(Lynn Ragan’s continuing blog trek through Ezekiel – trying to find some open country.)
Ezekiel Chapter 19
Anyone who is a U2 fan is able to rip out a few lines of ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’. Anyone who is a Journey fan can instantly place the line ‘Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world’. Funny how a song can seal an event, feeling, or situation into the living memory of a cross-section of people.
At last I’ve come to chapter 19 of the Book of Ezekiel, a prophet writing about the fall of his own people. Chapter 19 is a lament and the prophet is instructed to use it as such. A lament, in its most basic form is a poem, a poem that can be used as a chant. And this chant holds a special place here.
I’ve noticed along the way, that most of the chapters begin with something about the Elders of Israel sitting before me, etc. etc. In other words, the high mucky mucks get to hear the divine pronouncements. But a chant is something very different. Like a song, it spreads out among the people. So it has to tell a story or capture the emotion. It has to speak to the moment in the life of a person or group. That is what this chant does.
It simplifies the whole narrative down to about three key elements, which are:
1. The first prince focused on world acclaim and fell victim to Egypt as a just punishment
2. The second prince focused on world acclaim and fell victim to Babylon as a just punishment
3. The source of Israel’s noble lineage is now planted in the middle of a desert and is withering in the heat without water. No chance of royalty coming from that line again.
This is blues if you’ve ever heard blues. It is sorrow, it is recognition of how bad things became. It is the story of “why we are here, sitting in the middle of this desert”.
Framing prophecy in the form of a song or chant is nothing new. In fact, it was quite common for prophets of old to deliver their entire oracles in song or chant. This is so well documented that the role of prophets and wandering singers were often interchangeable. For extensive detail on this, please read Weber’s “Sacred Bridge” ….and incredibly detailed analysis of musical development stemming from pre-Babylonian Jewish temple practices.
What’s my point? I always take note when a prophet specifically breaks into poetry when they have been moving along with basic prose. It usually means that they are trying to connect with the human element, the emotional element. And not just the prophet, but that God is trying to communicated directly with the heart instead of through the mind alone. And in this regard, we see that God is not ecstatic about the turn of events, or the decision point of judgment that He must now enact. We are to recognize that there is no joy here, and therefore, the call is to lament, to regret, to give voice to the sorrow.
Even at this point, where destruction is becoming more imminent, a way is provided to begin the path of repentance. The first step of repentance is to acknowledge, to speak the truth about what has been done that is contrary to the way of the Spirit. What better way, than with a song or a chant.
And this brings us to the end of this entire segment of Ezekiel’s ministry. He is about to launch into a whole new series that takes us on a different along different themes. Thanks for sticking with this.