Ezekiel blog 66: The playground slide

Ezekiel chapter 46 is Ezekiel’s way of showing that God is not an oblivious parent and that selfish behavior, or ‘getting away with it’, is not acceptable.

Ever take a child to the neighborhood playground and watch them climb around on jungle-gym/slide combo equipment?  Seems like as often as not that there is someone’s kid hanging around at the top of the slide making it difficult for the other kids to take a turn at the slide. You know the situation, you’ve seen it before.  The kid goes down the slide and then turns around and walks back up the slide to take another turn. This blocks up the whole pattern and builds frustration with the other kids who are patiently waiting to share the slide. It is a selfish, and self centered behavior that is encouraged every time that child’s parents are oblivious to the actions of their own children.

For the most part, children are still growing and learning, but adults should know better.  That is the point that Ezekiel was making in this chapter, and it is a point that is consistent with themes from his other chapters.

At verse 9, Ezekiel makes an astonishing directive. Anyone who enters the temple through the north door, must leave through the south door – including the Prince. He’s supposed to follow the same path as everyone else.  Anyone who enters the temple through the south door, must leave through the north.

It would seem that Ezekiel’s sense of practicality is surfacing here.  Though this may sound trivial, there is common sense here because it prevents the very scenario I describe in the introduction of this chapter regarding the playground slide. There is no possibility that someone with an inflated sense of self-importance could enter the door to the inner sanctuary and post ‘body-guards’ to block the way for everyone else until they come back out.  This arrangement goes a long way towards discouraging a VIP mindset among the self-described elite.

The other message is that sharing is a two way street.  In a very real sense, Ezekiel envisioned a community of holy worshippers who came to this place of offering, sacrifice, and prayer, all sharing it equally. To that end, sharing requires both giving and receiving. Giving way for others to come before the Lord, receiving a place to worship in turn.  Sharing is always a two way street because it empowers healthy respect for others as well as a healthy self-respect. It can start with one person, one side of sharing, but should spread to the other side, the other person, if it is done with the right spirit.  If it is not doing that, then it is not sharing.

The very end of the chapter 46 is an interesting little bit of functional sharing.  It became more clear when I built the 3D model in minecraft.  Verses 22-24 describe the roasting pits, or outdoor cooking areas placed in each corner of the outer court.  This is the area that has all those equal sized rooms all along the avenue.  In today’s terms, these are Bar-B-Q pits stationed equally around the area where the priests are to cook the people’s offerings. No backlogging here, take it and go please.  But in this way, it emphasizes the point that even among the priesthood that serve the temple, there is enough for all and there are not special areas for some and not for others.

Ezekiel has proven true to his themes yet again in this whole passage: fairness, sharing, equality, justice, service, and consideration.

Ezekiel blog: Dem Bones – seriously – Dem bones

I’ve already touched on Ezekiel chapter 37 in the earlier 4 chapter bundle (chapters 36-39).  Again, there are just a few points I’d like to highlight for this chapter.  First we have to address the obvious reference in the title of this entry. Yes, the famous spiritual song “Dem Bones” was inspired by Ezekiel chapter 37.   (Please see this Wikipedia reference for detail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dem_Bones ).

This has undoubtedly made this chapter one of the more famous chapters of Ezekiel’s writings.  What is interesting is that as a result of skipping the rest of the entire Book of Ezekiel and jumping to this chapter, some have taken the position that this chapter was intended to justify or validate the Christian theology of Life after Death.  Afterall, the chapter describes dry bones – human remains – being reanimated back to life.

However, this brings me back to one of the fundamental principles of the analysis model I’m using to work through Ezekiel’s writings; it brings me to where the name of this blog actually comes from.  I’m searching for free and open country, a place of thought that isn’t bound by assumptions arising from a pre-fabbed theological approach.  Assuming that this major Prophet, one of the four major prophets, of the Old Testament was concerned with outside or external validation is a critical mistake for any reader of prophetic work.

Ezekiel himself had one, maybe two, purposes for most of what he wrote; to give his people hope while in bondage, and to encourage them to return to their true faith.  This was not an exposition into resurrection theology as that was unknown to the Jews of that time period. It was not part of their religious world.

To presume the scope of this writing pertains to a religion other than that which Ezekiel was most familiar with (his own), would be in err.  For instance, suppose we have a reader of this chapter who believes that anytime winds blow from all four directions at the same time that the beholder is about to receive good fortune.  Then that reader comes across Ezekiel chapter 37 and reads the text about the winds breathing life back into the bones.  That reader could suppose that his personal religious views had just been validated.  A Christian reader would be dubious of that presumption. Even so, Christian readers must be careful not to presume the presence of their own theology.

