I am going to blame Ezekiel for what happened last night. Had I not spent the week in his company I might have spared myself more than a little embarrassment.
My daily notes are wading through the book of Ezekiel. Getting beyond the first couple of chapters with his vision of cherubim and wheels and the throne of God above them all is quite an achievement for me having been a great fan of Erich Von Daniken’s book, “Chariot of the Gods”. Laying aside the whole alien spaceship idea in order to see God instead was a challenge. The following chapters are not easy reading, tracing the downward slide of the people of God into idolatry and not just following the ways of the world but surpassing it in their level of wickedness. Ezekiel stood on the banks of a river in Babylon, witnessing in the spirit event unfolding in Jerusalem. People who had a family history of standing with God had moved themselves to other side of the fence. They were involved in idol worship inside the temple of God.
The story unfolds with the glory of God departing from the Temple as God distances himself from His people. Those in exile, without access to the temple in Jerusalem, had been presumed to be abandoned by God and yet they weren’t at all. Those left in the Jerusalem, presuming themselves to be choice and chosen people, with access to the Temple – they were the abandoned ones. Ezekiel saw the glory of God leave the temple, but I wondered whether anyone else had noticed.
In those early chapters Ezekiel was given a scroll which he ate. He described the scroll as sweet, like honey on the tongue. The scroll was described as being covered front and back with words of lament, mourning and woe. How sweet can that be? I would have thought that would have more of a bitter or a sour taste. What he had eaten, those words of lament, mourning and woe caused him to sit beside the river for seven days deeply distressed.
When God chose to bring His judgement on the nation, Ezekiel, every time, fell to his knees.
“I fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?”
So, this week, having spent so much time with Ezekiel on his knees, deeply distressed about God’s judgement – my mind set has been about getting it right with God. I had been praying a lot, not for myself so much as for the people of God now – His church and wondering whether the corporate body of Christ was drifting. What did we see of God’s activities in the spiritual realm? Had we moved our focus off God and onto other things?
I am not a member of a big church. We are the size of a bigger church’s life-group or home-group. We know each other well. I don’t usually phone ahead and make arrangements to meet people – I just turn up on the doorstep.
The meeting I went to last night – a fellowship meeting – was mostly members of a big church, whose life-groups were disbanded for the summer, meeting anyway. It was clearly labelled as “fellowship”.
Fellowship according to the dictionary means “the condition of sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences, as by reason of profession, religion, or nationality,” and “the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.” I always assume that when Christians have fellowship there is all of that plus prayers and worship and encouraging words, so I took my bible and notebook and a pen. My friends and I arrived early and were ready.
The dictionary definition prevailed. It was the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere sharing similar interests and experiences. It took an hour and a quarter of people chatting about all sorts of things to realise that this was it. People were simply touching base and catching up with one another.
I would like to say that I joined in the chat, had a nice time and went home.
I didn’t know this was all it intended to be. I was looking for more. I’d spent the week with Ezekiel and I was in the mood to do serious damage to the enemy. All I could see was a golden opportunity going amiss. We had several prayer warriors in the room; we had the unity of more than one church in the room; we had the enemy prowling around like a lion picking off the stragglers – we were the two or three gathered in the midst of God. And we were talking about mundane things – the price of a bus ticket to Inverness Airport.
If I had known from the start that this fellowship was just touching base and catching up with people I wouldn’t have gone. I wouldn’t have gone armed to the teeth with prayers on my lips, words from the Bible swirling around my head or songs of worship stirring my heart. I wouldn’t have gone out in my armour! I was at the wrong place at the wrong time totally in the wrong frame of mind.
Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, I just had to say something! I just couldn’t keep quiet – really, I couldn’t. I tried clamping my lips together, but the words slipped out anyway. Sometimes when the Spirit stirs I feel a gut wrenching churning, like I am going to be sick. My heartbeat thuds loudly in my ear and I fidget. Relief comes only when I say something. But, I was speaking to strangers, not friends. Maybe that’s what made it so awkward.
“So is this it? Is this all you do?” There was a lot more than that most of which I remember word for word and wish I could forget. I don’t know, looking back – well, yes, I do. I know the stirring of the Spirit. I know Him and I know his ways with me. I said something about prayer warriors and pulling down strongholds. I didn’t ask whether God was that interested in the price of a ticket to Inverness Airport but it was there in my head. I think I chastised them.
Yes, I believe God is interested in the smallest details of our lives, and that the need for people to touch base and catch up with one another is important. I just didn’t think that was the only reason Christians should meet. Any corporate gathering of the saints should be more than that.
Suffice to say I was embarrassed. The old man within chortled and admonished me for being too serious. The old man has known me all my life and likes to think he gets it right sometimes. I am a serious body. In the car on the way home, I wept buckets. I wept because I felt foolish. I wept because I felt an opportunity slip away. I wept because it seemed the Spirit had not spoken to me at all.
I went straight to bed. God was not my friend. No doubt He and His angels were laughing in heaven at my antics. I dug out a book I had been reading which involved a very complicated plot, marines strutting around and blowing things up with grenades and a villain crowing about ruling the world.
“Mel,” said God, “I am proud of you. You got out of the boat and walked on water. You responded to the Holy Spirit. You didn’t know the people, but you were ready to say something. OK maybe you sank and I grabbed hold of you and pulled you back up, but you risked the waves.”