Ezekiel blog: The story moves forward

Lynn Ragan’s fresh look through writings of Ezekiel.

You know, it’s with more than a little trepidation that I’m launching into this next section of prophetic chapters from Ezekiel. There are several challenging concepts at work here, and some theological as well as spiritual territory that can be intimidating and downright confusing. There are some very significant things going on here, and I’ve been frankly dragging my heels starting this up again until I felt I had made some sense from this. In fact, in order to make any sense out this, I had to update my overall concept map – so to speak. My research took me out of the book of Ezekiel, through several disappointing commentaries, and finally to the Book of Judges – of all places.  But, first things first….

To bring you up to speed, I’ve been framing this exploration so far as Ezekiel working to draw parallel’s between the spiritual state of the people of Israel and the original Exodus story – the Moses narrative – as a way to bring reason to the disillusionment and dismay of the people now carried away to captivity in Babylon.   And now I’ve reached the very challenging set of chapters beginning with Ezekiel chapter 20.   

It’s now 2 years later – two years since the beginning of the first visions in the desert. Firstly, that is significant in itself. Too often people look at the prophetic writings as if they just magically appeared, all in once instance.  But Ezekiel clears that up for us by stating specific dates of his writing. So we can see the development of his thinking as he works hard to come to grips with the visions and oracles he is being given. It’s a good reminder that this was written down by someone who is just as human as you or me.

Now, back to the reference points we need to keep in our back pocket to find the way through these writings. As I said, Ezekiel formed his ministry in terms of the original story of the nations of Israel – as a people led into the desert to receive the law of God eg. The Moses story. So we have, references to plagues and judgements, to visions in the desert, to a view of God not tied to a temple location, etc. Ezekiel is trying to shake the people from their fixation on belief that things will return to what was familiar and at the snap of God’s fingers all will suddenly be well. Not going to happen.

But the leaders of the Jews in captivity – for they are all now in Babylon, have some ideas of their own about how things will be going forward. Ezekiel is faced with themes of stuborness, manipulation, and political control. Yep, two years into this, and he’s faced with an even bigger mountain of work. So, Ezekiel takes the people even further into their national story – it’s the same story that we read about in Judges. Believe me, Ezekiel is just as focused on the same messages faith, accessibility of faith to all, and social justice issues as he’s been all along up to this point.

Ezekiel will use elements from the time of the Judges to throw the expectations of the Elders of Israel back in their faces. He will use repetition of their own words, repetition of earlier themes and images, and best of all some of the role reversals from the beginning of the book. And, at the end of it all, we get an interesting roll call of nations (also a theme from Judges) which ties in with the messages of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and many others. It’s all great stuff, but can leave the reader a bit out of breath.

My next blog will dive right into Ezekiel and the Judges of Israel. See you soon.