More of me blogging my way through Ezekiel – trying to find some fresh air and some open country. Wrapping up some final thoughts on Ezekiel 21.
I can’t let this chapter go without commenting on some other drama that is going on in Chapter 21. It seems our exasperated prophet is required to go back to his earlier method from way at the beginning of the entire book. Remember all his symbolic acts and signs which were designed to draw attention to overlooked truths of his people’s current situation? Yeah, so here we go again.
Ezekiel is told to draw out roads to both Jerusalem and to the Ammonites (and their insults). There is supposed to be a fork in the road and at that point Ezekiel is supposed to put a sign post pointing the way to Jerusalem so that the King of Babylon can speedily move on to his appointed conquest.
Ok. Pretty sure that the King had his own scouts and had a fairly good idea of where the major city of Jerusalem was. So what’s with the sign post?
Firstly, I’d like to draw attention to the fact that we are told explicitly who the players are here. We know that the “Sword” is the King of Babylon, because it plainly is written in those terms. Ezekiel is all about very clear and plain explanations and identifications. This assertion I’m making here flies fully in the face of common attempts of interpretation for the four major prophets of the Old Testament. Usually we readers are treated to mystical descriptions and sound bytes on the History channel about how the prophets hid secret messages in their writings, or how it’s hard to identify who they are talking about in their oracles. Rubbish. It only requires the proper framework – a signpost – at the right point to help follow the narrative. Ezekiel, along with the other prophets was not concerned in the least about leaving clues to help identify explicit historical events. He, and the other prophets, were trying to minister to their people and restore their faith. That was the goal and that was the message.
In the case of Babylon, we are given some behind the scenes information here. It’s not an accident. A road is being prepared and it’s a road that is meant to be traveled. What’s more, God will use the language and methods of the Babylonian tradition to send a message. God speaks to the King in a way he can understand, and by this the King chooses to complete the work of subduing Jerusalem.
Now, here we are given a taste of something unusual. Notice that God is clearly choosing a non-Jew, a non-Priesthood person, to convey His work. Babylon is the instrument of action in delivering the judgment. Here, at this point, the Temple is to be destroyed. It is no longer the place of God’s habitation. We’ve already established this when Ezekiel was called out into open country in the middle of the desert. It is to be a perfect destruction lasting 70 years. And at the end of that time, another man “Cyrus, King of Persia” is chosen by the Lord to pave the way for the people of Israel to return and rebuild the Temple. Again, the instrument of the Lord’s work is someone not of the Holy People, someone from outside the establishment of their faith.
Do we get the message here that Ezekiel is trying to portray? God established back in Judges that if the people abandoned their faith and followed other gods and idols, that He would destroy their places of power and might. The people have lost their faith. Ezekiel is saying, “…see, God is doing what He said He would, when we have not done what we said we would do.” So the trick is to then get God to say something else that he would do and stick to our side of the covenant this time – to have faith. And, it is 70 years later that Daniel repents on behalf of all Israel and asks if they can go home and rebuild the covenant. Book of Ezra – great stuff – go read it.
God chooses his servants where ever they may be. They are known by their response – they hearken and obey the call. That servant may not be one of the fold. That servant may not fit the standard image established by the majority. That servant may not be of the pure people. But that servant belongs to God. Who are we to say otherwise against the Lord’s appointed.
And God draws roads and pathways through the desert and mountains so that the work may somehow be accomplished. God sends prophets to set up sign posts that point the way. And sometimes, there is more than one objective to what God is trying to accomplish. In this case, guess who’s next. Take a number, Ammonites….and all your insults.
It appears that God does not take well to name calling and insults. Words to the wise listener.