When I ended my last blog entry – after wrapping up Ezekiel 32 – I mentioned that we had come to the end of the first half of Ezekiel. Conventional thought breaks his writings into a first half and second half. However, I think I was wrong to position it that way, to go along with the crowd. After all, this blog is about finding my way out into open country, to breathe fresh theological and spritual air, and to cut through the artificial super-imposed noise collected over the centuries – as it comes to this book, the writings of Ezekiel the Prophet. (It may be helpful to go back to the beginning of this blog to find out what all this is about and how I am exploring a new framework as applied to Ezekiel’s writing.)
After taking a break from the steady pace of progressing through the last seven chapters, I read and reread the next section and was struck by the idea that Ezekiel really cares that anyone who reads his stuff actually understands his stuff. Quite remarkable really, when you consider the company of the other three great prophets of Biblical scripture and how much symbolism is integrated into each prophetic oracle – it doesn’t seem like it was very fashionable to take a moment to explain yourself or make sure your readers weren’t totally lost.
Coming into chapter 33, Ezekiel breaks that mode of operation. The result is sort of a cliff notes, a distillation down, of the major themes represented throughout the first 32 chapters. Over the next few blog entries, it seems appropriate to sample through these thematic messages and meditate over their central meaning, not only to the people of Israel captive in Babylon, but how it relates to us as modern readers.
As an example of this summation approach, consider the first 6 verses of Ezekiel chapter 33. As I have mentioned before, it is the job of a prophet to speak to the truth of the situation as it exists in the hearts and attitudes of the people to whom God is choosing to provide ministry and guidance. A true prophet really isn’t interested in external validation – after all,….why would he/she? The prophet is plugged into a direct conduit of information and insight. (and this appears to be the trap that so many of the commentaries I’ve read fall dreadfully into – believing that the prophet is at the mercy of external validation or correllation.)
But in these six verse we get a step by step examination of theology which addresses the most basic of all questions for people who are experiencing a crisis of faith: “Who is responsible for my current condition?” ….Who is responsible?
So the summary that God gives to Ezekiel goes like this:
If I alert you to something, you are supposed to pass it on. So if you don’t pass it on, and something untoward happens to the people I was trying to reach, then it is your fault and you are responsible even though they are the ones who may have been misguided in their choices. It is your fault.
However, if you do pass it on (help me connect) and the message is disregarded by these people, you are not responsible, not at fault, if something happens to them. It is their fault.
It would be tempting to stop right there and determine that these six verses are about fault, that they are about ascribing blame. But there is a much more significant meaning to be found and it is right in the first sentence of my summation which went, “If I alert you…” to restate. Now some could argue that my summation has put in different meaning than what is actually written in the scriptural verse. Well then, Ezekiel 33:1 begins with “The word of the Lord came to me…”
The verse is about communication from a God that cares. Ezekiel is saying that this should not be discounted out of hand. It should be held in esteem and carried forward. I say carried forward because the Spirit is always in motion, moving throughout all the Earth – every part. It is not for us as humans to try to thwart, restrain, or deflect. And even though these verses refer to “the sword” and “the trumpet” speak to most people as images of war, it still remains that imagery is the most basic form of communication.
It’s also of note that the Trumpet was a tool for signaling alarm along with calling people to praise at the temple, rattling the walls of Jericho, and even the sound accompanying the voice giving the law as it originated on the heights of Mount Sinai. This was the exact image that Ezekiel wanted his people to remember, especially since every essence of his writings for the first 32 chapters were a call to rememberance of the national and spiritual origins of a people truly re-lost in the desert, in with wilderness of Babylon, so very far from home, and wondering who is responsible.
There is more to be found in the next verses, but,…next time.