Ezekiel blog 68: Name of a city

At last we come to Ezekiel’s final chapter, chapter 48. He is about to complete his vision of the restoration of his people, those who are captive under guard in Babylon to their tribal lands in Israel. He sees this as an opportunity to fairly reallocate lands to each tribe, to establish the royal/sacred city, and offer some final comments about the equity of it all.  It is a roll-call of all the tribes in Israel and an establishment of their place.  To each a name is given, to each a gate is named and given.

This leads Ezekiel to the last sentence of his prophecy – the name of the city:  “The Lord is There”.  So what’s in a name?  It’s just a name, right?  In this case, Ezekiel has loaded the name with all kinds of meaning.

By writing the name of the city at the very end, he is indicating that everything else must be accomplished first, and that when everything that has been described in the visions has been faithfully carried out, then the city will receive it’s name.  The name itself takes us back to Ezekiel chapter 11 where Ezekiel sorrowfully reports that the Lord has removed himself away from the city and land of Jerusalem.  So, by achieving all within the visions which lead up to this last chapter number 48, it is an act of faith inviting the Lord to resume residence in a place made sacred through offering, sacrifice, and prayer – all acts of faith.

This was meant as a final enticement to Ezekiel’s fellow captives, something concrete that they could hold on to as they endured their captivity. This entire vision could be accomplished and they would once again become a holy people. This was an immediate hope, not a hope of someday thousands of years in the future, etc. etc.

Ezekiel writes, “…from that time on…” by which he is indicating that this vision, this restoration of faith, is just a beginning point, not the end goal.

Ezekiel is a book of beginnings, not of the end. It is a book of hope amid destruction and despair. Ezekiel’s writings are a pathway through judgement and condemnation towards cleansing and rededication.

Ezekiel ministered with his entire soul, and desperately carried an arduous vision on behalf of his people so that they might live.

 

 

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Ezekiel blog: End of Nations

At long last, Ezekiel has brought us to the end of his vision of the Nations. It is a lament, in Ezekiel chapter 32, much like his other laments. Yet, this one seems a bit dry, almost hollow sounding, like Ezekiel is feeling the effects of having his awareness opened dramatically to the plight of nations and feeling wrung out.

The first half of the chapter reviews in poetic form all the effects of the judgments against Egypt. One of the verses says that the Lord will “…vex the hearts of many people…”  That is an interesting word to use. Vexation, similar to aggravation or affliction. Frustration muddled together with agrievement. I think that must be not only what the people of Egypt and her neighbors were to feel, but the actual emotional state of Ezekiel. His was to see, to suddenly know, to try to warn, but ultimately realize that none of his efforts would avert what was to come.   It is a very bitter pill for a minister to swallow.

As the original story of the book of Judges took us through a role call of nations – soon to feel the affliction of God’s judgment, and as Ezekiel took us through a role call of nations when he began this section of oracles against all the surrounding neighbors of Jerusalem, so he now ends this entire section with another role call of nations. Starting with verse 17, Ezekiel walks us through each nation with a recurring indictment against “…all who had spread terror in the land of the living”.

In each case, the slain are thrown down into the pit.  This is a horrid visualization today with the relative ease of reviewing photographic records from Nazi concentration camps, or historical records of the treatment of North American native americans. Yet to the people of those lands to whom this was addressed, the imagery goes a step further as it addresses an undignified journey into the underworld – there to lie with all of the others who had been slain by their own sword.

Last of all is the same cant for Pharaoh – he and all his army.   And this brings to a close any hope that some of the Jews in captivity might be holding a candle for.  Egypt is no longer a major player, and all of those age old religious practices that some of the Jews and their hierarchy might be holding onto have passed into a great pit. There to be buried.

It is the end of this sequence of visions.  The ground has been cleared, the wreckage will be removed.  There wil be a time of sleep and rest for the land of Jerusalem.

So,……?  You know that Ezekiel’s people, his fellow captives, have to be asking themselves the most logical next question.

Now what?  Where do we go from here then?