Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in the first twenty-second verses of the twenty-third chapter. When this chapter opens, it opens with the word of the Lord coming unto Ezekiel who was known by and unto the Lord as “son of man.” The word of the Lord which came unto the prophet Ezekiel was a word that concerned two women who were the daughters of one mother. Essentially and for all intents and purposes these two women were sisters who were born of and from the same mother. WOMEN, DAUGHTERS AND SISTERS, OH MY! If you continue reading this passage of Scripture, you will find that after the Lord begins to speak unto Ezekiel concerning these two women—two women who were sisters and the daughters of one mother—and how these two women committed whoredoms in the land of Egypt. The word of the Lord came unto Ezekiel declaring of these two sisters how they committed whoredoms in their youth within the land of Egypt, and how their breasts were pressed, and how their virginity was bruised by those within the land. The word of the Lord goes on to reveal concerning these women that the names of these two sisters were Aholah, which was the elder, and Aholibath her sister. The Lord describes how both sisters belonged unto Him and were His, and how they bore sons and daughters unto and before Him. PLAYING THE HARLOT WITHIN THE LAND OF EGYPT! PLAING THE HARLOT WITHIN THE INHERITANCE! The word of the Lord begins and opens up with the Lord speaking of two sisters, providing the names of these two sisters, as well as the abominations these two sisters committed before Him in His presence. The Lord goes on to reveal how AHolah was Samaria, which was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel, and how Aholibath was Jerusalem, which was the capital city of the southern kingdom of Judah. It’s actually quite interesting when you consider how the Lord speaks of these two sisters as being present within the land of Egypt, and how the whoredoms and harlotries of these two sisters were committed within the land of Egypt before they entered into the land of committed. Essentially, these two sisters brought their whoredoms and harlotries with them—lewd acts and practices they committed within the land of Egypt into the land of inheritance, promise and blessing. What makes this passage quite interesting and intriguing is the fact that the whoredoms and harlotries which these two sisters committed within the land of Canaan were first begun and practiced within the land of Egypt. The whoredoms and harlotries they committed within the land of Canaan weren’t new, for in fact they had been committing those acts since they were but a youth within the earth.
If you take the time to read this particular passage of Scripture, you will discover that this passage is centered upon the realities and concepts of adultery and idolatry. You do not have to journey very far into this chapter to discover that the Lord was bringing the attention of the prophet to the adultery, the immorality, and the idolatry these two sisters were committing and and had committed in the sight and presence of the Lord. I am convinced this chapter is in direct connection and relation to what we read in the sixteenth chapter of the same prophetic book when we find the Lord speaking of Jerusalem as being an adulterous and faithless wife. The entire sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel deals with the abominations Jerusalem committed before and in the sight of the Lord—despite the tremendous mercy, grace, love and kindness the Lord showed to her from the day of her nativity. What is so incredibly interesting about this passage of Scripture is that it seems to provide further commentary to the text we find in the sixteenth chapter, for while the sixteenth chapter deals exclusively and primarily with the city of Jerusalem, this chapter reveals the reality that Jerusalem had a sister. As you read the twenty-third chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will find that there was present within the earth two adulterous sisters who committed lewd acts of whoredom and harlotry before the Lord. What adds even more to this chapter is when you consider that these two sisters were capital cities of the respected kingdoms in which they were situated. Consider the fact that adultery, immorality, iniquity and idolatry was found in the capital cities of both kingdoms, and that in all reality—such lewdness and wickedness began within the capital cities of the kingdoms. Those cities which were the very center of both kingdoms within the earth were found to have committed lewd acts before the Lord—despite the fact that they were the Lord’s and belonged to Him. These two cities committed their lewd acts before the Lord in the land into which He brought them—acts and practices which they learned and committed when living as slaves within the land of Egypt. One thing that I find to be incredibly telling about this passage of Scripture is that while it is true the Lord delivered the house and children of Israel out of their slavery, bondage and oppression in the land of Egypt, they brought with them their adulterous, idolatrous and immoral practices. It would appear that inheritance didn’t destroy or remove the adulterous, immoral, and idolatrous tendencies and nature that was found within these two cities. In other words, while it is true they were delivered out of and from their slavery and bondage, they brought with them the same tendencies they learned and picked up while in the land of Egypt.
