I guess I need lots of reminders to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). But, kind as He is, God never seems to mind giving them to me. This week His encouragement came from what seemed to me an unlikely place—the book of Ezekiel.
It was not a good day in Jerusalem. God’s people had forsaken Him for years, and the priests and leaders were the worst of the entire bunch. God gave Ezekiel a vision of judgment, destruction and bloodshed that climaxed with His glory—His very presence—leaving His temple. His people had forsaken Him and now He was forsaking them.
Ezekiel was beside himself in agony. He “fell facedown, crying out, “Alas, Sovereign Lord!Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrathon Jerusalem?” (9:8).
I could feel Ezekiel’s anguish and hurried to read the Lord’s reply. To my dismay, it seemed as if God had not even heard Ezekiel, or else was ignoring him. In reply, He simply restated His plans for justly deserved judgment (9:9-10).
Yet Ezekiel, more persevering—or perhaps more desperate—than I, wouldn’t let it go. The vision of God’s judgment continued, just as God had said it would. But, summoning faith and courage from someplace deep inside, Ezekiel again “fell facedown and cried out in a loud voice, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?” (11:13).
Was God just waiting to see if Ezekiel would hold on to faith? I really don’t know. But His answer this time was nothing but encouraging and gentle. He assured Ezekiel that He would indeed spare a remnant. And then God gave Ezekiel one of the most beautiful promises in Scripture: “I will give them an undivided heartand put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.They will be my people,and I will be their God” (11:19-20).
The concerns I’ve been praying about for a long time aren’t as terrifying and widespread as what troubled Ezekiel. Nevertheless, I sometimes feel something akin to the distress Ezekiel must have felt. If the Lord doesn’t intervene, there are certain hopes I have that will be lost.
But the Lord seems to want me to keep asking. That fits with what Jesus said in Luke 18, and it fits with what He showed me in Ezekiel this week. Even when it seems like things are heading toward the point of no return, from God’s perspective it’s not too late. So for my part, I will keep on asking.