Looking back, the memory haunts me still. I am ashamed of what we did, but even now, I cannot fully explain how it happened…
Gabriel’s face tensed in confusion as he watched a small brown object hurtle through space. He looked over towards God for an explanation, but all he got was a wink.
I saw the throne of God enclosed in fire, a fire of love that reached out to me and relentlessly drew me in. My only desire to be consumed. Yet, as I drew near to the throne I became aware of God’s holiness. It too burned with a white intensity, so strong that even my most righteous deeds appeared as filthy rags. I was crushed by my sinfulness before so righteous and holy a God and could no longer stand. For a while I found myself being torn apart between the brightly burning love that drew me and the holiness that made my very existence unbearable. I was confused, with no hope of resolution, when I became aware of being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. I knew my righteousness could never be enough, but I was now able to walk forward because my faith had clothed me in the righteousness of Christ. It was more than enough and opened the way for me to approach the throne of fire. Almost as soon as I felt the joy of that all-consuming love I found myself back at the beginning, but with the question ‘What if I had not been a Christian?’. And my journey began again…
The throne burned no less brightly. Even after a life of rejecting God I was no less loved, no less welcome. The love drew me, if anything, more strongly, because I knew it was what I had been looking for all my life. For the first time I belonged and had a home. Again, I became aware of God’s utter holiness and was crushed by my utter uncleanness before such a God, but now, with growing alarm, I realised the horror of my position. There was no Jesus to clothe me. I had not had faith and now it was too late. Frantically I looked for an answer, but there was none. The flame of God’s love did not go out. I knew that God’s love was reaching out to me still, but I could not bear the sense of my sin. The closer I came the more intolerable my own vileness became. I was being ripped apart. I became distraught before the holiness of his presence and needed to run and hide. But there was nowhere hidden from God. I wanted to call to the mountains ‘Fall on me’, but even the mountains would not hide me from my torment. The stronger God’s love burned, the more wretched I felt. There was no escape from the pain of knowing such love – a love that in spite of my sin would still welcome me, that even grieved that I did not come. But I could not come. I could not bear to get near.
I felt that, as a kindness, I was allowed to go to a remote dark corner, far away from the throne of God’s love, where my misery would be less. Even in this cold dark place the fire of God’s love still burnt brightly. Even there the sense of God’s holiness could not be escaped. Along with this was the unbearable pain of a conscience that was now suddenly alive – torturing me with the works of my own hand. And I, of all men, was most wretched, and most miserable. I was being eaten away from within, with a worm that does not die and in a fire that cannot be quenched. Before me lay an eternity of torment without end. As the vision ended I held back my tears as best I could.
Dwight L. Moody stood on the rolling Ashley Downs admiring the two vast buildings that stood magnificently before him. They were not the only reason he had crossed the Atlantic to England, but they were certainly one of them. To see them and to speak to the man that had brought them into being.
They knew they were different. God was with them. Not some local deity, but the God of all creation. He was with them as they left Egypt, he went before them into battle, and he established them as a nation. His presence was real and tangible. They were God’s chosen people. But things had gone a little wrong, and by the time of Ezekiel, very wrong.