Ezekiel blog: Still in Chpt 16, and how not to gain popularity.

I remember working for a very large company once in Wisconsin.  The management there was fond of using the phrase, “Will this be good for the business?”  This seems to have been their only moral compass to guide their decision making process.  Not surprisingly, when the company stock took a small dip, the managers walked out into the main office floor and randomly fired enough people right there, on the spot, in order to make up the cash flow deficit. These people were happily sacrificed for the supposed “good” of the company.

Which brings me to the fact that I’m still digging around in Ezekiel chapter 16.  There is so much here and symbolism at so many levels, it’s taking a long time to sort through it all.   The commentaries are almost useless in many instances, many of them falling back to literal association attempts.  I’m hovering somewhere between vs 20 and vs 35.  Ezekiel is expanding on the accusations against Israel.

We are pressed constantly to appreciate the odd condition of prostitution that Jerusalem had created. In the middle of all this there is a reference to the sacrifice of their children, to which again the commentaries make a direct reference to actual child sacrifice of pagan religions in the area. I’m not so sure that is what Ezekiel is focusing on.

To be sure, the children are always targeted when religious extremity rears its fanatical head. Just look through news, current and past, and you will find religious zealots attacking schools, kidnapping children.  Add to that the political extremes which constantly try to pass laws of one flavor of another which affect how children learn, or what they have access to learn. It’s here, it’s there. The language and culture of origin may be distant or right here in our own backyard.  Extremism is just another form of idolatry, so this should not be a surprise. You can tell it is idolatry, firstly because it is created by humans (though often supposedly in the name of God), secondly because of the unforgiving (when is God not forgiving) nature of its demands, and finally how you are required to love it but it does not love you back.

However, all that aside, I think Ezekiel is addressing something more fundamental here.  Elsewhere in scripture, the children of Israel are always the people, the common citizens of the country.  These people are being sacrificed in Ezekiel’s eyes to avarice of the rulers of Jerusalem.  We saw this earlier in the book of Ezekiel.  But, ….sacrificed??

Back to my earlier example about hard working people being sacrificed for the “good” of the company.  (And by the way, that’s not the only time I saw that kind of business stupidity being delivered from so called managers.)  It is common for management/leadership/ruling class to look upon the rest of humanity as disposable to the needs of the moment. The passages of these interim verses of Ezekiel mention the involvement of the rulers of Jerusalem with other surrounding nations.  High places were built to satisfy the whims of these other nations.  That kind of thing demands resources – the kind of resources that can be extracted from a population of people who are vulnerable or in debt.  Yes, they probably were sacrificed in order to secure a certain amount of status with the national peers of Israel.  And,  as I mentioned before, it is always the children who suffer the most. Given the circumstances, I have no doubt that families were torn apart, or forced to work for extended periods of time in order to bring these perilous acts to a conclusion. And none of it was hidden from God – as Ezekiel goes into extreme detail.

All of this for what?   Ezekiel compares Israel to a prostitute. However, there is a big distinction made.  An actual prostitute expects payment for services rendered. Israel was paying their so called customers for the honor of being a prostitute in Ezekiel’s eyes.  Quite backward, but neither situation being desirable in any form.

What is the message here then?   The question to ask is why was the leadership of Israel so insecure that they believed they must pacify their peers, live up to imagined expectations of the very nations that they were in a position to influence in a positive way?  It was a total desire to be popular, to be secure, to know and control the dynamics.  None of that can be described as faith.   Faith does not demand that the nations leadership be passive and uninterested players either. But it does demand that they listen to the voice of compassion, of justice for their citizens, that they hear the cry for fairness and have an openness to the guidance of the Spirit which often advices to Be Still, have patience, watch God at work, and err on the side of being mindfully charitable of and to your neighbor.

