Cause and Effect
The law of cause and effect is simple and easy to understand: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This very simple law of nature helps me understand causes that I otherwise could not appreciate. Picking up a scientific journal and reading about the PSI required for a lava flow to lift the gigantic dome of rock off the top of Mt. Saint Helens does not inspire wonder within me. If I want to understand the raw power exhibited by that eruption, I’ll walk over to our family photo albums and stare at the defaced mountain. I may not be able to understand the physics of a tsunami, but I understand a death toll of 225,000 spread across 11 countries. An unappreciated cause suddenly become a worldwide concern because the horrific reality of the effect demonstrates the power of the cause.
I’ve been reading through Ezekiel, which is essentially a book of God proclaiming judgment upon His people. It is not happy. It is not cheerful. Rather it is a plea from God and His prophet to the people, begging them to cast away their empty idols and return to the Lord their God. Ezekiel 9 unfolds an unseen version of God’s destruction of Jerusalem.
The LORD said to [the man], “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare.
“Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.” So they started with the elders who were before the temple. And He said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city.
As they were striking the people and I alone was left, I fell on my face and cried out saying, “ Alas, Lord GOD! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem?”
Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very great, and the land is filled with blood and the city is full of perversion; for they say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!’ But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor will I spare, but I will bring their conduct upon their heads.”
Then behold, the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case reported, saying, “I have done just as You have commanded me.”
Unlike other places in Scripture this account doesn’t focus on the town or the land. It focuses on the people. They have faces and names. They have hopes and dreams. They are veterans from Judah’s wars with their neighbors, who enrapture grandchildren with their stories of heroism. They are young men learning how to plant and farm and sell produce under the watchful eye of a father. They are mothers take care of the children and somehow manage to find time to cook and clean and do all the thousand little things that running a household requires. They are little seven year old girls with bright smiles and a love for flowers and helping mommy. Thousands of men and women and children like these fall beneath the hand of the destroyer, mediated by a pitiless Babylonian soldier’s sword.
This is the effect. A city in ruin, filled with the shattered corpses of young men in military uniforms and mothers trying to shield their babies from the thrust of a spear and men cut down while begging for mercy for their families. Horrific effects gather incredible dread for the cause. Magnitude 9.5 earthquakes are feared because of the devastation they bring. If this intentional slaughter of human beings is the effect, then the cause must be horrific beyond belief.
The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very great, and the land is filled with blood and the city is full of perversion.
Sin is the cause. If it produces such an effect, it is to be shuddered at. We should be horrified at the end result of our wickedness. One sin sent the entire created order into a tailspin and God Himself to the cross. It is a profound lie that we can dabble with sin and not be wrecked by it. It is why we ruthlessly seek to mortify the deeds of the flesh and put on the righteousness of Christ.
Some causes only can be understood by staring at their effects. The truth is that God’s slaughter of the inhabitants of Jerusalem was only the beginning of the effect of sin in their lives. Every day since then, and every day for all eternity they are being burned but never consumed in the lake of fire. There is a very real danger that we cease to realize the horrific nature of sin like a soldier grown used to the atrocities of war. Yet we cannot allow ourselves to grow calloused, for we must loath sin to fight it. Hopefully the grisly effect gives fervor to our fight against the cause.