Ezekiel’s Whore

Preston Sprinkle

The following is an excerpt from chapter 6 (titled: “Whore”) in my book, Charis: God’s Scandalous Delight in Us (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014). 

Charis front cover_w:tullian

Of all the stories of whores in the Bible, Ezekiel 16 is the most daring. Like Genesis 38, this chapter must have slipped past the angelic editors when God decided to put it into His Holy Book. Ezekiel 16 is a lengthy allegory (think extended metaphor, like The Chronicles of Narnia) of grace that pushes the limits of holy language. One evangelical commentator says that Ezekiel 16 is “semipornographic,” and he’s right. Porno comes from porneia, which means “fornication,” and graphic comes from grapho, which means “to write.” Ezekiel 16 writes about fornication; it’s—literally—divinely inspired pornography. Were it put to film, this chapter would be X-rated. No question.

But unlike the filthy stuff produced in the pornography studios of Los Angeles, Ezekiel 16 is designed to rebuke sin, not encourage it. The offensive language that Ezekiel uses is intended to shock the Israelites out of their complacency and send a wake-up call shivering up their spines. It certainly did to mine the first time I read it. It’s one thing to say, “You’re a sinner. Stop it!” but quite another to say, “You became a common whore, grabbing anyone coming down the street and taking him into your bed” (Ezek. 16:15 MSG)

Most of all, Ezekiel 16 is a stunning portrait of grace. Inasmuch as the Israelites resemble human nature as a whole, this allegory reveals God’s love for you and me. So let’s read Ezekiel 16 as if it were our autobiography. In many ways it is. But in order to get inside the story and make it our own, we’ll have to contemporize it a bit. So here’s the allegory of Ezekiel 16—remixed.

*********

Your father was a pimp and your mother was a prostitute. Your mom found a lucrative way to fund her drug habit by having sex with multiple men, until your father took her in (and a few others) to live under his roof. When a pimp lives with a prostitute, one thing leads to another, and that’s where you came in. With the help of some crack and a bottle of Jack, you were conceived and immediately unwanted. Too scared to have an abortion, your mother waited until you were born, then casually dumped you—her newborn daughter—in a nearby garbage can.

Minutes later, a stranger walked by and heard the squalling from inside the bin. He opened the lid and found you—squirming in your blood, expelling your last breath of life. The stranger’s 911 call miraculously summoned an ambulance within minutes, and you were saved.

But still unwanted. The stranger couldn’t bear the thought of sending you to a foster home, so he signed some papers and took you into his home. But “home” is an understatement. Your new father was the CEO of a multimillion-dollar business. Your new home was a small castle, and your future life would be paradisiacal.

And he was a good man too. Humble, strong, generous, and honest. Your new father possessed an unusual joy, which he never failed to shower on you. His time, his money, his affection, his attention—they were all yours. There was nothing you lacked. All the storybook tales combined could not compare to your utopian life. You were the envy of all your friends and the prized possession of a father who had it all. From his perspective, though, “having it all” meant having you. You were the source of his uncanny joy. But something snapped when you turned sixteen. The boys at school started noticing your body and didn’t hide their stares. Stares turned to comments. Comments turned to caresses. And caresses opened the floodgates of a different kind of love—one that was both exhilarating and empty, but too addicting to resist.

So at the age of sixteen, you moved out of your father’s house, leaving him in pools of tears. You didn’t hide the fact that you were happily leaving him in order to fornicate with your new boyfriend. The more he wept, the more you laughed, as you skidded off in your boyfriend’s Camaro. Your adolescent love affair was only the beginning. Before long, your boyfriend’s buddies took a liking to you, and the flirtatious cycle was revisited. Soon, mere sex with your boyfriend became boring, so his friends were added to the mix. But even orgies became dull over time, and drugs, alcohol, and other men—older and creepier—joined in the hellish dance. Your dream of freedom and love had turned into a nightmare.

But nothing can compare to the pain of the day when your boyfriend decided to mail a picture of you to your father’s house. Delighted to catch a glimpse of his princess, your father laid his eyes upon a sullied whore. Your once silky hair was frayed and knotted. Your eyes—the windows to your soul—were dark and sunken. Devoid of life. And the bruises on your face revealed that your boyfriend’s love had run dry. Daddy’s baby girl was the not-so-prized possession of half a dozen drug-infused teenagers. And there was nothing he could do.

Sex, drugs, and imaginative acts of depravity piled up as you lived the next two years satisfying your misguided lust for life on nameless boys who used and abused you. Yet you still used them to satisfy your craving to be loved. You gave one boy the car Daddy bought you on your sweet sixteen. Your boyfriend’s other girlfriend took the dress your father made. And you sold the necklace that belonged to your grandmother to buy heroin for another man. Yet the beatings continued. Soon your bank account ran out, and you took to the streets to sell your body in order to keep a steady flow of heroin pumping through your veins.

And heaven began to rumble with furious excitement.

Now, you’re sitting in your room. Your “friends” are gone and you are all alone. Coming down off a high, you begin to feel depressed and lonely; your humanity is slipping away. So you head for another hit to numb the pain. Just then, someone kicks open the door and a burst of fear squeezes your heart. The bruises on your body are tender reminders that your new home is never safe. Kicked-in doors are a regular occurrence, and they lead only to pain. Or sex. Both, actually. The fear runs deep. Maybe it’s the suddenness of the blast. Or maybe you just need to feed your starving addiction. Your pale stare quickly changes as you see the man standing at the threshold. It’s your father.

Your fear intensifies. You recall the day you sped away from his house laughing as he stood on his lawn weeping. How did he find you? Why has he come? Is he, too, going to beat you after all you’ve done? His tears speak otherwise. His face glistens with joy. His hands tremble. You can hear his heart thump through his chest. Tears cascade down his cheeks, but now they look different. These are tears of adoration and triumph. And they are flowing because your daddy has found his baby girl. The one who found you wailing in a Dumpster has once again taken the initiative to redeem you and enjoy you again. Confused, enthralled, terrified, overjoyed—you can’t move.

But your father can. He races across the room to swallow you with an embrace—the first nonsexual touch you have felt in years. A touch that radiates more love than all your sexual encounters put together. You finally feel safe. Loved. Forgiven instantly, as your dad gathers your face in his hands and declares:

I’ll restore the relationship we had when you were young, only this time it will be better. It will last forever, and nothing will lure you away from me again. You’ll remember your past life and face the shame of it, but when I shower you with the good life you had as before, it will make your shame fade from your memory. Don’t try to fix it. I’ll fix it for you. I’ll make everything right after all you’ve done, and it will leave you speechless. (Ezek. 16:60–63, modified from MSG)

Grace. This stuff never gets old.

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