It is often said that the old testament is about an Angry and Vengeful God – one who is quick of temper and who offers no mercy of compassion.  Over and over again, as I read Ezekiel, I see quite the opposite.  Here, in these paragraphs, we see God patiently working with Israel and the other nations over generations, trying to move them into a better state; until a breaking point is reached and all forward progress has been lost.   I see parallels between the parables of the Gospels and the pleas for social justice from the prophets.

Oh well, next blog will be on to the pronouncements of judgment in chapter 16.  I’m sure that will be filled with all kinds of fun.  And we will see if there is any hint of charity, mercy, or compassion left to be had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel Blog: Chap. 12 “Slip out the back, Jack…”

Singer/Songwriter Paul Simon wrote a song about 50 ways to leave your lover…way back in the 1970’s.  It’s a callous concept, but rather insightful about the way certain people, who say all the right things to gain your trust, end up leaving you in the end. Seems like nothing to betray trust.

Looks like Ezekiel was trying to talk about the same thing as we come to Ezekiel Chapter 12 in this ongoing blog InOpenCountry.  Thanks for coming back and reading some more.

Now, some of the commentaries I’ve read describe this chapter as the beginning of an entirely new section of the Book of Ezekiel, unrelated so to speak to what’s been going on up til this point.   From my point of view, this section of prophecy is very much related to everything we’ve read so far and could be classified as good follow-up.  It doesn’t happen as much in today’s modern journalism, but you can still occasionally find a follow-up investigation to a former headline story…if you look hard enough.

In Ezekiel’s case, we are provided with a look at how the governmental leaders were portrayed back to the people held in captivity.  It’s not a very flattering image.  Imaging you are a captive with idealistic notions that somehow your noble and royal family is somehow leading a glorious fight against the invading army.  Instead you are presented with a scene where the prince digs his way out a wall so as to avoid detection. He sneaks out “the back, jack”.  He escapes his own people’s eyes, but not the justice of God as is detailed elsewhere in Chronicles.

So this is a follow up to the overall progression of the story eg.
The unfaithfulness of Israel –> Discovery and unveiling of reckless practices –> religious leaders exposed for their hipocracy –> Judgment confirmed and executed –> people in disarray –> ….but what about the highest level of government??

Ezekiel is shown that the prince of Israel is the kind of guy who sneaks out the back. He has no true love for his people, no true loyalty to the city, no concern even for those who help him – they are scattered.   And to all of this, he responds by hiding his eyes.

Have you ever watched on the news when public officials are indicted?  More often then not, they cover their eyes, put their hand up to block view of their face from the public. Obviously, they know they can be seen, but to actually meet the eyes of those whom you have betrayed seems to be to much to bear.  And similarly for this prince, the accusing eyes of the people of Israel, who were facing imminent conquest, much have been too much for what was left of his shattered self worth.

God uses his own words against the prince of Israel and chases him to the very borders of the land. It is there that the prince is apprehended by the armies of Babylon. His house and family are destroyed, and he is summarily blinded for the rest of his captivity – never to return to Israel.

So much for a pompously boasting royal line of government who had no mercy or taste for justice for the people of Israel.  In case it isn’t clear from this narrative, a situation where the leaders of a people are all about “me first” is not considered “just” leadership in the eyes of God.  The corruption of faith always follows, and it is the poor, the widow, the stranger, the falsely accused whom always fall victim in such periods of governmental influence.  The people turn to their religious leaders only to find them catering to their primary patron…that very same government.  And when all is revealed, they disappear with no thought for those who put trust in them.

“Slip out the back, Jack.
Make a new plan, Stan….

Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free”   -Paul Simon

Indeed.  It is something to be wary about.

Ezekiel is then told to eat his food with trembling to show the life of extreme fear that the people of Jerusalem will face. Fear indeed and evidently justified with the reality that their leaders have left them.  Those who placed their faith in the person of the prince instead of placing their faith in God must deal with the realization that there is no one to come be their advocate in the face of the enemy.

