21 July 2011

"The nations shall know that I am the Lord" (v. 23)


Ezekiel was a priest. As such, he was concerned with the holiness of God. In this passage, Ezekiel expressed the view that the basis of God's judgement against the people and their leaders was that they profaned God's name among the nations.

Ezekiel wrote from exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC, seeking to come to terms with what had happened to his country and its people. The city had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the people had been exiled - and, worst of all for a priest, the temple had been destroyed.

The prophet has explained God's judgement as a rejection of the rule of false shepherds (the shepherd was a familiar image at that time for the rulers of the people) and the corruption of the rulers of the nation (see Monday's passage). He has expressed a hope for the future in terms of a new symbolic figure, like David, who would rule with justice (see Wednesday's passage).

But Ezekiel's anger is not only against unjust rulers. It extends to those who, in consequence of the exile, have decided to blame God rather than accept the responsibility for the exile for themselves. The prophet-priest identifies 'blaming God' as a profanity. Ezekiel has exposed his priestly belief that injustice and religious profanity go hand in hand. He believed that if the people and their leaders had put God first, they would have established a just rule and they would not have been defeated and exiled.

God's renewal of the nation, promised by Ezekiel, was so that God's name could be held high again amongst the nations of the world. The renewal was for God's sake, not just for the sake of the exiled people. This was Ezekiel speaking in his priestly capacity, just as earlier the voice of Ezekiel the prophet had condemned injustice and promised a new leadership. This priestly word has added a fresh dimension to the prophesy of Ezekiel.

To Ponder

In what ways does the 'priest/prophet', combined in the person of Ezekiel, help you to make a more profound analysis of what is wrong with society today and point a way forward for renewal?

Can you identify any priestly, prophetic figure in recent years who expressed in their life what is seen in the figure of Ezekiel? Who are they and what was it about them that made you think of them?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr David Calvert

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