It’s a love story gone terribly wrong. Not a “boy meets girl” sort of love story, but a benefactor meets waif type of love story. A rags to riches love story. I’m reading Ezekiel 16 this morning and what a story as God the benefactor laments over Judah the waif . . . recounting their love story and sorrowing over how terribly south it had gone.
She caught His eye from birth. Not much of a birth to speak of. No royalty or particular merit in her heritage. So poor in fact that she was abandoned in a field without any of the normal post-natal care afforded babies of the day (16:1-5). But when He saw her, He had the pity and compassion no one else did for her. He cleansed her and literally gave her life. And she flourished. Growing in beauty and innocence.
When He saw her again, “at the age for love,” He claimed her for Himself and entered into covenant with her. He bathed her, anointed her with oil, wrapped her in fine linen, covered her with silk, and adorned her with fine jewelry. And she continued to flourish. Growing in beauty, blossoming into royalty, the splendor He bestowed on her made her the talk of the town (16:6-14).
But then it went terribly wrong. Headed terribly south. The beauty which she had been given by her Benefactor she gave to others.
But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.
(Ezekiel 16:15 ESV)
And for the next 45 verses her shame is revealed and her fall is prophesied. Having provoked her holy Benefactor to anger she would receive the just recompense for her unfaithfulness. Wrath and judgment would come. Devastation would be experienced. But as sad as it is, while it’s tragic, it’s not surprising. That’s what you’d expect for such rebellion. Those are the wages which seem just for such rejection and unfaithfulness. Given all that she had been given, and having turned her face and back towards the Giver, such punishment should be expected.
What’s not expected is how the story ends . . .
. . . yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. . . . I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.
(Ezekiel 16:60, 62-63 ESV)
Yet . . . glorious, grace-filled yet! . . . Yet I will remember my covenant with you when I atone for you.
When I atone for you.
It’s the last thing you’d expect. Though there would be consequences for her sin, she would not be utterly cast out because of her sin. Though she really could never pay the wages for her transgression . . . though she could never make the wrong right . . . though she could never restore her own beauty or make up for her lewd infidelity . . . He would remember the promise and He would pay the price required for her to know again her place as His betrothed.
When I atone for you. Those words echo in my head because her story is my story.
I’m not the waif of this story, but I am the destitute orphan of my own story. It’s not the same rag to riches story, but mine is the same rebellion and rejection of the One who gave me life. Not really royalty, but created in the image of God for His glory. And I spoiled it. Gave the beauty to others. Deserving of His wrath. Worthy of being cast out because of my rejection of Him. Yet He says, even to me, I will remember the covenant when I atone for you.
O blessed cross of Christ! O glorious eternal payment made for my transgression. The blood shed so that I might be spared. The live given that I might be given life. The great exchange undertaken that Jesus would bear my sin and I might be robed in the beauty of His righteousness.
When I atone for you! What glorious words. What amazing grace. To God be all the glory!