Ezekiel blog: Point of the Mountain

Although I’ve covered Ezekiel 36-39 as a block, there are a few individual tidbits that require a little extra coverage. So, I’ll handle each chapter briefly, each in a separate post.

At the point of Ezekiel 36, The people have been through the wringer.  Ezekiel has explicitly drawn the entire picture of the defeat of Jerusalem.  Blame, recrimination, dodging of responsibility, shady business deals, absence of social justice, even shallower faith, and what-about-the-Joneses – it’s all been covered.  Judgment. Has. Been. Served.   ….so, um, now what?

I’ve now reached the 4 chapters (Ezekiel 36-39) that seem to be the most complex and hardest to put into a framework.  They are very abstract.  Ezekiel chapter 36 finally turns the focus of discussion towards possible future actions of God, actions that could also benefit the former people of Jerusalem. For, finally, there is the promise of a restoration, a time of rebuilding, a time for when the land is no longer barren.

Ezekiel seems to be painting a future tense picture of hope and in doing so gets back to a secondary theme of this entire exploration:  a prophet reveals the nature (thoughts, viewpoint, methods, and expressions) of God.  A true prophet spends more time explaining the mind of God than mystically foretelling future events.

To get us – the reader – there, Ezekiel has to walk us through a major point: No matter the action or outcome, it’s all for God’s benefit.

The Oxford Bible Commentary  has this to say about the first part of Ezekiel’s sentiments in this chapter, “Whether punishing or forgiving, YHWH acts, not for Israel’s sake, but to protect the sanctity of His name.”  p.557 {36:16-38 YHWH’s honor restored}   I agree with this summation of Ezekiel’s intent, as this has been clear through out much of Ezekiel’s writing.  It is the way that God accomplishes this which leaves the captives in Jerusalem baffled. Even so, it is an important point to keep in mind – God acts for the benefit of his own interests.

Funny how many people of “faith” opt to approach their faith on the premise that God owes them something or can be wrapped into some kind of deal where He owes them something. I, personally tire of hearing long prayers that are some sort of logical exhortation where the invoker of the prayer details a litany of all the good works they (or their congregation)  have done and how they know that they will be rewarded, or “Blessed” as is commonly used today, as a result of their humble (yet somehow passive/aggressive) efforts, etc. etc. etc.  It’s a process oriented incantation – nothing more.   Lets face this truth together, shall we: aggressive attempts to control the outcome of intention is by definition, magick as defined by Aleister Crowley eg. “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will”.   This, strictly speaking, is not faith.

Ezekiel tells us, with explicit clarity, that God does not work that way.  It did not work that way for all the priests of the Temple who prayed devoutly for refuge or deliverance from destruction for themselves, but not for the general population. It did not work that way for all the Jews in captivity in the Babylonian dessert to have a speedy return to their homeland,…and their property.  It really did not work for the workers and in cantors of the the various cults that made their way into the sacred Temple hallways.

So, Why not?

Ezekiel tells us that God takes actions according to His own counsel, and whether it is for the immediate benefit, or Not a benefit, it is for the sanctity of His own name.   That is a hard concept to swallow.  In other words, you and I can not do anything which supersedes God’s own purposes. If He chooses to build up a people, a group, a church, or a single person, it is for His own benefit.  The reciprocal process is also true.  So, the best a person of true faith can do, is to align their efforts the direction that God is moving.

An additional point that Ezekiel makes, from a theological standpoint, is the confirmation of the idea of personal agency.  He writes that God would take actions involving the people now in bondage in Babylon that  would “Move” them to follow the law.  It is an interesting choice:  Move.   He did not say “Make you to follow”.    So, for God’s own purposes, and for his own sanctity of name, He wanted to MOVE the people to follow His law.   To move someone involves engaging the heart, inspiring that person to invest in a personally motivated action. They are moved.

…and God’s sanctity is preserved.   This is what Ezekiel is talking about in Ezekiel chapter 36.