Therefore, this passage about dry bones nothing to do with Christian theological views on the afterlife.  It has much more to do with justice in the face of persecution, and the eventual restoration of Israel as a unified nation to its sacred ancestral place.

From a ‘return to faith’ perspective this vision reminds the captives in bondage of their origins, the story of Genesis  (something that Priest of the Temple, like Ezekiel, would be trained to teach).  In Genesis, it is the Breath of God, the wind entering the body formed of earth, which brings to life Adam. Similarly, it was the Breath of God, or the wind, which separated the waters of the Red Sea, thereby providing  means of escape to the people of Israel and granting them life.   So Ezekiel draws them back to a remembrance of the power of the Breath of God and how it might pertain to them.

Lets also look at where these bones are….in a valley.  That is a very low place. That is where victorious armies throw the dead and vanquished – it’s not a place of honor. It’s not a battlefield.  These bones are not an army waiting to be returned to life as one commentary stated.   These are the bones of all who have been cast aside, those who have suffered from the injustices of the privileged elite of Jerusalem.  These are the bones of all who were carried far from their homes and find themselves wanderers in a strange land.

Freeing Israel from the bonds of their captivity, the graves into which they have fallen in the distant lands of their exiles is a message of hope to his people, to his fellow captives. It tells them that not only redemption is possible, but that justice is an aspect of God whom they worship. If they would only return to their true faith, then these qualities would reappear in God.  This is entirely consistent with Ezekiel’s overall purpose in writing from the very beginning of his book.

My last note for this chapters is that Ezekiel shows us pure nature of true prophecy: speaking the word of God, telling the mind of God. His examples do not include mystically venturing into forecasting remote events of far distant futures.   Ezekiel’s exact descriptions of his process and of his visions negates most commentaries viewpoints on the following two chapters of Ezekiel 38 & 39. I say ‘negates most commentaries’ because most of the opinions I’ve read have focused on time periods wildly beyond the scope of all of the rest of Ezekiel’s.  Ezekiel’s mission is that of a restorer of faith to a lost people – giving them something to believe in that affects their lives and the lives of their children.

More on this in the next chapter.

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel blog: Vol II – God does not keep score

Ezekiel chapter 33 is about many things. Many people get hung up on the ease of assigning a label to Ezekiel, that of Watchman.  One commentary I read makes that the theme of Ezekiel chapter 33.   If I had to summarize this section down, I’d go with “God is not in the business of keeping score”; more on this later.  As I said before, this chapter has many themes.

In the last blog entry, I stated that the first six verses were about communication and answering the question, “Who is responsible for the state I’m in?”

Moving on to verse 7 and beyond, it would be easy to look at this as simply Ezekiel’s calling being explained – he is the watchman, woe to any and all who do not heed, etc, etc.  However, I read a much more important theme and one that is very relevant to us living our lives in the world.  FAIRNESS.  Fairness is what is happening in this explanation.

Ezekiel is being told, and thus the elders of the Hebrews are being told, that there are no special cases, no instances that what applies to you does not apply to me. Just because a person is a member of the holy elite, does not mean that the same standards are not applied.  It’s clear when Ezekiel writes, “…If I tell you to warn, and you do not, then blood is on your hands”.   God does not play favorites, because God is not a respecter of persons.  This is a difficult concept for humans to get their arms around, but it is a common theme throughout all of Ezekiel’s writings.

We are then presented with an interesting adage making its way around the Israelites living in captivity.  Ezekiel records it like this, “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of  them. How then can we live?”  Elements of depression and self pity are laced through this, but also a hint of disavowal or abandonment of future responsibility.  Almost a resignation of what is as a permanent condition.

But the question, How can we live?  still remains.  And here we come across one of the rarely mentioned gems of the Old Testament, or Biblical scripture as a whole.  God tells Ezekiel something significant: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”

So firstly, Ezekiel’s insight into the nature of God is that God is not sitting around with a scratch pad gleefully counting up transgressions and just waiting to pull the trigger on furious judgments and penalties.  Instead, God is expecting that people make choices, and continue to choose. God is hoping that people look at their lives and choose a path that leads towards a pattern of living that is consistent with the themes of justice, of fairness, of mercy, of faith.

