Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 9’ Tag

Comfort My People   Leave a comment

Above:  Sheep and Shepherd, by Anton Mauve

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 40:1-11

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Isaiah 40 flows thematically from Isaiah 34 and 35.

My soundtrack for Isaiah 40:1-11 comes courtesy of Handel‘s Messiah.  Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I proceed with the rest of this post.

Just as the commissioning of First Isaiah does not open First Isaiah (It occurs in Isaiah 6.), the commissioning of Second Isaiah occurs three chapters in.  Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Isaiah.  Second Isaiah’s commission is to be a comforter, we read.  This contrasts with the mission of Ezekiel, the previous prophet.  One may recall that God called Ezekiel to be a watchman (Ezekiel 2:1-3:11) to a rebellious people who would not listen to him.  The Book of Ezekiel contains oracles of consolation, though.  The expectation in Second Isaiah, however, is that people will listen.

Again, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  The time for mercy and deliverance is at hand, we read.

The reference to the royal road in the wilderness (40:3-5) calls back to other passages of scripture.  The Divine Presence, having departed Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezekiel 8-11), will travel with returning exiles, we read.  (See Ezekiel 43:1-5, too.)  The highway in the desert is also a motif in Isaiah 35:8-10.

YHWH is the good shepherd in Isaiah 40:10-11, protecting the sheep from enemies.  One may recall that YHWH is also the good shepherd in Ezekiel 34:11-31; Psalm 23; and Psalm 78.  Perhaps one recalls that Lamentations 3:1-20 depicts YHWH as a bad shepherd, and that this raging voice against YHWH indicates just one opinion in that chapter.

Rage against God is predictable, especially after a terrible event or during a time of crisis and distress.  Many people blame God for doing what God has not done.  God is a convenient scapegoat.  Many people also misunderstand God.  This is predictable, too.  God is so much greater than and different from we mere mortals, after all.  The extent to which we can understand God is limited.  So be it.

The nature of God is the topic of the next post in this series.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERALD FORD, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND AGENT OF NATIONAL HEALING; AND BETTY FORD, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA, AND ADVOCATE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ALICE PAUL, U.S. QUAKER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GEORGE NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA BONONCINI AND ANTONIO MARIA BONONCINI, ITALIAN COMPOSERS

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The Vision of the Temple and the Return of the Divine Presence to Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XVIII

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Ezekiel 40:1-48:35

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The last section of the Book of Ezekiel (40-48) contains a long vision of the return of the Divine Presence/Glory to the (Second) Temple and a transformed Judea.  One may recall that Ezekiel 1-7 and 9-11 concern themselves with the destruction of the (First) Temple and the departure of the Divine Presence to Jewish exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  One may recall the end of the previous chapter:

I will no longer hide my face from them once I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel–oracle of the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 39:29, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The vision that opens Ezekiel 40 provides a date–in terms of the Gregorian Calendar, April 28, 573 B.C.E.  The plethora of details regarding the future Temple (dedicated in 516 B.C.E.) can prompt the glazing over of many eyes.  Therefore, I focus on themes:

  1. Many of these details differ from those of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 25-30 and 35-40), the First Temple (1 Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 3-4), and the actual Second Temple.  This is a matter upon which certain detail-oriented Jewish exegetes have fixated, to argue that Ezekiel 40:1-43:12 describes the (future) Third Temple.  However, if one does not interpret the description in 40:1-43:12 as a set of blue prints, one may recognize a description of a divinely reordered sacred space that sets the standard for the envisioned society.
  2. The separation of the sacred from the profane is complete (42:20), as in the separation of priests from non-priests (42:1-14).
  3. With the completion of the Temple, God returns to dwell in Jerusalem (43:1-12).  God’s chariot throne (Ezekiel 1-2 and 8-11) recurs.  The divine enthronement ritual resembles that of Marduk, the chief deity of the Babylonian pantheon.  God even takes over the rites of pagan deities.
  4. In 43:10-12, Ezekiel functions as the new Moses, delivering divine law to the people.
  5. Chapter 44 pertains to the roles of Levites and Zadokite priests.  One may recall that the Zadokite priests were Levitical priests who traced their ancestry back to the priesthood during the time of the Kings of Israel (pre-division) and Judah (post-division).  The chapter specifies the different functions of the Levites and the Zadokite priests.  In the new order, the rules will be different than they were during the monarchical period, we read.
  6. Consistent, with the ethos of ritual purity and impurity, God dwells among the among the people yet is remote.  Getting too close to God can prove hazardous to one’s health, especially if one is ritually impure.
  7. God is the source of life (Ezekiel 47).  Practically, even the Dead Sea becomes fresh water (47:8) because of the river of life flowing from beneath the Temple.
  8. The priests are superior to kings, called princes in the new divine order (Ezekiel 45).  The king enforces justice.  He, for example, mandates uniform weights and measures to prevent the cheating of customers.  (See Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Amos 8:5-6; Hosea 12:7; Micah 6:10-11).  Justice is a defining characteristic of God’s new order.
  9. God is central in the final vision in the Book of Ezekiel.  Each tribe–except Levi–receives an equal strip of land.  Equitability is the rule, with some interesting reversals from the past order.  For example, the descendants of Rachel and Leah, wives of Jacob, get closer to the sacred area (48:7, 23).  Within equitability, a hierarchy exists.  The purpose of that hierarchy is to protect the sanctity of the divine dwelling in the middle of the sacred area (48:14).  The priests and the Levites dwell in the central, divine allotment.
  10. Jerusalem belongs to everyone, not any one tribe (48:19).  God dwells there, after all.

