“I said to them, ‘Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.’ But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt” (Ezekiel 20:7-8).
In the news today, an article highlighted an individual who was arrested and is expected to be charged with his 12th OWI. As soon as we hear news like this, we are struck with emotions ranging from anger, to fear, to anxiety, to sadness. We might be fearful or anxious as we consider the fact that there are people driving their cars every day that are under the influence. We may even feel (frankly, we should feel) sadness over the fact that an individual would be so lost in his alcoholism that even the 11th time wasn’t the charm. My guess though is that the first emotion we might feel after hearing news like this is anger.
We may be angry at the fact that our legal system has allowed someone with this many OWI convictions to still be driving on the road. We may be angry at the individual for placing others at harm 12 times. But one area of anger that should be present in us, as Christians, is anger at the fact that we can see ourselves in this man’s place.
There are probably a variety of sin issues that even we as Christians have committed 12 times. The anger comes at the fact that we have learned our lesson 11 times, yet unfortunately, we haven’t really learned our lesson entirely. This is where godly anger within us is a good thing. But in our anger over our similar propensity to sin 12 plus times, let us be reminded of God’s relentless, unfailing mercy. In God’s relentless, unfailing mercy, he allows us to be caught or to endure the consequences of our mistakes. Being caught and experiencing the consequences of our sin is what most of us need in order to wake up. God’s discipline then is a direct form of mercy on our lives.
As you consider your sins that you have committed 12 plus times, realize that you are not alone. Time and time again, Scripture reveals stories of individuals who fall into this same cycle of sin: Sin, judgment (discipline), repentance, repeat. What a frustrating cycle of sin that we as God’s children experience!
Ezekiel 20 is an example of this sort of cycle. The ESV titles this chapter: “Israel’s Continuing Rebellion.” Numerous times in Ezekiel 20, God describes the sin of the Israelites from when they were in Egypt to while they were wandering the wilderness. God instructed them to put away their detestable practices. They refused to put them away, so he said he would “pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them.” But right before he poured out his wrath, he relented for the sake of his name. Relenting from his judgment, his mercy triumphed.
Incredibly, despite our continued and repeated sin, mercy still triumphed. While Jesus Christ was slaughtered on the cross, mercy triumphed. Mercy made a way for us to be forgiven for eternity, even though our sin continued to abound here on this earth. Praise God for his never-failing love and relentless mercy that forgives repeat offenders like you and I.