NEW LOCATION, DIFFERENT LOVERS! NEW LOCATION, SAME LOVERS! As I’m sitting here today thinking about this passage of Scripture, I can’t help but be gripped and captivated with the concept that sometimes transitioning to a new location doesn’t necessarily mean that the tendencies we had in the location we previously were have been removed. I am convinced that we can move to a new location and bring with us the same tendencies, the same struggles, the same battles we faced and engaged in that place, or those places we have previously lived. There are a number of men and women who believe that if they transition to a new location, all the tendencies, all the struggles, all the battles they faced where they had previously been would all of sudden be removed and no longer present. If I’m being completely and totally honest, open and vulnerable, I naïvely believed that in moving to the state of Massachusetts. When I moved up here a little over four months ago, I thought that certain things I struggled with in the state of New Jersey would no longer be valid within my heart, my mind and my life. I naively believed that moving to the state of Massachusetts would help to rid me of certain tendencies, struggles and battles I faced while living in the state of New Jersey. Truth be told, there are a number of men and women who run from place to place thinking and believing that by moving to those new places and locations will somehow eliminate, and perhaps even alleviate them of those things which they struggled and wrestled with where they were previously. There are men and women who will move from place to place and run from one place to another in order to escape that which they struggled and wrestled with where they were previously. There are man and women who are naïve in thinking and believing that if and by moving from one place to another all their problems, all their pain, all their struggles, all their battles and issues will miraculously disappear and no longer be present. There are men and women who will transition themselves from one job to another job thinking and believing that if they just move on to a new company, with a new set of coworkers, and even a new boss or manager that their lives will be so much easier. Such men and women may have a great deal to say about their previous work environment and may think and believe that if they transition to a new work environment, all their struggles, all their problems, all their issues, all their battles will suddenly disappear and no longer be manifested within their lives. If there is one thing I have learned within and throughout my life, it’s that battles can indeed follow you—regardless of where you attempt to transition.
WHEN BATTLES FOLLOW YOU! WHEN STRUGGLES FOLLOW YOU! WHEN ISSUES FOLLOW YOU! WHEN PROBLEMS FOLLOW YOU! The more I read this particular passage of Scripture, the more I can’t help but think of what we do and how we handle it when the battles we thought we left behind us seem to have followed us to our new location. I can’t help but think about how utterly shocked certain men and women may very well be when they transition to a new location and it is only a matter of time before they are confronted with the fact that they didn’t leave their battles and struggles behind. Oh, how many men and women transition from one place to another place thinking and believing that by doing so they can leave their struggles and battles behind them. WHEN BATTLES CATCH UP TO YOU! WHEN PROBLEMS CATCH UP TO YOU! WHEN PROBLEMS AND ISSUES CATCH UP WITH YOU! I am convinced there are countless men and women who are spending their days and time attempting to run from the struggles and battles they faced where they were previously. If I am again being honest, open and vulnerable, I have to admit that I have at times within my life been native in thinking and believing that changing jobs, or even moving to a new location would alleviate, and perhaps even eliminate the struggles and battles I faced within my life. There have been times within my life when I have naively thought and believed that struggles and battles could be left behind, and that they could and would never follow me to that place, or those places I have attempted to transition to. The truth of the matter is that if we aren’t careful, the battles and struggles we have attempted to run from can indeed catch up to us where we attempt to run. I would dare say there are men and women who are finding themselves in a serious state of shock and dismay when they find that which they attempted to run away from and flee from catching up to them in their new location. There are men and women who run from relationship to relationship, and perhaps even from marriage to marriage thinking and believing that by doing so, they will eliminate all those things they struggled with in the past. Such men and women are unwilling to face and admit the fact that the struggles and battles are not location specific, nor are they relationship specific, but are actually individual specific. What I mean by this, is that such struggles and battles don’t have anything to do with where were are geographically, or even who we may find ourselves with, but with us ourselves.
There is a passage in the New Testament—actually two passages in the New Testament—where this reality is made manifest and illustrated even more. Interestingly enough both of these passages are found within the New Testament gospel of John, and describe two different women whom Jesus encountered during His early life and ministry. The first is found in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John and deals with a Samaritan woman whom Jesus found as He sat by a local well. “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And He must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh He to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychard, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, thou hast nothin to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof Himself, and His children, and His cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I s hall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered Him, and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst truly. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (John 4:1-19).