Secondly, this is an absolutely unmistakable marker for free will and expression of free conscience, that rejects the notion that God is looking for a flock of minions that blindly do His bidding without question nor understanding.  In fact, Ezekiel phrases this as a plea from God’s own mouth asking the question, “Why will you die?…”  This is choice and nothing other than choice.  Ezekiel calls his people to examine their ways for what they are.   Reflect, examine, weigh, discern, judge, and then turn, make a change for the better,… and live. Are we not offered the same expectation, the same opportunity for expression of will, the same portent of our choices?

It is the same for each one, and that is Justice.

The final two points of this section of Ezekiel 33 come back to the idea that God is not an accountant of misdeeds but instead is a God of Justice and Fairness.  For the first point, it is important to keep in mind that God has His own ideas of what is just. The same goes for what is fair.

If we look at verse 12,  at first blush this seems to be a bewildering formula that borders on unfair, especially to those who view scripture as a line-by-line codex of laws and better-does. How can this be fair?  Someone who does good their entire life, and then makes one slip-up and they are condemned?  Oh, and someone spends an entire life living the high-life without regard to anyone else and then gets a free pass just because they turn over a new leaf at the very end?  That’s not right.  (This is also the specific root of the Last Rites, incantation – an attempt to wedge someone into heaven on the last open seat ticket).    Whaaaatt!!?

But that is not what Ezekiel is trying to convey because, it would imply that God is a score keeper, a craggy accountant sitting somewhere up in heaven with a clipboard making little checkmarks for every little action we do. Instead, Ezekiel is trying to point his people towards a state of living, a condition of community, where choices make a difference, and the value of another soul matters, a place where everyone has a stake in the balance of good and evil. Notice the examples that Ezekiel trots out to demonstrate a turning from bad choices:  the returning of unfair collateral for a loan, the return of stolen property of funds are the top two on his list. Fairness.

This mental/spiritual framework leads us to a conclusion that it is a state of living that God is trying to elevate his people, all of his creation for that matter, towards.  This is what Ezekiel refers to as “the decrees of life”.   In this sense, then, if you are living in the good way, and deviate away, then you detach from that state of holiness, that flow of the decrees of life, and are now on a path away from life as described earlier.  If you are not living in a good way, and turn, then you attach to that state of holiness, that flow of the decrees of life and are now on a path towards life as described earlier.  In this framework, it is all fairness as it applies equally to all people as God sees them.

And as for Justice?  Well, this is God’s own complaint.  As Ezekiel informs us, the Hebrew people that are in Babylonian captivity seem prone to expressing their frustration in the form of blame: God is not Just.   Verses 17 -20 are God’s rebuttal against that charge and a very direct explanation of the process of judgment from on high. It ends with a promise that God will indeed reserve judgment to Himself, and that He will keep on judging in His own Just way, ….according to our own actions.

So in the end, it comes down to our choices, our agency, our sense of living in a good way.  Who is responsible for my situation?  I guess I am.

We’ll finish up with Chapter 33 next time.  Lots of stuff in here, but it’s all good. Hang in there.

Ezekiel blog: Probably some parental guidance needed on this chapter

Um. Ezekiel Chapter 23 is rather graphic in its imagery. But, to water it down in anyway would change the essential reason for its existence in the first place.  Because this is the case, it’s useful to ask ‘Why?’  in order to interpret the ‘What?’.

What “What” are we talking about here, anyways?

So in this parable, Jerusalem and Samaria are framed as two adult sisters.  We are told that both sisters (Jerusalem and Samaria) chose a life of prostitution from their youthful days in Egypt.  The scriptural verses go into depths to show that we’re not talking about nice escort girls either.  In any case though, it was under-age sexual exploitation in this analogy.

Time passes, and now the girls are older and on their own, but not much has changed.  Both are still in the prostitution racket, though Jerusalem is even more hardcore about it than her older sister Samaria. (One of the points of astonishment that this chapter conveys.) This displeases God, since Jerusalem was supposed to be not only a holy place, but an example for others to follow.

Even with all this, we are still not to the shocking part of the Prophet’s message in this chapter. Ezekiel goes on to criticize Jerusalem for now courting the surrounding empires, taking them to her private bed chamber, enjoying the benefits of their lustful interest and then dumping them and treating them with contempt.  This is the last straw and God is ready to react.