After all the divine judgment in the Book of Ezekiel, divine mercy is the final word.  We read that God will act decisively and put the world right.  Then all will be wonderful.  We who live in 2021 wait for that day as much as Ezekiel and his generation did.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Book of Ezekiel.  I invite you to remain by my side, so to speak, as I move along to Second Isaiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GEORGE NICHOLS AND RICHARD YAXLEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1589; SAINT HUMPHREY PRITCHARD, WELSH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589; AND SAINT THOMAS BELSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589

THE FEAST OF GEORGES BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NEIBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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Ezekiel’s Vision of the Destruction of Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VI

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:23

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Ezekiel 8:1-11:13, the product of more than one person, contains some unusual editorial choices and odd shifts of attention.  I mention that matter to get it out of the way, so that nobody can legitimately claim that I do not know it.  Now that I have gotten that matter out of the way, I focus on themes, details, and the application thereof.

The figurer who looked like a man (or fire, depending on translation) in 8:2 is the divine Presence, Ezekiel’s guide.  This figure recurs in 40:3f.

The date of the vision in 8:1-11:13 is September 592 B.C.E.

Idolatry recurs as a sin of the people of Judah.

We read that, contrary to what many people think, God has not abandoned Judah–yet–and does see what people are doing (9:9).

Above:  Ezekiel’s Vision, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Chapter 10 reads like a redux of Chapter 1, with some differences.

God departs Judah in Chapter 11.

We read of the divine promise of restoration and cleansing of exiles already in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  We read that those still in Judah are doomed (11:41-21).  We read that God has moved to the exiles in Babylon (11:23).

Ezekiel 11:21 cautions that divine renewal of the exiles is not automatic; it requires human vigilance.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 is thematically similar to Jeremiah 31:33-34; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26.  We read that, in an ideal future, by divine action, disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, as well as in the Revelation to John, divine faithfulness is never in doubt, from the author’s perspective.  Also, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Creative destruction by God makes way for the establishment for the new, divine order.  In Christian terms, God must destroy the old, corrupt order before the fully-realized Kingdom of God can become visible on the Earth, from a human perspective.  As C. H. Dodd reminds me from the printed page and his grave, the Kingdom of God is; it does not come.  Yet, from a human point of view, certain events make its presence more palpable than it used to be.

Another idea, frequently repeated in the Bible–especially Hebrew prophetic books–is that human sins have consequences.  We human beings condemn ourselves.  We leave God.  We are the faithless ones.  We are arrogant; we do not stand in awe of God.  We read what he have sown.

Yet grace remains.  As the great Southern Baptist theologian Will Campbell said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

And our only hope is in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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God, On the Hook   1 comment

Above:  A Hook

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Ezekiel 9:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then He called loudly in my hearing, saying,

Approach, you men in charge of the city, each bearing his weapons of destruction!

And six men entered by way of the upper gate that faces north, each with his club in hand; and among them was another, clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist.  They came forward and stopped at the bronze altar.  Now the Presence of the God of Israel had moved from the cherub on which it had rested to the platform of the House.  He called to the man clothed in linen with the writing case at his waist; and the LORD said to him,

Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who moan and groan because of all the abominations that are committed in it.

To the others He said in my hearing,

Follow him through the city and strike; show no pity or compassion.  Kill off graybeard, youth, and maiden, women and children; but do not touch any person who bears the mark.  Begin here at My Sanctuary.

So they began with the elders who were in front of the House.  And He said to them,

Defile the House and fill the courts with the slain.  Then go forth.

So they went forth and began to kill in the city.

