The other part of this passage in Ezekiel where God addresses the faithfulness of His people that we really struggle with is the idea that God would pour out His fury on anything, let alone on His own people. Indeed, that's the problem we have with a lot of the Old Testament - this so-called "loving" God spends an awful lot of His time, it seems, being angry.
To the (post)modern mind, anger simply is not love. Love is, you know, tolerant permissiveness, a passive acceptance of everything for no other reason than that it seems important to us. (This is not, of course, love, but it's what this world seems to think love is.)
What we were looking at yesterday - that God is inherently relational - can help us to shed some light on His fury. Because His fury is, as is everything He does, relational.
That's what we seem to be missing. When most of us think about God as pouring out His fury, we think about it as a power move. All-mighty, all-powerful, all-perfect God pouring out His wrath unilaterally, just because He can, just because He's God and we're not and He never wants us to forget that He is that far above us. We think of His wrath in the same way that we think of His miracles - shows of power meant to confirm, once more, His authority.
This is one way to look at fury, but it's not the loving way to look at fury. It's not the relational way of looking at fury.
See, God's fury doesn't come from a mighty hand, but from a wounded heart. It's not one-directional, as power poured out. Rather, it is at least two-directional, a combination of disappointment/frustration with His people and a tremendous grief. Disappointment and frustration move outward; grief moves deeper inward. If only we could see the heart in God's fury....
It's like a parent. When you're a parent and your child does something dumb, something they should have known better than to do, you get upset with your child. You're disappointed in their decision to commit this act, frustrated that they didn't make a better choice, and grieved that you may not have had enough of an influence on them to keep them from doing it in the first place. In other words, you taught them better. They ought to have known better.
No one would say that you're evil for being upset with your child. No one would say that if you truly loved your child, you wouldn't care what they did. No one would say that you don't have a right to be angry. Almost universally, this world would understand the tension you feel between your disappointment/frustration and your grief, which manifests as anger. Almost universally, every other parent would look at you and say, "Been there. I'm sorry."
It's this kind of understanding that we need to have about God's fury. Like the parent who feels precisely this same thing when a child goes astray, God's fury is inherently relational. It just is. It's not because He's God and we're "mere humans," just cosmic pawns in His eternal game. No. It's because He is our Father, and we've done something dumb. He is disappointed, frustrated, and grieved, and at the same time that He's upset with us, He's upset with Himself, wondering if somehow He failed us. Wondering if He had enough of an influence that we shouldn't have done it in the first place. For sure, God thinks, He taught us better.
This isn't inconsistent for me. When I hear persons talk about how they can't understand how God can get angry with His people and claim to be a God of love, I don't share that sentiment. I don't know how God could love us, really love us, and not get angry with us. I don't know how we could be His children if He didn't get cheesed off with us every now and then.
Like all children, we often misunderstand this. We stomp to our rooms, pouting, declaring, "God hates us." But it's not that at all. God loves us. He loves us enough to get angry with us. He loves us enough to show us His disappointment. He loves us enough to bear His grief for our sake.
We're not wrong to believe in this love. What we have to remember, though, is that God's love is true love, not the (post)modern myth of tolerant permissiveness. It's truly relational.
Just like His fury