“Fathers, be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers. So mothers, be good to your daughters, too,” sang John Mayer.
I have two daughters. They are the “apple of my eye.” I once saved my daughter Elizabeth from drowning in the bottom of a swimming pool. It’s hard to imagine a moment of greater joy than the moment I held my two-year old daughter so tightly to my chest on the side of that pool and heard her breathing.
In Ezekiel 16, all of humanity is portrayed as female—daughters, wives, and mothers—and only God is male.
Jesus called himself “Son of Man,” which must mean that “man” is the mother of Jesus, since God is clearly his Father.
Ezekiel prophesies to Jerusalem who turns out to be the Bride of Christ.
Ezekiel prophesies to Jerusalem about her relationship to Sodom and Samaria, whom he refers to as “sisters” of Jerusalem.
Ezekiel is called “Son of Man” by God. He too is a “daughter,” yet he speaks the Word of God, who seems to be God.
In Ezekiel 16, God speaks to Jerusalem about shame. And ironically “the church” has found the last ten verses to be most “shameful,” for we’ve blatantly mistranslated these verses, or simply explained them away.
And that’s a shame, for they reveal the purpose of shame.
In Ezekiel 16:1-52, God tells the story of his relationship with Jerusalem up to the moment in which she has now found herself: exiled to Babylon as a city of slaves. Jerusalem is experiencing profound shame.
God tells of how he found Jerusalem: an infant abandoned in a field. How he spoke life into her. How she grew, and how he entered into a covenant with her. How he clothed her with beauty… and yet, she trusted her beauty and “played the whore with any passerby”—both nations and idols. How she sacrificed “his children” to those with whom she “played the whore.” And then, how he brought all her “lovers” against her to expose her shame, for her sins were more abominable than those of her sisters: Samaria (from whence we derive the term “Samaritan”) and Sodom (who had been utterly destroyed by eternal fire a thousand years before). A Good Jew wouldn’t even say that name: “Sodom.”
Ezekiel 16 is horrifying, and the events it describes are not abstractions—ritual sexual abuse, child sacrifice, and the hardest of hearts.
Many years ago, my wife and I spent countless hours praying for a friend who suffered many of these same atrocities—I kept praying and praying for her, for I needed help.
Our Father is not an abuser. And yet I could not understand why he hadn’t already destroyed the whole world with eternal fire; I couldn’t understand why he would even allow for such evil, pain, and shame. That’s Ezekiel 16:1-52.
Ezekiel 16:53-63 will take your breath away. God tells Jerusalem, “I will restore the fortunes of Sodom… and the fortunes of Samaria… And I will restore your fortunes in their midst, that you may be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them…
I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth and I will establish for you an eternal covenant. Then… you will be ashamed when you take your sisters… and I give them to you as daughters… and you shall know that I am the Lord… and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you, for all that you have done.”
What has Jerusalem done?
Well, we’ve nailed our Lord to a tree in the middle of a garden. That’s evil, and the revelation of our shame. And that’s the Good, how God atones for us and transforms all of our shame into something else entirely.
Once, my friend came to my wife and me with a stack of painful pictures stuck in her head—they were each of a memory that brought her great shame.
I wanted Jesus to destroy the pictures, but he wouldn’t.
In a vision, he told my friend, “You must give me those pictures.”
Each time she handed him a picture, he would enter into the picture and transform the memory into a revelation of his furious love for her and the story of his relentless grace.
He would frame each picture and hand them back to her, hold her, and reveal to her that she was everything to him… “Your pictures are my pictures,” he told her.
What is shame? Isn’t it an awareness of your need for help?
What is salvation? Isn’t it receiving help from your helper?
What is sin? Isn’t it trying to get help from the wrong “helpers,” in the wrong way?
What is wrong with Adam (humanity)? Well, he (we) can’t find our Helper.
What did the snake tell us? “You don’t need help; help yourself.”
What does our Father do? He lets us try; then he rescues us from the bottom of the pool.
“Fathers, be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.”
When we deny our shame, we deny who it is that we truly are.
And we deny who it is that Jesus truly is—the One who dives in and saves us.
When you deny your shame, you cannot testify to Jesus your Helper.
But when you confess your shame, you forget that it’s shame, for it is transformed into Glory—the revelation of God’s love for you, the Gospel of Grace, the Spirit of prophecy, the testimony of Jesus.
When we deny our shame, we are unable to join the Great Banquet; we hide in hell.
When we surrender our shame—to our Helper—the Great Banquet has already begun.
Surrendered shame is the death of self, freedom from the tyranny of the ego, the ability to laugh at yourself and with your neighbor; it’s the ability to see your neighbor for who it is that they truly are; they are the apple of your own eye.
“Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers. So, mothers, be good to your daughters, too…”
Listen, Church: One day, you will hold Sodom, Samaria, and at least seven billion “daughters” tightly to your chest, like I held my daughter to my chest on the side of that swimming pool thirty years ago, and all your shame will be transformed into everlasting joy.