It’s a fun word. “Abominable.” Like most TV children of America, when I hear the word “abominable” I immediately see in my head a particular snow monster from a particular stop-motion animated Christmas special. Yep, the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a classic. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it probably 100 times. He chases Rudolph and his friends and scares the willies out of us kids, but, in the end, turns out to be a big softy. At least after Hermie the Elf extracts all his teeth.
And that was the sum total of my understanding of the word “abominable.” It’s the snow monster’s first name. Sort of like “Christ” is Jesus’ last name. But then you’re reading the Bible and you come across a word that sounds a lot like abominable. “Abomination.” And you realize that “abominable” is a word, not just a snow monster’s first name. It’s a word that means “worthy of disgust or hatred.” Not a great first name to get stuck with. And so it’s a good thing when Yukon Cornelius shortens “abominable” to “Bumble.” It’s a good deal cuter as a nickname, but also, I imagine, a good deal easier for stop motion puppets to wrap their tiny stop motion lips around.
But back to the Bible.
So I’m reading my way through the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament. Ezekiel is a pretty weird book. It isn’t exactly a “page turner.” There are weird visions, weird performance art pieces that this poor bloke named Ezekiel had to perform in front of the Israelites, and a whole lot of talk about terrible, terrible things. Terrible things the Israelites have done, terrible things the Israelites are going to have done to them. It’s real chipper. You should have it read at your wedding.
A lot of the book of Ezekiel, like big ol’ chunks of the big Ol’ Testament, has me saying to myself, “What’s this have to do with me?” It’s almost-kinda interesting to read about the history of Israel and how many different ways they could come up with to offend God, but really. What’s this have to do with me?
And then, every now and then, God will pull out his Divine Highlighter and – whoosh! – flourescent yellow! Some verse lights up in your face and you mutter, “Oh wow! That IS for me!”
For me, the Divine Highlighter sprang to life in Ezekiel chapter 11.
“When they come there, they will remove from it [Israel] all its detestable things and all its abominations.” (Ez 11:18 ESV)
And then again…
“But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord.” (Ez 11:21 ESV)
There’s that word – twice in three verses. And I think, “Whoa! The Israelites are having a problem with that snow monster from Rudolph!” But I realize that can’t be right and I remember that “abominable” means “worthy of disgust or hatred.” So the Israelites are abandoning God and chasing after things that are worthy of disgust or hatred. Which, for the Israelites, meant things like false gods and disgusting behaviors copied from their neighbors like child sacrifice and extreme sexual misconduct. And God hates that stuff. It is abominable.
And again I think, “Not sure that has anything to do with me.” But then I immediately know I’m wrong. Do I turn away from God? Sure. Quite frequently. The things I turn to – the things I effectively say I *prefer* to my relationship with the Creator of the Universe – well, those things are abominations. Those things are detestable. Not necessarily in and of themselves, but instead because I elevate them above God. Make them my false gods.
So I stopped and thought: What are my own “detestable things?” My own abominations? My false gods? Some were easy to name. Bumping into “detestable” content online, and not immediately looking away. That one is easy. I’ll name that quickly. But then they get harder. What about … security? Financial security? Physical security? Relational security? There’s nothing detestable about security, but – how important is it to me? Can I let go of my desire for financial security and replace it with total reliance on God?
Okay – that one’s harder. Harder to label “abominable,” and much harder to let go. And suddenly Ezekiel is speaking directly to me. Or God is speaking to me, though Ezekiel, via the Divine Highlighter. And I realize I’m holding onto a false god – the idea that, if I work hard enough, I can secure my future. Me. Myself. With my own two hands and my Protestant work ethic. And that belief, when elevated above my relationship with God and my reliance on God, is detestable. Abominable. And just like the Israelites, I need to purge it from my “land.”
So I picture myself smashing the tiny idols of security I have set up in my life. And I picture a toothless snow monster smiling and saying, “Good job, Phil.” At least I think that’s what he said. It’s hard to understand him without his teeth.
Time for a personal inventory: What are you hanging onto? You’ll be happy with God and _____? Whatever you put in space alongside God, is your own personal abomination. Time to let it go.