Many of you may remember Roy Orbison’s song, “Pretty Woman.” Some of you may remember the movie starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Gere was a businessman and Roberts played a prostitute. Now, Gere’s character (Edward Lewis) did not love Roberts’ character (Vivian Ward); he just needed an escort. But the point I want to make from the movie is that Lewis (Gere) saw something in Ward (Roberts) that she couldn’t see for herself, and something she wouldn’t remember later.
The same thing is often true for us. We think less of ourselves than we should. And worse, we think less of God than we should. Ward thought she was trash, but Lewis saw more. He lifted her up, made a spectacle of her (in a good way mostly), but through circumstances, she returned to her old ways.
That is what sin does. It keeps us from realizing who we were made to be.
In Ezekiel 16, we see this idea clearly. God rescues Israel, but Israel turns from God. However, even though Israel is unfaithful, God remembers His promises, and remains faithful to those promises. We see that in Ezekiel 16.59-63.
God remembers. We forget. God remembers us. We forget God. But thankfully, despite our lack of faith (and faithfulness), God remains faithful to us even when He has every earthly reason not to be.
Why does God remain faithful? Because it is who God is. But I would suggest, it is also because God sees more in us than we see in ourselves, He wants more for us than we want for ourselves, and He has invested in us more than we invest in ourselves. Let’s look at Ezekiel 16 and see how Israel’s story relates to ours.
God Is Faithful Because He Remembers (Ezekiel 16.60-61)
Aren’t you glad that God remembers His promises? Don’t you wish He would forget about our shortcomings? Well, the truth is, God didn’t need to make promises except in response to our shortcomings. We don’t deserve His faithfulness, but He offers it anyway – not as an offer, but as part of who He is.
In my Bible, the heading for Ezekiel 16 is, “The Lord’s Faithless Bride.” Headings are not perfect, and they certainly were not a part of the original text, but most are very accurate. This heading is certainly on target. In verse 59, God says (through Ezekiel) that He will deal with the people of Jerusalem (the you in the sentence) as is appropriate because they broke the covenant. But verse 60 says that God remembers His covenant. God doesn’t forget. Better yet, He will establish a new, everlasting covenant. We will come back to each of these ideas in a few moments.
When reading Ezekiel 16, we find God talking to the people in intimate terms. Israel was God’s bride, but she (the nation) did not start out that way. Israel started as an orphan without a home. Over time, she grew because God protected her, loved here, provided for her, cared for her, and in verse 8, married her. His bride became elegant and everyone admired her (Read Ezekiel 16.9-14).
Women, isn’t that what you want in your heart of hearts? Don’t all girls dream of having that man come and rescue you, protect you, provide for you, care for you, give you a home, and most importantly love you? Don’t you want to be treated well by that man and have that man make sure that everyone admires you?
It sounds like a fairy tale. It sounds like Cinderella, maybe. But this dream sequence is not a fairy tale, it is how God felt about the people of Israel. It is how God feels about you!
And that is why God came to this earth. Remember, God does not forget. And that means He does not forget His promises. And that is why we have Christmas. We needed Christ to come to us. For Christ to come to find us. And to rescue us, provide for us, care for us, love us, etc. He came to abide with us, so that we might choose to abide with Him – both now and forever.
We’re Unfaithful Because We Forget (Ezekiel 16.62-63)
A few minutes ago, we briefly reviewed what God did for Israel, lifting her from nothing to being His bride. But after the first few verses of Ezekiel 16, the sentiment shifts.
In Ezekiel 16.15-59, God shows His people how unfaithful they have been to Him. From verses 15-43, God reveals how Israel was an unfaithful spouse. They took what He gave to them and offered those items as sacrifices to other gods. They offered themselves to other leaders, to other countries, playing the part of the whore. In fact, God said, normally men give gifts to the prostitutes, but the people, as the prostitute, were giving their gifts to others. Verse 34 is explicit – most whores receive payment from others, but Israel, playing the part of a whore, paid others even though they were the whore.
God did all the work. He located the people (they did not look for Him). He rescued them. He saved them. He helped them grow. But they turned on Him. Therefore, God was going to punish the people (covered in verse 44-59). Read Ezekiel 16.59.
Are we any different than the people of Israel? God found us. Rescued us. Saved us. He has given us His Spirit to help us grow – to mature us, so that we could represent Him in the world. He has given us peace in our lives. He has adorned us, adopted us, making us more than conquerors (Romans 8.35-39). He loves us. But we turn our back on Him.
But God’s faithfulness to us can be, indeed will be, remembered by us eventually, for those who are His children. Read Ezekiel 16.62-63. His promise of a new covenant – the new covenant (based on what Jesus did) would come and they would remember He is Lord (Yahweh, Yeshua). Their shame would disappear. God would rescue them again, restoring the relationship as it was meant to be.
And if He did that for Israel, He will certainly do that for us!
Like Israel, we drift in our walk with God. Our devotion to Him wanes. We lose sight and chase other things, forgetting that everything else pales in comparison to God. In fact, in reality, everything else fails. And when we are ready to turn back to Him – He receives us. God meets our unfaithfulness with His faithfulness to forgive us.
Like the unfaithful bride in Ezekiel 16 (and Gomer in Hosea 1-3), we cannot stray too far from God. But we must repent, turning to Him and seeking forgiveness. He does not forget His promises. He loves us. And His promise to abide in us as we abide in Him (John 15.1-11).
Too often, we limit our thinking about who we are. Take just a moment and define yourself in three, or maybe five words. If those words don’t include something like, “Loved (by God),” then you have limited yourself.
As I began this message, I mentioned the movie Pretty Woman. Again, Edward Lewis is not a real comparison to God. I don’t want to equate the character Gere played, or the man Gere is, to the Almighty God. However, we can learn from the character. Edward Lewis did not intentionally seek out a particular woman like God did with Israel. And Edward Lewis had other motives for doing what he did, but Lewis began to realize that Vivian Ward could be more than a prostitute working on the street. Ward liked what she was becoming, but she listened to the lies of others and that took her away from Lewis, and back to the life she had.
In other words, she exchanged something better for something worse, in part because what was worse was familiar. The taste of what she had led her to want something more, but she forgot how it happened. She forgot who had helped her.
Again, we are no different. As followers of Jesus, we must guard ourselves from forgetting our Lord. We must be diligent in remembering what God has done for us through Jesus. We must seek to stay faithful to Him, knowing He will always be faithful to us. But when we forget our purpose, our calling, and our hope, we must remember that God still loves us and wants us to return to Him.
As I mentioned last week, Ezekiel had a special task. He was God’s messenger to a people that were stubborn and wanted very little to do with Him. Some of those people were intentionally rebellious towards God, but others had simply forgotten God. The same is true in our world today.
But we also have people all around us who serve others, including risking their lives, on our behalf. As we have been preparing cards for those in the nearby nursing homes (staff and residents) and for those who are a part or our church in some way, it dawned on me this week, that we have an opportunity to say thank you to so many in our general area that protect us, care for us, heal us, and generally serve us without us always recognizing the blessing that is.
So, this week and next, we have a tall order. We have more cards to sign, seal, and deliver. In fact, we have double to do in two weeks than we have done in the past three weeks. But just as God has remembered us, this is our chance to show others that we remember – and appreciate – them for their service, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the greatest Servant who ever lived.
Note: Title, Main Points, and some parts of the explanation are taken from Lifeway’s Explore the Bible, “Ezekiel-Daniel”, Winter 2022 Pastor Resources (relating the sermons to the SS lessons).