It is such a graphic and compelling line at the end of that section in Verse 19, “…they shall eat their food in anxiety, and drink their water in fear,…”  Gripping because that line also describes many families in our day and age.   We have seen our pop-icons and political/religious icons exposed in weakness and corruption. Many in our societies feel abandoned or pushed to the very fringe.  They live at the edges of communities, but never really in. Hearts full of anxiety and tongues wetted with fear.

It is only faith that allows the human condition to rise above the indecency of human pride and false entitlement.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel blog 15: That’s entitlement for ya…

Hello. We’re back and cranking through some more of Ezekiel – now we’re up to Chapter 11.

In a word, this chapter is all about “Entitlement”, as in ‘dueness, claim of sanction, crest, or privilege (thanks to thesaurus.com ).   Specifically, it’s about “entitlement” in the worse sense – or mislead entitlement. But we’ll get to that all in good time.

Ezekiel is nearing the end of this current vision in chapter 11 where he joins the presence of God up at the East entrance.  Here we see 25 men, princes of Israel no less. These are the leaders of the community, the image of authority, the ones that the people all look to and in whom they put their trust.   Ezekiel even knows a couple of them by name.

But God allows Ezekiel to see more, and HEAR more than what is apparent to everyone else.  God shows that He does hear in secret – and in this case we learn that these 25 leaders of Jerusalem see themselves in a very favorable light.

It’s an obscure reference, and there are many varied translations of this section with much disagreement among the commentators as to what this means.  However, the point is that these men see themselves as the choice contents of a protected vessel, the meat of the meal as it were.  (Meat being reserved only for the well-to-do.)

Think about it this way:  It’s sort of a self fulfilling declaration.  The equation works like this.  I have privilege because of my status.  That status makes my life easier, therefore God has blessed me, or God favors me. Because God favors me, my privileged status is proof of God and of his favor.   You see what I mean.  I’m sure that most reading this blog can think of how that same formula has been used time and time again in modern times by various parties seeking to justify their take on life circumstances, their actions, or lack of actions, etc.

This self congratulatory approach to faith by these leaders of the community is further denounced by God later in the vision when God reveals how these 25 mock their own people in captivity by saying, “…they are far away from God, this land has been given to us”.

Now that should sound very familiar to anyone who has studied history, or even contemporary events.  To put this into modern terms, what these 25 leaders are saying is that because calamity has fallen on some segment of the population, then they must in someway deserve it. You don’t have to look too far back in time in the news to find similar types of statements being made by individuals of prominence to their followers.  The reverse corollary is what people like this cling to in order to preserve their power:  “If those people deserve their circumstances, then we must deserve ours. Since our situation is so good, we must be blessed.”    Make no mistake, this is a false doctrine, never validated by anything that Jesus taught. It is a placebo in the place of true faith, nothing more.

In this case, their presumption is that God is bound to the physical place of the Temple, which belief flies in the face of Israels very own history where they were led through the desert by God in the form of a pillar of fire and a pillar of smoke. God, who never wanted a temple in the first place, is certainly not captive by it – which validates the entire theme of the Book of Ezekiel so far. God is with His FAITHFUL people wherever they are.

These men, whom God refers to as the deceivers, who lead the people astray, therefore claim privilege of ownership in the sense that the land had been “given” to them. IE.  captives houses, property, and positions of status vacated and abandoned by those who were taken away into captivity.  This being the case, God knows exactly what they are most afraid of.

He tells Ezekiel that they will be taken away from their place of power, from their sense of security and dealt with far away from Jerusalem – way at the borders of the country.  And they shall be judged.

Meanwhile, this chapters gives us the first taste of comfort from God towards his people.  It is directed out towards those very people in captivity who are “…far from God…” He promises that He is always a Sanctuary in the far countries where they go.  Sanctuary does not necessarily mean safe-haven, it means the sacred place, the holy place that was inside the temple, the place where forgiveness could be found.  God is with his people – always – always with those who hold a true love of God precious in their heart.

 

Ezekiel blog 14: Fresh embers

This is my blog on the chapters of Ezekiel, and we’re up to Chapter 10 of Ezekiel.  It’s the end of this three chapter trilogy so to speak.

