: “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the Truth, we cannot know it.”
The one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church has so wisely established for God’s people an opportunity to stop… and remember truth… remember God… and practice humility during Lent in preparation for Easter! And we do well to participate with all of our hearts and with all of our souls!
The great men, the great women, the great children, and the great young people of this world are those who willingly humble themselves before God.
And a derivative truth…The great nations of this earth are those that humble themselves as well.
An American college student, while travelling in Germany years ago, visited the home of Ludwig von Beethoven on the banks of the Rhine in Bonn, Germany. She stood for a moment quietly looking upon Beethoven’s piano. Then she asked the guide whether she might be permitted to play it. With evident reluctance the guide granted permission. After playing a few bars from the “Moonlight Sonata,” she said to the guide, “I suppose all of the great pianists have played on this instrument when they visited here.” “No,” the guide carefully replied. “Two years ago, Paderewski [pah duh ref’ ski] was here and was given the opportunity to play it, but he said he was unworthy to touch it.” The great people of the earth are always humble!
It was Alexis deTocqueville who insightfully wrote that America is great because America is good. But the day America ceases to be good, he went on, America will cease to be great! Great nations show their goodness by their humility before God.
Sixteen hundred years ago, it was dear St. Augustine, of old, Bishop of Hippo in Carthaginian Northern Africa, who found appropriate words for us to hear and to consider. What did he say? I quote: “Should you ask me, ‘What is the first thing in religion?’ I should reply, ‘The first, second, and third thing therein is humility.”
Are we humble? A very good question! A great question! Especially should we use the Lenten Season to practice humility as we follow our Lord’s steps in the wilderness to see Him meet the Evil One and pass “His test.”
Humility is not something that requires a great education. Nor does it require a fortune of money. Nor does it require friends in high places. Nor does it “require” the ways of this “post-truth” world! It merely requires us to recall that we are but dust… and to know that to dust we shall return.
The path of humility is always before us. Let us carefully follow it.
World without end. Amen.