The End

Ezekiel 3:7: “But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” Parenting still tops the list of the most difficult jobs in the world because of a hard forehead and a stubborn heart that both parents and children have. Parent or not, all of us are guilty of this nature hands down. This is also why God is very different from us. God’s focus on a hard forehead and a stubborn heart, as revealed to an exiled Ezekiel in Babylon in 6th Century BC, is stilled being revealed to us today as we fall back to Him every now and then. In our walk faith and prayer can quickly turn into resentment. God wants us to watch out for that. In God’s terms life is a warfare (Ephesians 6:12) not a fanciful tale. There are few sermons on hard truths today. The catchphrase in today’s pop church is: “Take it easy.” Strikingly, there is nothing pop about following Jesus.  Isaiah 42:8 makes it clear: “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” God’s purpose of salvation is for His glory not ours. After all that had been said and done, God commented on Israel: “A hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” That was all Israel could live up to. After the Creation, Flood, birth of Abraham, Exodus, Wilderness, Judges, Kings, Babylon captivity, return from Babylon, birth of Christ, Crucifixion and Ascension, God has the same comment on humanity: “A hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” What are we living up to? Rather, whom?  
God’s focus is on the individual – to be trained to follow Him. We are all individuals originated in the mind of God. Therefore we can at best be leaning towards Him only. That is why we naturally raise the question of God when things beyond our control hit us. And our hearts are restless until we find the answer. Consider Narelle Grace, 28, from West London, a sperm donor offspring who says, “Out there, in the world, is a whole family I will never know and who will never know me. My biological father would have been younger than I am now when he donated his sperm, and I imagine he thought very little about the consequences of doing so. But here I am, a young woman who is desperate to find out anything I can about him.” Grace is longing for her father. Who would not long for her father! We are redefining family. Are we redefining ourselves like the elder brother of the prodigal son by becoming an unloving and self-righteous child of God? Easy talk. But hard to live up to God’s standards. Are we looking at the mirror like winsome and dashing Absalom and never allowing God to deal with us? Sunday school kids know very well about Absalom as the ‘ungrateful son.’ David was reminded of his youthful years whenever he looked at his son Absalom and so, kissed him once eventhough he did not repent for murder. In God’s eyes it was rebellion. The rebelling attitude in us numbs God’s voice in us. The fallen characters in the Bible have one common thing: they knew they had to come to God but they did not. Faith without works is dead. So, Jesus commands us still, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mathew 11:28). Pretense does not work in the kingdom of God. God’s model of relationship is living as one. What does God require of us?      
 August 3, 1992. Summer Olympics in Barcelona. 400 meter semi-finals. British athlete Derek Redmond had a torn hamstring and fell on the track in agony. Paramedics came but he waved them off and started to limp-run. On the final stretch, his father came and said, “You don’t have to do this, you don’t have to put yourself through this.” Derek was focused on finishing the race. As father and son together, they reached the finish line to an Olympic audience in thunderous applause.  Father God is beside us as we stand face to face with grief, pain, betrayal and many other things beyond our control. Only two possibilities about us: changing into Christ’s image or changing back to our old ways. Which one are we? Our feet cannot be planted in mid-air. Walking with God is an uphill climb. Jesus Himself walked up the Calvary hill. Moses received the call only after 40 years. Noah invested a lot of time, energy and resources to build the ark. Fall we will. There is no guarantee for the next moment. But we walk by faith. Following Christ is not how we start but how we end. The characters in the Bible started well but did not end accordingly. We are not characters of the Bible. We learn from the lives of those in the Bible. We do not stop until we see this sign: The End. Amen.