Ezekiel 10:18-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the presence of the LORD left the platform of the House and stopped above the cherubs.  And I saw the cherubs lift their wings and rise from the earth, with the wheels beside them as they departed; and they stopped at the entrance of the eastern gate of the House of the LORD, with the Presence of the God of Israel above them.  They were the same creatures that I had seen below the God of Israel at the Chebar Canal; so now I know that they were cherubs.  Each one had four faces and each had four wings.  As for the form of their faces, they were the very faces I had seen by the Chebar Canal–their appearance and their features–and each could move in the direction of any of its faces.

Ezekiel 12:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, you dwell among the rebellious breed.  They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but hear not; for they are a rebellious breed.  Therefore, mortal, get yourself gear for exile, and go into exile before their eyes.  Go into exile from your home to another place before their very eyes; perhaps they will take note, even though they are a rebellious breed.  Carry out your gear for exile by day before their very eyes, as one who goes out into exile.  Before their eyes, break through the wall and carry [the gear] out through it; before their eyes, carry it on your shoulder.  Take it out in the dark, and cover your face that you may not see the land; for I will make you a portent to the House of Israel.

I did just as I was ordered:  I took out my gear by day as gear for exile, and in the evening I broke through the wall with my own hands.  In the darkness I carried [the gear] out on my shoulder, carrying it before their eyes.

In the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, did not the House of Israel, that rebellious breed, as, you, “What are you doing?”  Say to them:  ”Thus said the Lord GOD:  This pronouncement concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the House of Israel who are in it.”  Say:  ”I am a portent for you:  As I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.  And the prince among them shall carry his gear on his shoulder as he goes out in the dark.  He shall break through the wall in order to carry [his gear] out through it; he shall cover his face, because he himself shall not see the land with his eyes.”  I will spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare.  I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, but he shall not see it; and there he shall die.  And all those around him, his helpers and all his troops, I will scatter in every direction; and I will unsheathe the sword after them.  Then, when I have scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the countries, they shall know that I am the LORD.  But I will spare a few of them from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence; that they may recount all their abominable deeds among the nations to which they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD!

Matthew 18:15-9:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,] “

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] with the question,

Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?

Jesus replied,

No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!  For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.  When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds.  As he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over.  At this the servant fell on his knees before his master.  ”Oh, be patient with me!” he cried, “and I will pay you back every penny!”  Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.

But when this same servant had left his master’s presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings.  He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, “Pay up what you owe me!”  At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, “Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!”  But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.

When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and went and told their master the whole incident.  This his master called him in.

“You wicked servant!” he said.  ”Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you?”  And his master in anger handed him over to the jailers till he should repay the whole debt.  This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

When Jesus had finished talking on these matters, he left Galilee and went on to the district of Judea on the far side of the Jordan.

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This is bleak material.  The readings from Matthew speak of forgiveness and how, important it is, but the lections from Ezekiel are harsh.  Idolatrous abominations have polluted the Temple, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces will destroy the Temple and slaughter much of the population (including young children), the divine Presence will depart the city, King Zedekiah will go blinded into exile, and Ezekiel will also go into exile.  God will spare from death those who had objected to the sinfulness, but apparently this protection will not extend to young children.  And the texts depict God as being in charge of all these events.

As an intellectually honest Monotheist, I acknowledge the main problem of Monotheism:  There is no good and honest way to let God off the hook.  If I a were to accept the existence of multiple deities, I could blame one or more for evil and other events I do not like.  Yet Monotheism requires me to accept that God is responsible for good and for bad, for what I like and for what I consider detestable.  Brains older, wiser, and better educated than mine have pondered this quandary, which remains, so I will not untangle it today or any other day.

Father Robert Farrar Capon offers the following analysis:

Just remember that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the liver fluke, the killer whale, and the loan shark–that if God is holding all things in being right now, he’s got some explaining to do if he hopes to maintain his reputation as the original Good Guy.  Or, more accurately (since God steadfastly refuses to show up and explain anything, except by announcing mysteries and paradoxes) we’ve got a lot of explaining to do if we are to go on thinking of him in terms of his creation.

The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil, 2d. Edition (Minneapolis, MN:  Winston Press, 1986) , page 11

A few pages later, we find these words:

God is still firmly on the hook.  (That he is actually on the hook, of course, is God’s own final answer to the whole matter.  According to the Gospel, he himself hangs on the cross with the rest of his free creation.  If you believe that, it is great comfort; it is not, however, one whit less a mystery.–page 14

The greatest fault of Fundamentalism is its pretense of knowing more than it does.  My theology, in contrast, flees from the false comfort of easy and pat answers.  I embrace the unknown, claim the mystery, and catalog the questions I want to ask God one day, in another life.  Until that day, however, I choose not to refrain from recognizing that there is only one God and seeking a deeper relationship with God.  Certain matters are too great for me, not that my acknowledgement of this fact prevents me from remaining inquisitive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 5, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-2/

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