13 July 2011

"Then I said, 'Ah, Lord God! they are saying to me, "Is he not a maker of allegories?"'" (v. 49)


There's a famous fable of the boy shepherd who kept crying "Wolf!" to claim that his flock was being attacked. After he'd tricked the people too often, they simply didn't believe him when a real wolf appeared and he had to face the consequences alone.

Ezekiel seems to be feeling this way when God asks him to prophesy another disaster on the people of Israel. "They'll never believe me," he complains. "They'll think I'm just telling them another story." He had every right to be wary. This time he was expected to tell them that God would set alight a great fire. No one would be able to put it out. It would destroy every tree and scorch every person within range. This fire would be in the Negeb to the south. But the Negeb was a treeless desert and an unimportant area at the time, so why would a fire in that region affect the Israelites and how would a raging fire happen in a treeless desert anyway?

Ezekiel knew that this whole story would sound like a riddle to the people and one that most of them wouldn't even bother to try to understand. Many of them had already dismissed Ezekiel as an eccentric character, and having to tell this kind of story wouldn't exactly increase his credibility. So, in effect, Ezekiel was questioning why God had to make such a mystery of things. Wasn't it possible to speak plainly and tell the people that there was a real threat against the nation and it would result in destruction?

There was, and it did. In chapter 21, God is much more explicit about the punishment that will come to Israel because of her disobedience.

There is often a sense of mystery about the words that people speak when God has given them inspiration. Jesus knew that. Poets, hymn writers and preachers often use words that need careful consideration before they can be interpreted. But they can also be dismissed easily by those who think that it's all just another crackpot theory dreamed up by a fool.

To Ponder

Has any story that you remember changed something in your life - and how?

Do you remember any time when someone has rejected your belief as a crackpot theory? What impact did that have on your faith and discipleship?

Are you comfortable with the fact that God's ways are sometimes shrouded in mystery? To what extent is this a help or a hindrance to your faith? Why?

Bible notes author: Marjorie Dobson

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