When I got my hands on the new ESV Reader’s Bible, I opened first to Ezekiel. I’m not sure why, except I’d long neglected this book, and it seemed like a good one simply to read straight through, unhampered by headings and chapter and verse numbers.
When I came to the end of the Ezekiel, I started over. And then I read it a third time.
Each time I was more struck by the rawness of the book. The prophetic books (like the prophets themselves) are jagged. Ezekiel is abrasive. The images of God are forceful, even when they are sometimes too incredible for the human imagination to picture. Some scenes seem like something out of a sci-fi movie. Other scenes are unvarnished street theater. At all times the book startles with symbolism and heartbroken laments, weighing the reader down under the weight of God’s holy transcendence, almost to the point where we will shatter. And, then, in the turn of a moment, God’s steadfast love draws close, promises to dwell with his people, even to dwellinside his people.
I finish Ezekiel a third time, my mind still swirling, look over at my stack of new books fresh off the printing press from Christian publishers, page through a few of them, but nowhere find a glimpse of the God of Ezekiel I had only a moment beheld.
Except for one. There’s one new title that reads differently. Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying, is a new book written by Drew Dyck, the managing editor ofLeadership Journal. It’s a book that reclaims the awesome God of Ezekiel.
Good — But Not Domesticated
As Dyck’s title indicates, the living God of the universe is untamable. He’s good, but he isn’t safe. Try to subdue him, and you might lose an arm, or worse.
The living God of the New Testament is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
As Michael Horton says, “Nobody today seems to think that God is dangerous. And that is itself a dangerous oversight.”
It’s dangerous because before we yawn at God, we must first replace the majestic, holy, awesome Tiger of Scripture with a domesticated kitten, conformed to the standards of the world, measured by the yardstick of political correctness. Who wants a God who roars, who threatens, who judges? Why not rather fashion a god in our taste — a friendly god we can pet, leash, and export for popular appeal?
Perhaps it was the flavor of Ezekiel that prepared me for it, but Yawning at Tigers is exactly what the Christian publishing industry needs, a humble but prophetic book pointing out the folly of Christians who have grown bored with the god they invented — who displays no wrath, has lost its majestic holiness, would never call for blood, and who has been sanded over smooth — a god you’d never find in the pages of Ezekiel, a god perfectly tame and safe.
Dyck knows better. Our worship and our lives and our holiness and our joy demands that we worship a God we dare never trifle with. To know we are truly loved, Isaiah 6 must bring us down to the floor on our knees before the majesty of God.
Dyck writes, “Here’s the beautiful irony: making God strange actually enables us to know him more. Once we have marveled at his magnitude and mystery, we are able to achieve the deep intimacy that grows out of a true appreciation for who God is” (39).
He is not like us, and assuming he should be like us discloses our terrible ignorance (Psalm [50:21]). “We are tempted to project our humanity onto God,” Dyck explained in a recent interview. “We assume that God’s wrath is akin to us throwing a childish fit. Of course, God’s wrath, as explained in the Bible, is a perfect and holy wrath, different from our sinful anger as night is from day. So when God kills someone in the Bible we can’t accept that because we imagine how wrong it would be for us to kill someone. But we fail to account for the fact that God has every right to take a life, because he gave it in the first place. As a culture we work hard to establish parity, equality among people, and that is very good, but then we project that toward the heavens and say: God, you have to play by the same rules we do.”
He doesn’t. God is God, he makes decisions on his own initiative and without explaining them all to us (Romans [9:20]). When we confine God within parameters, we don’t limit God, but we do undercut our own spiritual life and mission in five ways.
1. Boredom with God Will Cost Us Our Worship
The reality, the tragedy, is that we all yawn at God at some point in time. “Our spiritual lives just become sort of routine, lackadaisical, and we go through the motions,” Dyck says. “We don’t stop ever to think: ‘The God we worship is the God of Isaiah 6, high and lifted up, the God before whom people fell as though dead.’ We need to be reminded of the dramatic majesty of God so we do not get lackadaisical before this great and holy God.”
“The cruel irony of choosing God’s love over his holiness is that we end up losing both. If we are not talking about the great and majestic God who dwells in unapproachable light, then his love loses meaning (1 Timothy [6:16]). We need to maintain his holiness in order to truly appreciate the magnitude of his love.” These knotted truths — God’s holiness and his love — find their most profound union at the cross of our Savior.
Bottom line, if we lose the magnificence of God’s holiness we lose our worship.
2. Boredom with God Will Cost Us Our Purity
Once we yawn at the thrice holy Tiger, we’re likely to embrace a squishy sex ethic. Apathy that shrugs at fornication or homosexual practice reveals a fundamental yawning at God’s holiness. Without God’s transcendent holiness, personal holiness gets fuzzy fast.
“If we don’t see God as holy, if we only see him as loving and accepting, we will engage in all sorts of behaviors that we think we can get away with, because God is not really that serious about sin. He is more into acceptance and tolerating our behavior.”
Written by Tony Reinke
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