“Then they will know that I am the LORD”. Repeated six times in only forty-seven verses, the obvious redundancy of this phrase clamors for attention. Punctuating the painful darkness of impending destruction, these words repeated over and over in Ezekiel chapters 29 and 30 communicate a simple message from a righteous judge to those he has condemned. They are words of a mighty father spoken to children who have rejected his existence and denied his power. They are words spoken by one living outside the confines of time and space, who speaks as he simultaneously looks into the future and kneels beside a sinner yet to be broken. They are the words God spoke in response to the despairing cries of people slain by the brutality of his judgment. They are words to answer to the question that would inevitably rise as the dust settles in the wake of his destruction. Why? Why?
Grappling to understand, I sink deeper into the passage, hoping to catch the sentiment behind such words. What made God say this over and over? Was he speaking from a place of justified anger? Was his voice carrying that strident bite of frustration, built over years of dealing with rebellious children? Could it be that God was piously gloating over these broken people crushed in his righteous wrath? No, none of those seem right. In the silence of the passage, I hear something that is all together different. Reaching my ears is a calm, quiet voice. A gentle deep baritone, it is firm yet weighted with heaviness, it has a husky quality, like that of someone determined to speak while shedding tears. It’s as beautiful as it is hauntingly sorrowful. I close my eyes and listen as he says over and over, “Then they will know that I am the Lord. Then, they will know that I am the Lord. Then they will know…” The words ebb away and in the final repetition, a mere breath from the Almighty, words cease — I hear only his broken heart.
I don’t know a father whose heart would not break. Imagine the crushing weight of knowing your children, the ones you love and know so completely, the ones who aught to know you in return, have instead turned away in mocking ignorance. Filled with a prideful stubbornness they have walked blindly in the opposite direction, averse to the recurring demonstrations of your kindness. Frustrating your offers of grace and peace they have finally condemned themselves and spit in the face of their last hope — the sacrificial gift of your mercy. Truly, how could a father’s heart not break? Knowing that the only recourse left is the darkness of his judgement, and that it will be the blackness of his wrath, not the sweetness of his love, that will finally draw their eyes to his. He has longed for a fulfilling and joyful connection, but now will be connected by the tortured and despairing gaze of a defeated sufferer. Oh broken heart of God! Your deepest desire was that we would see the wondrous sunshine of your glory. For all eternity your heart has yearned for a relationship in which we would know you as the awesome creator, the one in whom we live and move and have our being, the loving father and greatest friend. Of course your heart is broken! Why else would you sob into the darkness, “Now you will know that I am the Lord.”
The passage in Ezekiel seems to imply that this may be where the story ends. That God’s words are the punctuation at the end of the sentence, the place where everything must stop. The finale. However, if per chance you have personally been on the receiving end of that cry, then you will know the story most certainly does not end there. For in the moments of silence that seem to stretch on after this proclamation something amazing happens and you slowly begin to realize that you are not dead. No, you are alive. You are breathing. You can move your fingers and toes. You have life. You were cast down, but not utterly destroyed.
The words God has just spoken come back to your ears as if a distant echo. “Then they will know that I AM THE LORD.” The words themselves seem alive and they animate your soul and quicken your spirit. “You will KNOW that I am the Lord.”
I am the Lord who redeems you.
I am the Lord who heals you.
I am the Lord your savior.
I am the Lord your provider.
I am the Lord of hosts.
I am the Lord your righteousness.
I am the Lord who sees.
I am the Lord who is and who was and who is to come.
I am the Lord.
The darkness cannot endure when the King of Glory, the Lord full of strength and might returns to the scene not as a judge, but as a savior. For a person trapped in the shadow of death, rightly judged and left for dead, this is the most startling and extraordinary experience of their lives. Parallel to the glorious colors of dawn which push away the black of night, truth advances on the hidden sins in our heart and when we allow it to — it sets us free. And suddenly the words we hear in the night no long strike fear into our hearts or bring sadness to our souls. Rather that which we hear in the darkness becomes the sweetest song of all! “Then they will know, that I am the LORD.”