A severe punishment is described, one that is shocking to western viewpoints.  Jerusalem is to be stripped naked and cast out into the street and then to be treated to punishments common for prostitutes at that time. The violence is extreme, with beatings and humiliations.  At the end of it all, there is physical mutilation in order to “teach” the other cities that look up to Jerusalem to avoid these kinds of behaviors. Jerusalem is set up to be an extreme example.

Gulp. Ok. Why?

First of all, prostitution is being used as a metaphor for idol worship and for the practicing of foreign religious practices – in some cases, not even paying true homage to those, merely the same lip service given to the traditional faith of Israel as well.  I find it interesting that Ezekiel maintains his position that before the 10 Plagues of Egypt, when Israel was finally released from captivity, Israel is portrayed as wantonly pursuing the idol worship of the Egyptians and that it was God who decided to reclaim his people and remove them from that influence.  The book of Exodus has a completely different viewpoint in which the victimized people of Israel are so desperate to practice their faith that they must put up resistance to Egypt and eventually cry to the Lord for deliverance.  Two VERY different views of the Exodus story.

In either case, this is a round about way for Ezekiel to continue his parallelization of the return-to-national-origin theme that has dominated his entire progression of visions and oracles.   And, as I said before, Chapter 23 is very much a commentary on Chapter 22 and Chapter 24.

Back to ‘WHY???’

It seems to me that when prophets choose to use metaphors, imagery and poetry (or some combination of all three), they are usually trying to convey the emotion and gravity of the events, they are giving us a yardstick to measure how significant the events in play really are. The imagery also helps us understand the true nature of the impact of the decisions to whom the messages and oracles are directed.  In this case, the overall emotional sense is one of extreme revulsion.  That is a powerful word as it conjures feelings in the pit of your stomach, an abhorrence to the idea of drawing even on inch closer to the source of discomfort.

So too, the image of Jerusalem playing the role of prostitute is bad enough. But this image actively seeks new lovers complete with a full HD seduction plan. Then she is portrayed as trashing their dignity along with her own by turning away from them in disgust (themes of betrayal of trust as in chapter 22).   Her behavior is capped off in this verse:

v. 39 On the very day they sacrificed their children to their idols, they entered my sanctuary and desecrated it. That is what they did in my house.

 Idol worship, playing host to others regional idol based cults all for political advantage, casting one away in favor of another. Child sacrifice to these same idols, and in the act polluting the very sanctuary.  God is astonished to find this in His house.  He rejects all lip service by the leadership who have shown absolutely no loyalty to anyone and change their attachments at a moment’s whim.  God can not bring himself any closer to a people so bent on defiling themselves.

And so the punishment gets very grim, graphic, and brutal.  Jerusalem will have the same done to her that she did to her ‘suitors’.  She will be shunned, thrown out in the street naked. She will be beaten for her lewdness. Her eyes will be gouged out and her ears and nose cut off.  She will be stoned to death.  In short, she will receive exactly what she had given out to her own people for generations; a quid-pro-quo form of justice: getting what she gave.

The brutality is fearsome indeed. And we congratulate ourselves that we are no longer in the barbaric ages where this sort of thing was considered a just punishment.  But are we really so sophisticated as that?  Perhaps we should keep in mind the lesson that Ezekiel offers when we harm others in the name of our own righteousness. Is that justice? or is it a mark against us when we come crying for forgiveness and mercy.

Consider this story from last week’s news releases.  It seems that people are so ready to condemn not realizing that this could and probably will come back on all of us:

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/27/americas/guatemala-girl-burned-mob/index.html

There is a line tacked on to the end of the chapter that seems to infer that this is an example to all actual women.  However, Ezekiel’s message has always been to the people as a whole, and the reference to Jerusalem as an unfaithful woman stands as a stark contrast to the imagery that Jesus himself used of the bride preparing for the groom; an image used again more specifically in Revelations.

The message is for the whole world, not just for a sub-demographic.

-Deal with it.

 

Ezekiel Blog: Time for a gardening story

Looking back over the flow of the Book of Ezekiel so far, there has been motion away from the presumed home base of Jerusalem for the children of Israel.  My framework of approach has been to see these observations by Ezekiel through the eyes of one who was trained specifically in the ways and traditions of Moses.  And then we come to Ezekiel chapter 17, where apparently it is now story time:  Two Eagles and a vine.

The reality is that we’re at the end of a 2 year time period in which Ezekiel has been experiencing these visions. With this being the case, we are treated to sort of a summary of conclusions and reiterations of cause and effect.