This particular passage is quite interesting when you take the time to consider it—especially in light of Jesus’ encounter with this woman by the well in Samaria. The particular portion of this chapter I would like to highlight is the portion where Jesus instructs the woman to go and call her husband, yet she responds to Jesus’ instruction by declaring that she had no husband. Jesus’ response to this woman was indeed prophetic, for only by and according to the Spirit of God could He have known what He knew. Jesus responded to the woman by declaring unto her that she had had five husbands, and that the man with whom she was currently with was not her husband. FIVE HUSBANDS AND A NEW LOVER! FIVE HUSBANDS AND A NEW MAN! The reason I feel the need to highlight this reality is because if this woman had five husbands within and throughout the course of her life, that means there was a serious inner struggle and battle she faced. Scripture isn’t clear regarding the circumstances surrounding each of these marriages, but suffice it to say that this woman essentially had five failed marriages within her life. This woman had been married and entered into covenant with five different men, and yet each of those relationships eventually came to an end. What I find to be incredibly intriguing about this passage is that not only do we learn the circumstances surrounding each of these failed marriages, but we also don’t learn the nature and reason why those marriages failed. I actually find this to be divinely orchestrated by the Spirit of the Lord, for we are left to interpret each situation and circumstance differently. There is a part of me that believes that each marriage was different, and that each set of circumstances were different. There is another part of me that believes that the circumstances might actually have been the same, and that each of these marriages failed for the same reason. What would cause a single woman to have five different husbands within the course of her life, and to have moved on to a sixth man? Something else that is interesting about this particular passage of Scripture is that we aren’t given details surrounding the length of time between husbands, nor are we given details concerning how this woman came to be married to five different men. What would cause a single woman to give herself in marriage to five different men, and eventually divorce from each of those men? I believe that this woman—having had five husbands—perhaps thought that each husband could provide something different for her, and could somehow change something within herself. This woman transitioned from husband to husband—perhaps after coming to the conclusion that the grass could and would be greener on the other side. What’s more, is that I would dare say that this woman perhaps thought and believed with each husband that things would be different—whether that be within herself, or within the individual men to whom she was married.
I am convinced that one of the main reasons this woman had five husbands, and was now with a man to whom she was not married was because she was attempting to run from battles, struggles, problems and issues within her own heart. In fact, and in all reality, I am convinced this is perhaps one of the greatest reasons why Jesus chose to interact with and make time for this woman. I am convinced that what Jesus found in this woman was a woman who had spent a considerable length of time running from the issues within her own heart and soul. I believe that the main reason this woman had five husbands was because she believed that with each husband, things would be different within her life. I believe that each successive relationship for this woman might very well have provided her a false sense of hope, and perhaps even comfort in thinking things would be different. How many times have we been just like this woman thinking and believing that if we transition to some place new, or moved to a new relationship, things would be completely and totally different? When this woman found herself in the presence of Jesus, she found herself being confronted with the reality that she had had five husbands, and that the one to whom she was with now wasn’t her husband. When in the presence of Jesus, this woman was forced to acknowledge and deal with the reality that she had had five husbands. What does it do to a woman to know that she had been married five times, and that the current man with whom she was with wasn’t her husband? Is any woman pleased or happy with herself knowing she has been married five times and had experienced five failed and unsuccessful marriages? What if the reason these marriages failed and didn’t last wasn’t even because of the men to whom she was married, but because of this woman herself? What if the reason these marriages failed was because this woman believed that by moving from relationship to relationship, she would finally witness an end to all the struggles, battles, and issues she faced—perhaps even that which she faced throughout her life. There at the well in the presence of Jesus this woman’s past caught up to her and collided with her present. What do you do when your past catches up with you and collides with your present? What’s more, is what do you do when such an event occurs and takes plaice within the presence of Jesus? This woman found herself being confronted with the reality that she had been married five times, and five times found herself divorced. There are some women—perhaps even most women—who have a difficult enough time handling one divorce, let alone five divorces. How do you cope with the fact that you have been married five times, and all five of those marriages ended in divorce? It has to do something within your heart, within your soul, and within your mind to be married five times, and all five of those marriages ended in divorce. I am firmly convinced this woman’s past caught up with her there at the well, and it directly collided with her present in the presence of Jesus.
WHEN YOUR PAST CATCHES UP WITH YOU AT A WELL AND COLLIDES WITH YOUR PRESENT IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! There is another event within the New Testament book of John that helps illustrate this point even further, and is found in the eighth chapter of the book. This particular passage is widely dismissed as being added in later, and isn’t even a part of the true canon of Scripture because of its controversial nature. “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery: and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not. So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none by the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:1-12).
Both of these passages—the passage in the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, and the passage in the eighth chapter of the gospel of John—bring us face to face with that moment when our past catches up with us and directly collides with our present. For the Samaritan woman at the well, her past caught up to her, for she was forced to acknowledge the fact that she had had five husbands, and was now with one who wasn’t her husband. Perhaps this woman was forced to deal with and confront the fact that she had commitment issues, or was known for driving men away, or perhaps was running from relationship to relationship thinking and believing that each relationship would somehow produce within her life that which she so desperately sought. For the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery and brought into the presence of Jesus, her past caught up with her, as she was called out before others as an adulterous woman. How interesting it is that on the one hand we see an adulterous woman, while on the other woman we perhaps see a woman who has could not hold on a to a husband. I believe that both of these passages deal specifically with the fact that running from our struggles, running from our battles, running from our issues, running from our problems doesn’t work. The woman at the well was perhaps seeking to run away from something within her life, or perhaps even from something within her own heart and soul, and she ran from relationship to relationship in order to address that reality within her life. What are you running from in order to escape your own battles, struggles and issues? Who are you running from in order to escape your own battles, struggles and issues? Hagar was a woman who ran from the house of Abram and Sarah after she had become pregnant by Abram, and became despised by Sarai. All of these passages bring us face to face with the reality that we cannot, we dare not, we should not think or believe that we can run from our struggles, our battles, our issues, our problems, etc. I believe with everything inside of me that attempting to and thinking we can run from our battles, our problems and our issues can only guarantee that they can and will follow us. WHEN YOUR BATTLES CHASE AFTER YOU! WHEN YOUR STRUGGLES CHASE AFTER YOU! WHEN YOUR PROBLEMS CHASE AFTER YOU! I believe with everything inside of me that when it comes to that which we struggle with, when it comes to that which we wrestle with, when it comes to that which we deal with, we need to face and confront it head on and not attempt to run from it.
