The Ruined Places Will Be Made Full
Savannah Shelby | June 11, 2018
Post written by Savannah Shelby, RUF Campus Staff at the College of Charleston
One of my favorite shows growing up was The Big Comfy Couch. In every episode, there is a scene where the main character, Lunette, looks around and says, “Wait a minute… WHO MADE THIS BIG MESS?!” She always tried to blame someone for the mess she made. When Lunette realizes that she was the one to make the mess, she stuffs all her toys into her couch and calls it a day. Even as a 5-year-old I realized that Lunette wasn’t really cleaning the mess. She was just tucking the mess into her couch and she would do it all over again in the next episode.
In Ezekiel, we find Judah in Babylon in the midst of, you guessed it… a huge mess! They are surrounded by the mess they made, and blame God for it. The people of Judah sinned and broke covenant with their God. They were meant to be growing as a nation, caring for the land, and gaining life from their work; but God let them away from the land into exile. Judah was designed to experience joy by living as people in relationship with God. Instead they find themselves in a foreign land surrounded by people looking down on them and their God. Judah falls into the trap of believing their God is to blame for their current situation, that God has abandoned them and left them to suffer. As a result they’re not stewarding the land, caring for the world, or telling the nations how great their God is. What a hopeless situation!
Judah is despairing in the chaos they have created. How does God respond? Condemn them? Abandon the faithless people that abandoned Him?
God responds with Ezekiel 36.
God takes on His peoples’ mess by promising to renew and restore the land. Verses 33 and 34 say, “…I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by.” From the beginning of creation, God’s people were supposed to be making the place they live in better and fruitful (Genesis 2:27-28). Instead the land has been laid waste! They aren’t there to care for it and they don’t care about Babylon either. But, God intervenes and promises to make the land so fruitful that it will look like the Garden of Eden! God is making things right and bringing life where His people brought death.
Then, God graciously chooses to transform His people and INVITE them into His restoring work! God sees that His people are powerless to change and clean their mess apart from Him. So, He promises to GIVE them a new heart and a new spirit even though they don’t deserve it! In Ezekiel 36:22, God says, “…It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.” He does it so that His name will be glorified and known; and as a result, the world will function the way it was meant to because the good King is on His throne. And this good King invites Judah by saying, “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”(vs. 28) Because God chooses to use them, Judah gets to have a role in God’s beautiful plan of redemption for both people and the world!
God’s promise to Judah to restore their land is also a part of our story! We’re living in the “already, but not yet”. Redemption is happening now, but it won’t be complete until Jesus returns and the world is fully restored. Looking around it is obvious how broken and desolate the world is. Messiness is all around us. Look at celebrities, Channing and Jenna Tatum, getting a divorce and everyone exclaiming that love is dead! Or think about how our waste is negatively impacting the planet. There is sickness that makes the day-to-day a battle. We experience extreme brokenness and conflict in our churches when it’s supposed to be a safe place full of unified people. God’s Word has something to say about this!! God is promising a literal reversal. There will no longer be broken relationships! Our planet will be healthy and unblemished! There will be no more sickness. We as God’s people will be united in working towards lasting good! God has promised that there will come a Day when the bad things will come untrue. We need to hear that brokenness has an expiration date!
And God transforms all of our mess through the work of Jesus so that we, too, get to be a part of this important work! Jesus took on the mess (that He had NO part in) and put it to death once and for all (1 Cor. 5:15 “and He died once for all.”). This is good news! Because of what Christ has done, we can own our mess and find freedom from it. Our identity is no longer a people of mess, but a people of order and hope! God graciously gives us a part to play and uses us to heal and transform this messy world! “Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate…”(Ezekiel 36:36).
The truth is, you and I are just like Lunette. We stuff our mess into the couch and try to call it a day. But, the Lord has has a better plan! He cleans up the mess FOR us and continues to use our (sometimes not so great) cleaning skills for His glory. This means that no matter what your work is (being a student, retail, ministry, business, medicine, the arts, etc.) God is using it to make the world whole again and it WILL end in triumph! We all need this truth when we’re drowning in the futility of work and the sorrow of this world. Let this be a balm to your soul and take joy in God’s invitation to join in this redemption! The ruined places will be made full. He is the Lord. He has spoken, and He will do it.