Getting back to Chapter 17 and our parable, as in the case of every parable, there is always the action, and then the observations about that action; the morale of the story.  Since Ezekiel is a true prophet, there are several points that can be inferred from this story.  As usual, he is speaking at several levels at once.

Chapter 17 is actually broken into 4 distinct sections.
Vs 1-8   The actual Parable complete with study/discussion questions in verses 9 & 10.  Isn’t  that nice?
Vs 12-15 The Explanation, again complete with study/discussion questions
Vs 16-21 Prophecy of what God’s actions will be and what the results from poor choices will yield
Vs. 22-24 Prophecy of the restoration of the purity of Faith

Rather than retell the parable and summarize – which is what all the commentaries seem to do, I thought I’d remark on some interesting connections and conclusions that Ezekiel seems to be spoonfeeding us. As I mentioned earlier, Ezekiel seems to be speaking at several levels. So, in bullet point fashion, here is what I see that Ezekiel is most concerned about:

1. The point that jumps right off the page first is clearly about “Commitment” or the act of breaking a covenant. Covenant is a topic that starts in Genesis and is prominent throughout all the books of Moses, what is also referred to as the Torah. In short, breaking one is not cool. If you are going to break a simple covenant with one person, how will God know that you intend to keep the covenant you make with him in sacred space.

2. Transplanting is a well-known method, even then, for preserving the good core of a plant, while removing it from a bad or unproductive environment. This parable is a way of portraying God as a caring gardener trying to preserve the precious nature of Israel’s faith but clear out all the negative factors. In other words, this entire book of Ezekiel is not just about retribution, judgement and punishment. This is the answer to the question: Why??

3. Babylon – the city of Merchants – is portrayed as a lesser of two evils when compared to Egypt at the time. God’s message to Ezekiel was that, at least during captivity, they would be allowed to return to basics of their faith and renew what was started when Moses led them forth from Egypt. This would not always be so, of course, but God would provide a way forward when faith would eventually be penalized.

4. Ding, Ding, Ding –Spoiler Alert– This very section of Ezekiel must have been what Jesus was referring to when he made the speech about “A house divided” wherein either you serve one master, or you serve the other master. Yet another link between the ministry of Jesus, his very teachings, and the message of the prophets of the Old Testament.

5. A glimmer of hope at the very end – or perhaps a foretelling of the Messiah. After all, a tree grows up, not down. Therefore, a lineage of Kings would be represented as growing up through the generations. The very tippy-tip-top of the tree would be the tenderest, most vulnerable, most recent version of the lineage of kings.

From the perspective of the people of Jerusalem, they were being taken away from everything that was good, everything that they knew. From God’s perspective, He was taking them away from a toxic environment and transplanting them to some clear soil for temporary holding in order to let the plant heal.

Are you being transplanted? Was I? When I thought things were really good, was it really a toxic situation in disguise? Was it not health for my growth, and just maybe God new better? Did I resist, did I fight?

 

Ezekiel Blog 11: Poetic license

For those intrepid enough to keep coming back to this blog, thanks. I’m taking on the book of Ezekiel. By that I mean, I’m reading it through – fresh. Yes, I’m researching commentaries, but I’m following a different pattern, a different way of looking at it. And here we are at Ezekiel Chapter 7.  there is a really good layout of this chapter at the Biblegateway.com portal a this URL which shows the following break out of the poems.

Something remarkable happens in this chapter. Ezekiel transitions into poetry, and this strikes a chord with me. The poem is divided into three sections, with the third section having 4 verses.  There is parallelism all over the place and the poem is full of imagery.

Why a poem?  First off, that was not that uncommon for prophets to deliver their oracles in poetic format, or even song/chant. But, why now, why does Ezekiel turn to this?  None of the commentaries that I’ve read through speculate.  Most refer to the chapter as a mess, chalk full of dizzying repetition.  So here is what I think.

For me, poems evoke emotion.  Feeling flows along with the verse allowing overlapping expression, sometimes of conflicting feelings.   You see anger and wistfulness mixed together, resoluteness and regret.  The soul wakes up and listens even if the ear does not comprehend.

Anybody out there ever listen to a Rolling Stones song called “Satisfaction”?  Or, even any of the pop tunes on Disney channel?   Talk about dizzying array of repetitive text.  So that is hardly fair criticism.  What it does do is bring the listener into some familiar landmarks because of the repetition. Ezekiel wanted people to remember key elements – especially the parts about “repaying you for your ways”.

