23 July 2011

"I will put my spirit within you" (v. 27)


The priest and prophet Ezekiel preached a mixture of judgement and hope - a common theme in prophetic teaching. Ezekiel preached his message from within the exiled community in Babylon, exiled because of the failing of their leaders to bring justice to the people.

Ezekiel has described the bad rulers as false 'shepherds', using a common image of the time for rulers. In their place, the prophet has promised that God would be the true shepherd and that a figure like King David would restore justice for the people.

In this passage, the emphasis has moved from judgement to expectation and promise. The practical promise was that the people who had been scattered at the time of exile would be restored to their own land. This eventually happened under the decree of Cyrus that all his subjected people, including the Jews, could be allowed to return home. This is why Cyrus is called "the anointed" in Isaiah 45:1.

But Ezekiel knew that this would not be enough. What was really needed was spiritual cleansing and spiritual renewal. Therefore he promised that God would cleanse the people and give them a new heart and a new spirit. Only this would restore them to their place as God's people. For their part, the people would have to repent: "be ashamed and dismayed" (v. 32), said the prophet.

Drawing on known religious mythology, Ezekiel shared his vision that the land would be like the Garden of Eden, as in Genesis chapter 2. Then, in a switch back to his own times, Ezekiel also promised that the cities destroyed in the Babylonian conquest of Israel would be rebuilt. It was through this action to restore Israel's greatness in the world that God would again be acknowledged by the surrounding nations.

To Ponder

What vision do you have for the restoration of your own society?

What would spiritual renewal involve for you, your church and your society?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr David Calvert

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