The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face against Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuary. Prophesy against the land of Israel and say to her: ‘This is what the Lord says: I am against you. I will draw my sword from its sheath and cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked. Because I am going to cut off the righteous and the wicked, my sword will be unsheathed against everyone from south to north. Then all people will know that I the Lord have drawn my sword from its sheath; it will not return again.’ “Therefore groan, son of man! Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief. And when they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt with fear and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every leg will be wet with urine.’ It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord.” The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Lord says: ‘A sword, a sword, sharpened and polished— sharpened for the slaughter, polished to flash like lightning! ‘Shall we rejoice in the scepter of my royal son? The sword despises every such stick. – Ezekiel 21:1-10
This passage returns to the interesting, and somewhat irreverent, word picture of the legs of the people of Israel being wet with urine. This is an allusion to the people of Israel being really afraid, so much so that they wet themselves. This language was used previously in Ezekiel 7:14-22. God is not pulling any punches here. He is making it clear that this exile thing is going to be hard and scary.
I cannot remember a time when I have wet myself due to being afraid. I am not saying it has never happened, I just don’t remember any specific occasions when it happened. It implies a certain loss of control over something that we typically think is under control. It that sense it is an interesting choice for a word picture. The Israelites have in many ways been on “auto-pilot”, expecting God to allow them to wander into all sorts of idolatry and distraction. They have allowed their relationship with God to become “involuntary”. The exile will be a wake-up call of sorts and a testing of their will to faithfully follow God in the midst of trying times.
God wants volunteers that are willing to walk with Him because we choose to do so not because we are compelled to do so by fear or involuntary reflexes. He wants us to be in a constant state disequilibrium with this world so that we seek Him first. He wants the opposite of “involuntary” reflexes. He wants all of our choices to be intentional and consciously committed to Him.
I was Netflix surfing the other day and happened upon the movie “Young Frankenstein”. I am somewhat ashamed to admit it but I like this movie. This movie has many interesting and morally questionable scenes, but bear with me here on this rabbit trail. This passage and the idea of voluntary and involuntary reflexes reminded of the scene near the beginning of the movie when Gene Wilder is giving a lecture with the help of a “volunteer”. It does not end well for the volunteer or Gene Wilder’s character.
The subject in the movie has voluntary reflexes that are based on his emotions and feelings, and involuntary reflexes that are designed to protect his body from harm and keep it functioning properly. It seems the Israelites are making poor choices with their voluntary “reflexes” and they are bearing bad fruit. Their actions and habits are building patterns of “involuntary reflexes” toward God that are not helping them to grow a deeper relationship with Him. They are “wetting themselves with fear” in this passage, an involuntary reflex, because they have chosen fear over faith in the God who has made it clear that He wants to carry them like a son or daughter. They have become accustomed to choosing fear and turning to idols and false gods to obtain comfort rather than God.
The hidden well in this passage for me is the idea that our relationship with God can be subject to the spiritual equivalent of voluntary and involuntary reflexes. Some things we choose to do to can make our relationship with God stronger. The spiritual disciplines like prayer, reflection on God’s words, and fasting improve our “involuntary” spiritual reflexes and provide protection for our souls. The interesting thing about our spiritual reflexes is that even our “involuntary” spiritual reflexes are born out of our experiences walking with God. Our choices determine the trajectory of our “involuntary” spiritual reflexes.
Prayer: God help us to choose to walk with you so that we develop involuntary spiritual reflexes that lead us toward You.