Ezekiel blog 15: That’s entitlement for ya…

Hello. We’re back and cranking through some more of Ezekiel – now we’re up to Chapter 11.

In a word, this chapter is all about “Entitlement”, as in ‘dueness, claim of sanction, crest, or privilege (thanks to thesaurus.com ).   Specifically, it’s about “entitlement” in the worse sense – or mislead entitlement. But we’ll get to that all in good time.

Ezekiel is nearing the end of this current vision in chapter 11 where he joins the presence of God up at the East entrance.  Here we see 25 men, princes of Israel no less. These are the leaders of the community, the image of authority, the ones that the people all look to and in whom they put their trust.   Ezekiel even knows a couple of them by name.

But God allows Ezekiel to see more, and HEAR more than what is apparent to everyone else.  God shows that He does hear in secret – and in this case we learn that these 25 leaders of Jerusalem see themselves in a very favorable light.

It’s an obscure reference, and there are many varied translations of this section with much disagreement among the commentators as to what this means.  However, the point is that these men see themselves as the choice contents of a protected vessel, the meat of the meal as it were.  (Meat being reserved only for the well-to-do.)

Think about it this way:  It’s sort of a self fulfilling declaration.  The equation works like this.  I have privilege because of my status.  That status makes my life easier, therefore God has blessed me, or God favors me. Because God favors me, my privileged status is proof of God and of his favor.   You see what I mean.  I’m sure that most reading this blog can think of how that same formula has been used time and time again in modern times by various parties seeking to justify their take on life circumstances, their actions, or lack of actions, etc.

This self congratulatory approach to faith by these leaders of the community is further denounced by God later in the vision when God reveals how these 25 mock their own people in captivity by saying, “…they are far away from God, this land has been given to us”.

Now that should sound very familiar to anyone who has studied history, or even contemporary events.  To put this into modern terms, what these 25 leaders are saying is that because calamity has fallen on some segment of the population, then they must in someway deserve it. You don’t have to look too far back in time in the news to find similar types of statements being made by individuals of prominence to their followers.  The reverse corollary is what people like this cling to in order to preserve their power:  “If those people deserve their circumstances, then we must deserve ours. Since our situation is so good, we must be blessed.”    Make no mistake, this is a false doctrine, never validated by anything that Jesus taught. It is a placebo in the place of true faith, nothing more.

In this case, their presumption is that God is bound to the physical place of the Temple, which belief flies in the face of Israels very own history where they were led through the desert by God in the form of a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. God, who never wanted a temple in the first place, is certainly not captive by it – which validates the entire theme of the Book of Ezekiel so far. God is with His FAITHFUL people wherever they are.

These men, whom God refers to as the deceivers, who lead the people astray, therefore claim privilege of ownership in the sense that the land had been “given” to them. IE.  captives houses, property, and positions of status vacated and abandoned by those who were taken away into captivity.  This being the case, God knows exactly what they are most afraid of.

He tells Ezekiel that they will be taken away from their place of power, from their sense of security and dealt with far away from Jerusalem – way at the borders of the country.  And they shall be judged.

Meanwhile, this chapters gives us the first taste of comfort from God towards his people.  It is directed out towards those very people in captivity who are “…far from God…” He promises that He is always a Sanctuary in the far countries where they go.  Sanctuary does not necessarily mean safe-haven, it means the sacred place, the holy place that was inside the temple, the place where forgiveness could be found.  God is with his people – always – always with those who hold a true love of God precious in their heart.

 

Ezekiel blog 14: Fresh embers

This is my blog on the chapters of Ezekiel, and we’re up to Chapter 10 of Ezekiel.  It’s the end of this three chapter trilogy so to speak.

Since it’s the big finish, not very much happens from an action standpoint – of course.  Ezekiel spends lots of time on detail. He’s making sure that he, and the rest of us, are on the same page that this vision of a chariot is the exact same chariot that he encountered out on the desert plain where he received his calling to prophesy.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some crucial things going on here.  Something that catches my eye is that the angel from the last chapter who was to mark every person in Jerusalem that was still keeping the faith is now given a new task. The commentaries out there really do not go into very much detail on this. And, of course, with angels there is always a large level of symbolism to interpret. This presents a problem for the rest of us because interpretation is rather subjective.

Here’s my stab at it.  Since so much of Ezekiel’s vision draws him back to the original narrative of the Moses story and the Exodus, I have to wonder about the fires used in the original temple that Israel carried all over the desert.  Ezekiel chapter 40 talks about setting up the tabernacle.  It’s significant to me that Moses is instructed to set up the alter of burnt offerings FIRST, and then arrange the rest of the court, tabernacle, the ark, etc around this. In other words, priority is given to the place of worship and sacrifice on behalf of the people. It is specifically an annointed place when it is set up and readied for use.

God tells the angel to go to the alter of sacred fire which is part of the chariot that has been described.  An angel reaches in with his bare hands to bring out sacred coals. Only that which is pure can touch the fires of heaven. It is these coals that the angel in linen is directed to spread all over Jerusalem.

To me, this is God’s way of purifying the common places of Jerusalem where the faithful are still lingering, hidden away and mourning for their faith.  But more importantly, God is demonstrating that the steps of the existing temple where the current alter of sacrifice stands profaned is by no means the only place where the faithful may come to pray.  God is moving that capability out among the people, they may offer their sacrifice in the place where they are found.  Like Ezekiel, they can come out into the plain, out into the desert place to seek the Glory of God and present their sacrifice of a willing heart.

The Lord is then described as leaving the threshold of the Temple and moves to the chariot.  From their His Glory moves to the door of the Eastern gate, preparing to leave the temple complex altogether.  The Eastern gate, which looks to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the gate through which Jesus approach Jerusalem.   That places is holy only in so much as the Lord resides there, and here we are told that he had vacated as it was no longer sacred to the people.

Similarly, our hearts are temples to the Lord only in so much as the Lord resides there.  Let the embers burn, let the offering burn as a freely given sacrifice. See that the Lord accepts the personal offering of faith.  Let the angel place the mark on me and record it before the Lord. So let it be written, let it be done.