Since it’s the big finish, not very much happens from an action standpoint – of course.  Ezekiel spends lots of time on detail. He’s making sure that he, and the rest of us, are on the same page that this vision of a chariot is the exact same chariot that he encountered out on the desert plain where he received his calling to prophesy.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some crucial things going on here.  Something that catches my eye is that the angel from the last chapter who was to mark every person in Jerusalem that was still keeping the faith is now given a new task. The commentaries out there really do not go into very much detail on this. And, of course, with angels there is always a large level of symbolism to interpret. This presents a problem for the rest of us because interpretation is rather subjective.

Here’s my stab at it.  Since so much of Ezekiel’s vision draws him back to the original narrative of the Moses story and the Exodus, I have to wonder about the fires used in the original temple that Israel carried all over the desert.  Ezekiel chapter 40 talks about setting up the tabernacle.  It’s significant to me that Moses is instructed to set up the alter of burnt offerings FIRST, and then arrange the rest of the court, tabernacle, the ark, etc around this. In other words, priority is given to the place of worship and sacrifice on behalf of the people. It is specifically an annointed place when it is set up and readied for use.

God tells the angel to go to the alter of sacred fire which is part of the chariot that has been described.  An angel reaches in with his bare hands to bring out sacred coals. Only that which is pure can touch the fires of heaven. It is these coals that the angel in linen is directed to spread all over Jerusalem.

To me, this is God’s way of purifying the common places of Jerusalem where the faithful are still lingering, hidden away and mourning for their faith.  But more importantly, God is demonstrating that the steps of the existing temple where the current alter of sacrifice stands profaned is by no means the only place where the faithful may come to pray.  God is moving that capability out among the people, they may offer their sacrifice in the place where they are found.  Like Ezekiel, they can come out into the plain, out into the desert place to seek the Glory of God and present their sacrifice of a willing heart.

The Lord is then described as leaving the threshold of the Temple and moves to the chariot.  From their His Glory moves to the door of the Eastern gate, preparing to leave the temple complex altogether.  The Eastern gate, which looks to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the gate through which Jesus approach Jerusalem.   That places is holy only in so much as the Lord resides there, and here we are told that he had vacated as it was no longer sacred to the people.

Similarly, our hearts are temples to the Lord only in so much as the Lord resides there.  Let the embers burn, let the offering burn as a freely given sacrifice. See that the Lord accepts the personal offering of faith.  Let the angel place the mark on me and record it before the Lord. So let it be written, let it be done.

 

 

Ezekiel blog 13: Do you weep and sigh?

For those of you hanging in there with me on this blog, thanks for coming back. Chapter 9 and 10 of Ezekiel takes us to the steps of the temple sanctuary. These chapters go together and are really the completion of chapter 8.  So read these three like a trilogy of events.

These chapters are dark to be sure, and we are swept away in the motion of Ezekiel’s vision. The pages are laced with all types of symbolism, enough to get anyone lost.  Indeed, Angels sent to kill and destroy all who fall under the Lord’s Judgment, starting at the temple itself. No one is to be spared, and there will be no mercy. Ezekiel even pleads with God, asking if there will be none left at all – which is meant to show us how seriously Ezekiel takes what is about to happen.

But that really isn’t the point here at all.

The key to this chapter is the seventh angel who shows up with a writing kit.  He is commissioned to go out of the temple, out into the city of Jerusalem, looking for those who mourn.  He must find those who weep and sigh for the lost purity of faith that once was the hallmark of worship in the Temple. Notice that the angel is heading out into the city – why there?

It is there that the humble and down-trodden are kept at bay – far from where the popular and elite are welcomed for their show of worshipful acts (please see chapter 8 and look up the definition of disingenuous.) No, this angel is looking for what Jesus will later refer to as the “Pure in Heart,…for they will see God.”

