Long before Christ, God called thirty year old Ezekiel to relay a challenging message to a rebellious people. Can you guess where Ezekiel was when he received his call? He was in the ruins, sitting “among the exiles” (Ezekiel 1: 1). God called Ezekiel to proclaim punitive messages and dramatize difficult demonstrations relating to God’s judgment. God had allowed the Babylonian army to devastate Jerusalem and take prisoners. Jeremiah who also experienced the ruins said, he “looked down upon their land, and as far as [He] could see in all directions everything was ruins” (Jeremiah 4: 23).
Centuries later, our world sits in ruins, no different than that of Jerusalem. Definitely, our world has its mark of beauty; it belongs to God. But, it has also been sullied with the mark of sin. Whether we consider ourselves to be from the scenic suburbs, or the grotesque ghetto, ruin lives where we live. Sin, poverty, disasters, depression, sickness, war, and anarchy is part of our world, accordingly part of our lives. Therefore, the reasons the people of Israel experienced ruins in their lives are not much different from the reasons we experience ruins in ours.
The Ruins of Choice: From moment the Israelites left Egypt, God warned them about idolatry. Joshua encouraged them to, “choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24: 15), God the Father or the idols. They chose idolatry. God sent them prophets upon prophets to teach them, to woo them, to give them encouragement but they always end up choosing the enticing idolatry. Just like the Israelites, good and bad choices have set us upon wobbly pedestals; they collapse when we least expect and send us crumbling into ruins.
The Ruins of Circumstances: We could pack all of our ruins put them in a box and label it choice, but the ruins are not always our choosing. Ezekiel was found among the ruins, not that he chose disobedience. Job didn’t choose his ruins, neither did Joseph nor Daniel, but they encountered ruinous moments in their lives.
The Ruins of Sickness: While Jesus walked the earth, He met a man born blind, a woman bleeding for 12 years, a crippled man and many more people who lived in the ruins of illness. Diseases are all over our world. We experience them and watch them snatch our loved ones away. The inescapable ruins of sickness are ever-present in our world.
The Ruins of The Past: Ezekiel, Jeremiah and all the prophets of that time, experienced ruinous moments because of the past sins of Israel. Nehemiah was heartbroken when he heard about the ruins of Jerusalem. “Sir, why shouldn’t I be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been burned down” (Nehemiah 2: 3). God had witnessed enough of their idolatry. Judgment for their past and present sins had come to Jerusalem. The ruins could be repercussions of our past, or it could be prior actions of others that have left repercussions for us. Many still live in the ruins built by the circumstances of past hurts, past deaths, past relationships and past failures.
The Ruins of Disobedience: This is exactly where Ezekiel finds the people of Israel, and if you examine human life with microscopic lens, you may just find that along with choice, disobedience is the root of many, if not all of our ruins. God told Ezekiel, “I am sending you to the people of Israel, and they won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard, impudent, and stubborn” (Ezekiel 3: 7). Does that sound like humanity? Accordingly, no one escapes this category.
The Ruins of Finance: Money is the issue of our world; many misuse it to their destruction. Those who don’t have much, fall into all sorts of corruption. With our current economical situations, many people are living in the ruins of finance. King Zedekiah reigned for a while, then lost it all when dragged into Babylonian captivity. He became not only poor, but they slew his sons before him, then put out his eyes and left him in prison until his death (Jeremiah 52: 11).
The Ruins of Failure: Have you tried, tried and retried but failed? Have you done everything right, but still feel like a failure? Have you been working all of your life and can’t seem to make ends meet? Have you failed at parenting, relationships, work? Many people live in the ruins of failure.
The Ruins of the Psyche: People struggle with loneliness or mental instability every day. They fight with the demons inside their heads, trying to sort out, who they are, why they are here, where they going and how they are to get there? King Saul struggled with his purpose and his identity. As a means to fulfill the emptiness he felt, jealousy engulfed him. He spent most of his life chasing after David whom God appointed as his successor. The ruins of the psyche have forced many people into further ruins of depression and self-destruction.
There is no doubt, we are living in the ruins.
But, never forget that you are not alone because Jesus lived in the ruins too. During the period of barbaric and rigid Roman rule, Jesus was plunged into the ruins. The ruins was His home where He walked and worked.
He has firsthand experience of the ruins. He saw the ruination of the Jewish world. He saw the ruinous state of human life, and…He wept. He knows the exact reasons for our specific ruins and His greatest plan is redemption. He already made the way for us to rise out of the ruins of sin. Ezekiel was smack in the middle of ruins that he didn’t cause. But before he could do anything, God made sure that he understood what the ruins are about for himself. We are no different, acknowledgement of our ruinous circumstances is the first step.
Still, while you reflect on the reasons for your ruins, know that God is more concerned about your restoration. Journey with us the next few days as we lay wide open the ruins and find God’s way to rise up out of the ruins. The ruins of our lives hardly represent the end, it could very well be the beginning.
Nehemiah 2: 17, “But now I told them, ‘You know full well the tragedy of our city; it lies in ruins and its gates are burned. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this disgrace!”
Artwork: Donald Keefe (used with permission)