My wife is a big fan of watching the BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice”. Over the years of watching that production with her, I’ve also developed an appreciation for period pieces like that story. One of the things that made watching that mini-series so fascinating was observing how every time we followed the story, my wife would recognize some new gem of insight about the motivation of the characters, or extract some new connection between events. She would express such excitement about these discoveries and insist that I get it too. Yes, guys, real men can watch chick-flicks.
What does this have to do with the end of Ezekiel though? In many ways, verses 35-63 are like reading a very complicated story over and over again. The same context is repeated eg. Israel had a bad history, current practices were terrible, and God enacts judgment followed swiftly by punishment. Ezekiel takes us through this as if he’s trying to be sure that we get the circumstances. No disrespect intended, but he seems to have been very anal that way.
But along the way, we are treated to little bits of gained insight that Ezekiel has prized from the narrative. Here are some of them that stand out to me:
1. It is because Israel did not remember her humble origins that God brings it all down on her head. So: remember where you come from.
2. “Hey, you wanted all these lovers and all this attention? Then I’m not going to step in and stop it when things get totally out of control. Maybe an overdose will scare you enough. ” Yikes, hope I don’t need an intervention like this in my life.
3. God really doesn’t like proverb quoters. I’m not talking about the book of Proverbs, but those annoying little platitudes that really don’t express any kind of real theology or faith, but are used as pseudo-religious bandaids of the moment. Proverb-quoters….you know who you are. Pay attention to this chapter for real.
4. Crimes of Sodom: Arrogant, over-fed, and unconcerned. Haughty and unresponsive to the poor and needy. We all know what happened there. Uh-huh, ‘nough said.
5. Ok, I know I said ‘nough said, but Sodom only measured up to HALF of how bad Israel was being at this point. That’s HALF as bad, and they got blown off the map. What were you saying about God’s patience?
6. “Israel ! You broke our covenant! ” God takes covenants very seriously. It’s a big deal….and something God will work very hard to create, protect, rebuild, and recreate when necessary.
7. More on covenants, this is the one thing that God believes can actually be healed with Israel. It’s the one thing in the entire chapter that is discussed in future tense. God says He “will remember” and He “will establish”. The object here?! If he can find hope in such a disaster of a situation, then he can find hope for each one of us.
8. My anger will END. I will turn away my anger and be jealous no longer. When I make atonement for all that you have done…. etc. etc.
Can you imagine what a boost this must have been to Ezekiel who is still sitting out there in the desert wondering what is to become of his people who have been chased from their ancestral home and away from their spiritual center place? To hear that there will be a time when the covenant will be renewed and a time when anger will be turned away. At last some good news and something to hope for.
I’ve heard again and again how the Old Testament seems to be focused on an “Angry” and “Vengeful” God. In this chapter, I see quite the opposite. This story is about a long suffering and patient beyond patient God. He wants to bring His anger to an END. And can anyone doubt what He has in mind for the phrase “atonement for all that you have done”? There is a group within the Christian community who dismiss and ignore the Old Testament because it appears to have little to do with the New Testament message. From my perspective, I find a rich connection between the two collections of written scripture….as did the original believers in the message of Hope.
And now, I am done with Chapter 16. Thanks for hanging in there with me if you are reading along.