They are not the ones who play-act in church, or flash a lot of money, or try to impress. These pure ones will be marked, marked with a Tau on their heads – sort of like a capital T only a little wavy and older versions looked closer to a cross.  They are marked so that they will not be destroyed by the other six angels who were instructed to kill everything else.

This should sound familiar, it takes us right back to the Moses story and the last of the ten plagues.  Remember at the beginning of this blog, I had the weird thought that Ezekiel’s vision had more to do with returning Israel to that state of faith where they followed God into the wilderness, out into the plains and desert.

So what is this, then? The prophet is telling us that God hears the individual – even without all the ritual and pomp.  God hears those cries and knows the sorrow. The individuals who choose the road of pure faith – surely they travel a hard path but one to which God is not blind.

It gives me some comfort that my sighs do not just evaporate into the afternoon air.  What I mourn for, though it is gone, there is a God who perhaps has marked a small hunger, that lives in my soul.  This section of Ezekiel, while grim, is yet very personal.  I once wrote in a song long ago:

I don’t want to be alone
When I kneel down and pray
I don’t want to hear echoes from empty walls.

I don’t want to hear silence
Where the kids used to play
I don’t want to be alone when I kneel down and pray.

I weep for the Spirit, and sigh for soul, my soul, and the soul of the community at large. I hope the Lord will find me and touch me with his mark.

 

 

Ezekiel Blog 9: A little off the side

So finally we have arrived (Ezekiel 5) at the final sign of the four signs of the judgment of Jerusalem. It’s interesting that this chapter is entirely dedicated to the one sign and all the ramifications of it.  Not surprisingly, most people move right on through the beginning to get to the good stuff – you know how we all love a big finish complete with action sequences.  And we get it all, right?  Judgment, angel of death type stuff, old time vengeance, slaughter among the population left, right, and center.

Except.   What is with the whole haircut thing to begin with?  Everything we’ve seen so far with these signs tells us there are things to understand about each representation. Each sign has told us something about God – what God is like. This is the true nature of prophecy after all, to speak to the truth of the situation, to bring our own relationship with God into clearer focus, and to help reveal glimpses of God’s nature. Reveal = Revelation.

So hit rewind and lets go back to the beginning of the chapter and remember clearly that orthodox Jewish religious practice had very specific rules about hair. This goes all the way back to Leviticus chapter 21 where God made direct commandments about about priests not shaving their heads, etc.

What is surprising here is the direct commandment by God to go against those very rules. Why would God do that? What is the meaning of the haircut, and the sword, and making Ezekiel parade all over the place to dispense his locks of hair?  (I’m sure Ezekiel was thinking to himself, “and I thought the food rules were strange!”)  I want to emphasize again, in this same paragraph, that here we see God commanding something that is in direct contradiction to something commanded earlier, and in the context of direct revelation.   In any regard, this adds dimension to the conversation which scripture really is.

Some may write that off as a one-off, it was just Ezekiel.   But consider, how many times has some single statement by the Apostle Paul been pulled out of context and used as a prototype for emulation? Whole monasteries were created, whole orders of priests were organized, etc. Think about it.  Going further, a more faithful spiritual quest into scripture allows for a conversation with God, asking God, what did you mean by this?  How am I to understand what you are trying to do here?   Now, moving on…

Ezekiel has to somehow get a sword, shave his head!!!….We’ll deal with dispensing of his hair later.  The priests of other religions in the region often shaved their heads, one need only look at Egyptian historical art to verify this.  This means that God intends Ezekiel to become iconic in view of his people. He’s going to stand out.

Yeah, this could be interpreted as rubbing Israel’s own religious promiscuity in their face, highlighting that it was the importing of other nations idolatry into the temple which has brought all of this impending doom.  Really, though?  Do we read through all of this to conclude that God is spiteful and capriciously pretty?

