03 March 2014

According to the Idols of our Hearts

Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them, and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God : Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols'."

Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God : Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am The Lord."
~Ezekiel 14:1-8 NKJV

It seems like the idea that God will give us what's in our hearts keeps popping up over and over lately. So I've been reading and mulling over this passage, trying to understand its meaning. At first glance, it seems to be saying that God will give you whatever answer is in your heart. The NLT even renders a later verse as saying God will deceive a prophet:
"And if a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet. I will lift my fist against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel.  False prophets and those who seek their guidance will all be punished for their sins." ~Ezekiel 14:9-10
The idea of God deceiving someone, or answering falsely because someone asks with an idolatrous heart, just doesn't jive with what I know of God. Both the Bible and Book of Mormon have something to say about the truthful nature of God. Paul wrote it to Titus, almost in passing, as if the idea that God is wholly truthful is such a given that it hardly bears mentioning:
This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. ~ Titus 1:2 NLT
The Book of Mormon gets a little more specific, but still, it's a given; not an idea that takes a great deal of exposition or persuasion to make sense:
"And the Lord said unto [Ether]: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie." ~Ether 3:11-12
So I turned my mind to the human side of the equation. How could God's truthful answer seem false to the children He loves, of whom He said,
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! ~Matt 7:7-11 NLT
And to whom He said:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. ~James 1:5
and:
Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not bask for that which you ought not. Ask that you may know the mysteries of God . . . ~D&C 8:10-11
(I love how the Lord followed up an injunction to not ask for things we "ought not" with a direct instruction right afterward to inquire about the "mysteries of God". Clearly, asking about the mysteries is not taboo, for anyone. Or at least God thinks so. ;o) )

So, long story short: God is just not into messing with His kids. He is truthful. He will give good things (i.e. the truth!) to those that ask Him, and He's not going to get after us for coming to Him with questions.

So, since God isn't a deceiver, how are we left to understand those verses? What can it mean to be answered according to the idols in our hearts?

I believe it's fairly well-understood that we limited human beings interpret and comprehend what comes into our lives according to what we know, what we have experienced. Most of us know the American proverb: "When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

Add to that the deep human distaste for cognitive dissonance, the square-peg-in-a-round-hold dilemma that requires us to either throw out the peg as defective, or do the sometimes painful work of changing the hole, changing the way we understand the world in order to accommodate the new truth we've received, and suddenly it starts to make sense.

As I was talking this through with Vern, it came to me so clearly: the idols in our hearts are colored glasses, filters, through which we understand what we receive from God. That's how some people can honestly believe that in order to have Zion, we have to actually kick the poor out from among us (since there will be no poor in Zion). The idols in their hearts require them to reject the poor, and then cry "all is well in Zion!" because they have achieved the condition of "and there shall be no poor among them". (And I've actually come across one of these. They are not Utah urban legend. I was gobsmacked.) The idea of needing to eject the poor in order to prepare for Jesus is so deeply counter to what the scriptures say . . . and yet I read a lengthy and flawlessly-reasoned explanation of why it makes perfect sense. Trouble was, the basic premise was flawed, and that little slant into how that person understood the nature of Jesus Christ, what His victory meant (that He was the ultimate owner of all, and that since He was the richest One in all of creation that He would only want the rich and successful with Him in paradise) made utter craziness of the scripture that tells us there shall be no poor in Zion, where the people are of one heart and Christ dwells among them. And yet, this person wrested the scriptures to fit his idea of Jesus.

When we have idols in our hearts, instead of God, the powerful force of human nature and all the beguiling temptations of the enemy combine in us to misunderstand God's word. Our misunderstanding fits within the framework we already have, though, and when we understand something, even if it's misunderstanding, neurons connect in the same way in our brains as when we learn something correctly, and we're given the same powerful positive hormonal feedback as when we learn something correctly.  I know this phenomenon well, from back in math class in junior high. ;)

If you're suffering from an idolatrous heart condition, it's easy to mistake that neurological feedback rush for Holy Spirit's witness of truth. (Which is much harder to mistake after you've received the Testimony of Jesus with the second baptism. That said, this can exist either whollistically, or in topic-specific areas. It can be due to veils of unbelief that still exist in parts of our understanding, and which God proceeds to remove methodically as we seek Him and press into our identities as His.

It's not God that answers differently when we set up gods unto ourselves. It's we, the mortal, fallible ones, who hear differently.

Father in Heaven, You are amazing. I rest, so confident, in Your unchanging nature, and the constancy of Jesus. I rejoice that You and He are faithful, that You are made of nothing which is not good, nothing which is not true, nothing which is not love. Because I know these things--because I know I can trust you without limit--Lord, open my eyes to my own idolatry. Show me the ways in which I still reject You, or get in Your way in my life. I want to follow You. I want my old life, my former way of doing things, the way that is my own, to be crucified; and I want to rise again into the unbounded love and grace of my Savior, continually changed into newness life after the manner of His life, of His heart. Lord, I want to live as proof of every good thing that comes from You; I want so much for my life to be the proof of Your love. I humble myself before You, God of mine that I know I can trust utterly and completely. (What good would be a god that isn't worthy of that? Hallelujah to God and the Lamb!) Thank You, oh how I thank You, for the happiness, peace, and JOY that comes when I throw myself upon Your mercy, Your grace, and into Your will. When I am made aware of a way to submit more fully to You, and make another leap past the boundary of my mortal experience. Keep showing me, God, what to do. Keep showing me things through Your eyes. Keep teaching me, and keep on turning all of my paradigms upside down. Even if I never get used to it--even if it never gets any easier--I will go through every last one of them rejoicing, because You are a giver of good gifts . . . and I want to receive all You have in store for Your children, in Jesus' beloved and tenderly merciful name, so be it. Amen!!!

(And God, can I just say that I'm so glad that I can have some measure of confidence that it will get easier? lol I really appreciate that. ;o) )



"The Proof Of Your Love"

If I sing but don't have love
I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise
If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don't have love
I leave a bitter taste with every word I say

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

If I give
To a needy soul but don't have love then who is poor?
It seems all the poverty is found in me

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
Oh, let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

When it's all said and done
When we sing our final song
Only love remains
Only love remains

Let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love


2 comments:

  1. I remember reading (in one of Denver Snuffer's books) that God can say things that are misleading. For example:

    Abraham 2:21-25
    D&C 19:6-12

    However, when it comes to covenants, God cannot lie. He is bound by the covenants He makes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't see any misleading communication from the Lord to His children in either of those passages. The first is a case of clear instruction to Abraham (which was WAY easier to follow than the command to sacrifice Isaac, or Nephi's instruction to slay Laban); and the second seems to be a case where God gave a name to something, not to be misleading, but to try to convey to mortals with their limited minds as best as He could the nature of the consequences that befall those who choose to live without Him in this world and the next.

    While I respect what Denver has written, I don't agree with all of his opinions on scripture. ;o)

    One of the pivotal events of my own progression is the understanding that God is good. Nothing bad comes from Him. Ever. Understanding scripture within that frame of reference has unlocked so many precious truths. I have yet to find a compelling reason to ever allow for a moment that God is anything other than what He said He was, or to say "well, uncleanliness CAN come from God, when He feels like it". No unclean thing can dwell with God because He is absolutely without spot, cleansed every whit, and anyone with uncleanness in His presence would be in torment, as they would hold in their hearts combustible dross while standing within the fire of His presence.

    Any misunderstanding comes from our limitations as mortals, not from God's communication. :o)

    Have a wonderful day!!!

    ReplyDelete

I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!