For those of you hanging in there with me on this blog, thanks for coming back. Chapter 9 and 10 of Ezekiel takes us to the steps of the temple sanctuary. These chapters go together and are really the completion of chapter 8. So read these three like a trilogy of events.
These chapters are dark to be sure, and we are swept away in the motion of Ezekiel’s vision. The pages are laced with all types of symbolism, enough to get anyone lost. Indeed, Angels sent to kill and destroy all who fall under the Lord’s Judgment, starting at the temple itself. No one is to be spared, and there will be no mercy. Ezekiel even pleads with God, asking if there will be none left at all – which is meant to show us how seriously Ezekiel takes what is about to happen.
But that really isn’t the point here at all.
The key to this chapter is the seventh angel who shows up with a writing kit. He is commissioned to go out of the temple, out into the city of Jerusalem, looking for those who mourn. He must find those who weep and sigh for the lost purity of faith that once was the hallmark of worship in the Temple. Notice that the angel is heading out into the city – why there?
It is there that the humble and down-trodden are kept at bay – far from where the popular and elite are welcomed for their show of worshipful acts (please see chapter 8 and look up the definition of disingenuous.) No, this angel is looking for what Jesus will later refer to as the “Pure in Heart,…for they will see God.”
They are not the ones who play-act in church, or flash a lot of money, or try to impress. These pure ones will be marked, marked with a Tau on their heads – sort of like a capital T only a little wavy and older versions looked closer to a cross. They are marked so that they will not be destroyed by the other six angels who were instructed to kill everything else.
This should sound familiar, it takes us right back to the Moses story and the last of the ten plagues. Remember at the beginning of this blog, I had the weird thought that Ezekiel’s vision had more to do with returning Israel to that state of faith where they followed God into the wilderness, out into the plains and desert.
So what is this, then? The prophet is telling us that God hears the individual – even without all the ritual and pomp. God hears those cries and knows the sorrow. The individuals who choose the road of pure faith – surely they travel a hard path but one to which God is not blind.
It gives me some comfort that my sighs do not just evaporate into the afternoon air. What I mourn for, though it is gone, there is a God who perhaps has marked a small hunger, that lives in my soul. This section of Ezekiel, while grim, is yet very personal. I once wrote in a song long ago:
I don’t want to be alone
When I kneel down and pray
I don’t want to hear echoes from empty walls.
I don’t want to hear silence
Where the kids used to play
I don’t want to be alone when I kneel down and pray.
I weep for the Spirit, and sigh for soul, my soul, and the soul of the community at large. I hope the Lord will find me and touch me with his mark.