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Ezekiel 14-16

08.19.2010

More today with cheery Ezekiel.  That’s misleading; I do actually like this book.  I’ve been more engaged and fascinated by Zeke, certainly, than I ever have with our old ‘pal’ Jeremiah.  Zeke is just a bit…well, he’s a little intense.  But it’s good.  The subject matter is not light.  Things have reached the crisis point, and God is taking drastic measures to get His people’s attention.

14:1-11 | In the first passage from today’s selection, God has interesting words for those he calls ‘false seekers’.  They’re the opposite of false prophets in that they don’t proport to share God’s word, but they do seek His counsel without honoring Him in their hearts. 

At first I was startled because I thought God was saying that He would ignore and shun these people.  It seemed contrary to the God that says, ‘Ask and ye shall receive.’  Many times, we feel that our sins prevent us from turning to God, which is the opposite of the truth.  God wants us to turn to Him in times of sin and hurt because that’s when He is the most helpful and, thus, most glorified. 

Ultimately, however, that isn’t what God is saying here.  If I understand, He seems to be saying that He will not grant them the counsel they desire or bring about the result they request but will instead try to persuade them of their sinfulness and need for repentance.  He rejects being treated like a genie or an oracle.  So instead of fueling that misconception in these false seekers, He puts first things first and says, ‘Since you have come to me, let’s deal first with your sinfulness and brokenness.  Then we can address your concerns — if you still have them.’  God’s primary concern, in this respect, is our souls.

14:12-23 | The rest of chapter 14 focuses on how, unlike in the past, there will be no group deliverance, where one righteous member can save his family or nation.  This is a notable emphasis on individual responsibility.  Each person is responsible to God. 

In the modern West, we have a strong ethic of individualism.  For much of history, however, and still in much of the world, people think of themselves as members of a group (family, city, country, ethicity) before they think of themselves as individuals.  There’s a lot of language in the Bible about families being saved and nations being judged and rising up as a people.  From our perspective, we tend to miss those cues.  But this passage emphasizes that despite our various collective identities, we are all individually responsible to the Lord.

Zeke uses Noah, Job, and Daniel as examples of those who have saved their people.  Although the story of Daniel the prophet occurred before this and he fits the type here, it is unlikely that Zeke would have known of his contemporary in Babylon or that his name would resonate to Zeke’s audience as an example of righteousness.  Additionally, the Hebrew script throughout the book of Daniel refers to Daniel consistently as ‘DNYL‘ (in the vowel-less tradition), whereas this passage uses ‘DN’L‘.  For these reasons, many scholars think the reference is to an ancient Syrian sage named Daniel who prophesied in Tyre and played a similar role.  Although he didn’t end up famous to this day, he supposedly was still a well-known cultural reference for righteousness in Zeke’s day.

15 | Predating John 15 by a few centuries, Zeke rolls out the imagery of the people as a vine and God as the vinedresser.  Jesus uses the reference to emphasize the importance of remaining in Him and bearing fruit.  He notes that vines which do not bear fruit find themselves tossed in the fire.  This is the theme that Zeke dwells on.  Aside from providing fruit, vines are worthless.  Their wood is good for nothing but burning.  So, like Jesus, Zeke uses the vine to illustrate to people what the penalties are for not staying faithful to God and bearing fruit. 

16 | This is apparently (so says the ESV Study Bible) the most famous passage from Ezekiel.  Indeed, chapter 16 is incredibly vivid and raw in displaying God’s anger and sadness and passion and jealousy toward the people who have rejected Him. 

The study Bible is deliberate in pointing out that the graphic violence depicted is not condoned as an endorsed method for handling adulteresses.  I can’t say that I thought that it was, but I can definitely imagine that, within a certain cultural or psychological mindset, someone might pervert the language to justify horrible things.  The passage, however, is merely meant to be a metaphor for what God is doing to the nation of Israel as a whole (particularly, in this passage, Jerusalem).

I thought it interesting that Jerusalem and Judah were referred to in v. 51 as being worse than Samaria.  Throughout my reading of Kings, I have thought that the northern kingdom was the less faithful, which is why it fell before Judah.  However, God’s anger is greater at Judah because of the priveleged place it was given.  Jerusalem housed the Davidic line and the temple; it was chosen to be God’s dwelling place on earth (as symbolized by His departure in the earlier chapters of Ezekiel).  As the Bible says, from he to whom much is given much is expected.  Jerusalem’s status as chosen city of God means that His anger burns that much hotter when they reject and dishonor Him.

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