12 July 2011

"Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness to make an end to them. But I acted for the sake of my name, so that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out." (vv. 13b-14)


Politicians, business leaders and others who speak on behalf of any public organisation can usually demonstrate a good line in damage limitation. Although it is evident that something is wrong, the word has to be put around that there was a reason for the problem, or that some unfortunate individual was the only person to blame. Either that, or a total cover-up takes place and 'no one is available to speak about the crisis'.

When you read these verses from Ezekiel, it seems as if God is engaged in an exercise of damage limitation. From the beginning of chapter 20 to the end of verse 13, then verse 15 and later in the chapter, we hear of the rebellion of the Israelites from the time they left Egypt till Ezekiel's day. Yet each time God talks about desertion, there is condemnation, but also forgiveness. The people are not destroyed, although that's what they deserve.

The odd thing is the reason God gives for not punishing them - so that the name of God will still be given due reverence among the peoples who knew it was God that had rescued the Israelites from their captivity.

Damage limitation by God?

Yes, in a way, it was. And with good reason, as you would expect.

God had made these people a promise that they would eventually be led to a new land of plenty, where they could settle and live. This promise would be kept. But the people had broken their side of the promise, to obey God's law and guidance. So it was not God's fault that they should be punished: they had brought it on themselves. But if the punishment took place, the surrounding peoples would not understand and would laugh at a God who freed people, only to take revenge on them shortly afterwards.

There was a punishment, of course. The people who came out of Egypt were never allowed into their Promised Land. But God's mercy was such that they were not destroyed.

The hope was that they would learn from their mistakes.

But do we ever?

To Ponder

When is it justifiable to make excuses?

When is it hardest to keep your promises?

Are there times when punishment is the only solution?

How does your faith affect these answers? And how is your faith affected by these answers?

Bible notes author: Marjorie Dobson

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