There’s another clue at the end of the chapter though. It comes in the form of God’s true accusation against Jerusalem: “…You did not even hold to the standards of the nations around you…”   It seems that the original expectation was for the nation of Israel to become a conduit of blessing and instruction to the nations around her.  Jesus himself refers to this later in history by asking the question, “Do you hide a light under a bushel? No, you place it high….so that all can see its light”.   But that’s not how things appear to have been working out in practice.

Think of it this way. Suppose all members of the priesthood were suddenly commanded to become part-time bartenders, or bar owners in order to qualify for continued status as a minister.  Well, it’s pretty hard to look down your nose at people who drink socially, if you are the one required to serve them their drinks.  In fact, there would not be anything external to distinguish you from your clientele.  It’s just an example, and I can think of many more. But the point is, it is hard to hold yourself aloft, elevated above people you think beneath you if you are in their exact circumstances.  Maintaining that posture leaves you with very little credibility.

This is where we pick things back up with our guy Ezekiel who is now being commanded to make himself look exactly like the local clergy of their captors. “Shave your head, Ezekiel” goes the command.  Perhaps it is a call for Israel to recognize their infidelity of faith. More likely, it is a prototype for Israel to see that the exterior form of ministry does not matter so much as the inner faith.

Lets examine the progression of the four signs up to this point.  A picture of Jerusalem is drawn showing it in warfare and conflict.  A siege is put up around it to highlight its growing isolation. Ezekiel must sleep for so many days, in a specific way to show the length of time that Israel has been incurring debt against God’s good will…to the tune of hundreds of years. The signs include warnings that the conflict will escalate and the people will suffer long days of torment.  Ezekiel demonstrates this by cooking his food as if it was a prisoners ration.   And the warning continues that those who survive will eat the food of the captors from the land into which they are driven.

So we see two paths here.  The first being the fate of those who cling to what was the old Jerusalem way of doing things. The second being the groups who do leave all that behind and allow themselves to be driven.  They are to eat their captors food. They are to submit to their captors. They are to live and have families. They are commanded to heal and to prosper (words of Jeremiah).

And as for the hair which Ezekiel disperses?  Can we get any more classic than Broadway to understand that reference?  God wants to get this mess out of his hair. Just cut it off, cut it all off.  Burn it in the fire, scatter it in the winds, whatever.  Shave it to the skin and lets start all over.

A people humbled by captivity, brought again to a remembrance of true faith and belief.  A ministry that understands the concept that God can not be bought, bribed or fooled. An understanding that God is in all of his creation, out among the nations, even out here in the middle of the desert – just like the freed Hebrew slaves which Moses led.  God’s majesty and kingdom is not tied to a specific building, place or rock.  He is the fire that walks daily with His people.

Just like Jesus said, “the Kingdom is at hand.”

Ezekiel blog 6: Now to get things going…

This blog entry will be a little longer than the others because we are dealing with a transition from Ezekiel encountering whole new concepts about God at a personal level into his new role of watchman for Israel and to the immediate tasks at hand. All of this relates to the end of Chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 of the book of Ezekiel.

We start with our guy face down on the plain or open desert country – literally face down.  It must have been overwhelming to Ezekiel to come face to face with the Glory of God and to be taught whole new concepts in a religion Ezekiel thought he knew pretty well to begin with.

We are told that the Spirit came in, the Spirit raised him up, and then the Spirit spoke to him.  That is an interesting progression of perception and so vastly different from the get well quick and everything will be fixed for you right now mentality of some subsections of modern Christian programming.  I’m speaking about the type of belief subset where a person experiences an inconvenience, makes a bland statement about general belief or maybe says a quick formula prayer, cleverly seizes an opportunity to overcome the inconvenience and then states that “God must be blessing me today”.

That is worlds different than Ezekiel being pushed to the end of his strength and endurance to where his brain overloads and he collapses.  And then, right there, at that point, the Spirit comes in.  Why?   Because there is room for the Spirit of God now. Ezekiel is empty and has become a possible sacred vessel for the Holy Spirit.  Vessel, not a possessed mannequin,…a vessel – big difference.