The prophetic book of Ezekiel—specially the twenty-third chapter—brings us face to face with the fact that these two sisters brought with them into the place of inheritance, promise and blessing the adultery, the infidelity, the immorality, the iniquity, the unfaithfulness they had learned, picked up and committed within the land of Egypt. Are you aware of how severe and how important this reality is within our hearts and lives? The Lord spoke of those two sisters as not only bringing into the place of inheritance that which they learned within the land of Egypt, but also how they gained and pursued new lovers when they entered into the land. It is true that new locations sometimes include old lovers, but it is also true that new locations simply mean new lovers. Until and unless we are willing to confront and deal with those issues we experienced and struggled within in our past, we will find ourself dealing with those very same issues in a new place—only with new faces, new names. WHEN ISSUES HAVE NEW NAMES! WHEN STRUGGLES HAVE NEW FACES! WHEN BATTLES HAVE NEW NAMES AND FACES! I read this passage of Scripture and I am incredibly challenged when I read them—especially considering my own life—for I have found myself in this place time and time again. Oh that the Lord would correct our thinking in that if we transition from one place to another, or from one job to another, or from one relationship to another, all our problems, all our struggles, all our issues will go away and somehow be dealt with. I can’t help but think of my brother who had health issues in a previous restaurant and recently transitioned to a new restaurant, and yet he found himself dealing with the same health issues in the new restaurant as his old restaurant. What adds even more weight and significance to this is that in both places he hasn’t take the time to take care of himself physically through proper diet and exercise. I am convinced that it doesn’t matter where he works or what he does, for until and unless he is willing to properly take care of himself. I am convinced this reality is as true spiritually, emotionally and mentally as it is physically, and until and unless we are willing to deal with those things we have struggled with, and until and unless we are willing to deal with those things we have attempted to run from, we will only continue to perpetuate the cycle within our lives. Oh that we would read this passage of Scripture and examine our hearts and lives and truly deal with and confront all those things we have found ourselves wrestling, struggling and battling with. RUNNING IS NOT AN OPTION! RUNNING IS NOT THE ANSWER! YOUR PAST CAN AND MAY VERY WELL CATCH UP WITH AND CATCH UP TO YOU! UNTIL AND UNLESS YOUR PAST IS DEALT WITH, IT CAN AND WILL FOLLOW YOU, AND CAN AND WILL MAKE A NASTY ENTRANCE AND SCENE WITHIN YOUR LIFE AT THE MOST INOPPORTUNE AND UNEXPECTED TIMES.
Oh that we would read this passage in the twenty-third chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel and examine the idolatrous, the adulterous, the immoral, and the evil ways within our hearts and lives. Oh that we would be willing to face and examine those tendencies, those mindset, those attitudes, those thought patters, those things we have struggled within in past relationships, or past locations, and would do so in order that we not bring them with us into our new relationship and/or location. Oh that we would allow the Spirit of the Lord to call out and address all those areas within our hearts and lives we have attempted to run and hide from in order that they might once and for all be dealt with. It is possible that our past can catch up to us, and that it can collide with our present, yet even with that being said, there is safety in this taking place in the presence of Jesus. In both the case of the woman caught in the act of adultery and the woman at the well, their past caught up with them and collided with their present in the presence of Jesus, and to the one Jesus scattered her accusers and offered her forgiveness, and to the other Jesus offered living water and salvation. In the case of the woman at the well and Samaria, that one encounter brought about the transformation of an entire city within the region of Samaria Jesus had passed through. Oh that we would never underestimate the importance and value of one single encounter when our past catches up with us and collides with our present—especially when it does so in the presence of Jesus. Oh dear brother, dear sister—let us this day agree with the Spirit of the living God that we will quit trying to run from our past, quit trying to run from our issues, our struggles, and our battles, and that we would allow Jesus to deal with, confront and work with and on them. Let us truly be willing to allow the work and ministry of the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord to be manifested within our hearts and lives this day.