The thing is, scripture is a lot like art – in many ways. One of which is that it engages the soul, it suspends legalism, and technical analysis on the fly.  It uses imagery to capture spatial attention and help ingrain essential impressions.  And…as Jewish rabbi’s say, there are so many ways to interpret scripture…the Seventy faces of the Torah, etc.

Up ’til now, Ezekiel has been dealing with commandments, understanding the relationship of what he was experiencing to original trail blazed by Moses.  We have had types and foreshadowing, symbols of what God was about to do.

So the question really becomes, what do you hear in these verses?  When I read this through, here is what I hear.

The first poem is a high level summation of everything discussed up to this point, and a condensed version of the remaining sections of the poem.  It’s the big opening, chaismic format and all.  It ends with the assurance that “they will know that I am God.”

The second section directs the motion of the poem, for what is something spoken unless it is heard.  Ezekiel is using something we hear today at almost any concert venue, “…this goes out to all you people who blah, blah, blah,….”   It’s a shout-out to all those who still live in this land, the high places of Jerusalem; to those people I told to leave and who disobeyed and continue to hang around…..still.   As will any poem, you can feel emotion in these verses. In this case, the emotion is resentment for “the conduct among you” which has brought all of these things to fruition.  And it’s more than them just refusing to leave. It was the plain avarice that caused them to take advantage of the forced exodus of their own countrymen – hastily moving in and taking over the riches of those who were forced into exile.  They craved control.  Well, with control comes accountability.

The third poem section drips with remorse for the emptiness of the state of things yet to come. There is lonesomeness and sorrow in the words of judgement.  Three verses begin with “None”  will be left, followed  by a great big “Nothing”.    No One. Not one left. Not even 10 good people are left to spare the city as was the case with Lot and family back in Genesis.  And this was emphasized 4 times to ensure that Ezekiel, along with everyone else, that these conditions pass even that test of God’s judgment. In other words, Don’t even go there.  And neither the buyer nor the seller should be in any mood for celebration.  No one is going to be able to angle their way out with a good deal or make a last minute bargain. Religion and faith were not supposed to be for sale, and yet that is exactly what had been done in the highplaces…not only with the faith of the Torah, but even with some of the borrowed religions from other countries.   Salvation can not be bought.  Same as today. Salvation. Can’t. Be. Bought.

Moving on to the next section, section 4.
Trumpet?   What trumpet? This isn’t Jericho where trumpets sounded against overwhelming odds and Israel gained victory.  Ezekiel is reminded that this favorite story of the Torah is not going to happen either.  the people are buying into false hopes.  Plagues are mentioned in this section of the poem too.  Once again, the plagues are not to protect Israel as they were in the days of Egypt leading to Israel’s liberation.  Not going to play out that way in this case.  In all of these references, favorite stories of deliverance from the Torah are being referenced and denied because of the current “conduct among you”.   And there is a complete sentiment of Shame laden in these verses.

The 5th section of the poem deals with a central issue in all of these matters.  Money.   There appears to be no justice, no compassion, no mercy, no charity or sharing. It’s all about me and mine.  To this God speaks directly.   Silver and Gold, all your silver and gold “will not satisfy”.   In other words, the people of Israel are full of hunger – hunger for the upper hand – but that hunger will never be satisfied. And all the money in the world will not change that. God tells Ezekiel, “…I will turn my face away from the people”.  Honestly, what could be worse than that?  God is willing to just let robbers go in and defile the temple, that would be far preferable to what is going on now.  God is willing to accept the burden of that visible shame in the eyes of the world, so long as it stops the wholesale merchandizing effort, the profit and Loss center that used to be his Holy House of Prayer.

And finally, the 6th section of this poem.  It is to be the end of the mighty, those that esteem themselves above the rest. Once again the recurring theme comes back, and everyone can sing along, “because of their conduct among them”.  It is for this reason that the destruction has arrived and cannot be stopped.  God then tells Ezekiel, “and THEIR sanctuaries will be desecrated”.  God has totally disowned that temple space at this point. It’s theirs, their prayers do not rise to me, it represents their interests – not  mine.

This confirms the original message to Ezekiel, his original vision of God’s presence in the desert and not in His Holy Temple. The people have defiled it – all that is left is the demolition and rezoning.   God’s presence has moved back into the whole world and is not focused in one specific place.  Where ever God’s people are, that is where God will be. And God’s people will be recognizable by their charity, their justice, the prayers that they offer, their mercy and humility.

And as the chapter says in the closing, “…and they shall know that I am God.”