Now Ezekiel has seen his visions, he has heard the Word of righteousness, judgment, and warning. He has so much to tell, Ezekiel must have been bursting at the seams to get started.  Except for one thing…

God’s first task to Ezekiel is to go lock himself in his house and not say a word.  Not only that, he will be bound with ropes, probably by his own people so that he will not be able to openly share what he has seen.  Those in religious authority over the community would have good reason to fear a new voice, for there is much power to be held when people live in fear and are looking for some kind of direction.

For that matter, this isn’t exactly news.  Ask any new minister wanting to try a fresh approach and you will hear the same thing. There are always walls of resistance immediately built.  Colleagues will begin to say things like, “You can’t say that -it’s not the way we do things around here”, “I know you want to change things, but maybe you should listen to wiser heads”, or “This is not the mainstream message we’ve always worked with.” etc.  You know the drill.   Jesus faced this, Moses, faced this, John the Baptist faced this.  It’s nothing new and God was telling Ezekiel that the same would happen to him.

But the timing was all in God’s favor anyway.  Let them bind Ezekiel to prevent him from rocking the boat. And if they wanted to preview Ezekiel’s message first – and in private – God would bind up Ezekiel’s mouth.  In other words, God was going to speak, when He was good and ready to,  and not until all his current judgments had been completed on Israel’s sorry state.

God had a message for the people, a message of change in thinking.  This message had begun with Jeremiah.  It was a message that would challenge the status quo mentality of the established clergy who was wholly focused on the supposed glory days of the Temple.

I think that Ezekiel must have been reflecting on the story of Moses’ inability to talk and being bound and brought before Pharoah.  How absurd that the role of Egypt was being fulfilled by his own people.  This must have crystallized the belief of Ezekiel that God was right.

And that brings us to the first sign.  Now most of the prophets that we read about in the Old Testament had a format of writing down their visions, sometimes in prose, and sometimes in poetry/song. In any event, there was the presentation of the message, the pronouncement in the courts of the rulers of Israel, etc.

Ezekiel – not so much.   He is told to get a clay tablet and draw a picture of Israel on it so that he can symbolically lay siege to the city and portray the actuality of Israel’s total isolation – of being completely cut off.  Now, how do you draw a picture of a city on a 6×9 clay tablet so that anyone can tell what it is?   If you think about tourist maps, the kind you get in most costal towns, city areas are always represted by some kind of landmark.  San Francisco is always  represented by the Golden Gate Bridge and that Pyramid sky scraper. I imagine that Ezekiel represented Jerusalem by its pinnacle landmark, the Temple – the very place that has God so upset – the place that epitomizes the very corruption of faith which caused this whole mess in the first place.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of some other forms of representational imagery used in religious circumstances.  For instance, Navajo tribal elders will spend days creating a beautiful sandpainting which contains images that lead tribal members to meditate on specific elements of their faith.  Thoses images are the focus until the end of the ceremony at which time, the painting is destroyed and the sands cast to the wind.

Same thing going on here with Ezekiel.  On this image of Jerusalem will he focus his attention for over one year of time.  I imagine it was quite the conversation piece for anyone who stopped by to visit.  And if you think about it, the warning for the coming events did last for well over a year. It’s not as if God was acting like some sleeping giant who suddenly came to to life in anger and inexplicably destroyed Jerusalem.  This had been coming on for a good long time and Jerusalem had been warned many times over by a God who is very patient.

And this transition for Ezekiel from observer of vision, to focal point of the attention of Israel must have been a heavy burden for Ezekiel.  It is plain to see at this point, that the stage had been set and the very first element of Ezekiel’s message will carry us through the rest of the connected actions of warning and judgment.  It is not obscure as in so many other areas of prophetic writing. This is as clear as a whiteboard drawing in one of today’s business briefing rooms. God is pointing to this simple drawing of a city on a hill and saying “This, this right here. This is the problem. It has been the problem and it’s still the problem.”