01 August 2011

"The man said to me, 'Mortal, look closely and listen attentively, and set your mind upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I may show it to you; declare all that you see to the house of Israel.'" (v. 4)


'In the twenty-fifth year of our exile', said Ezekiel, introducing today's passage. Clearly he expected that the reader would know about the Exile; the visions that he then goes on to describe make much more sense if we know something about what happened to Ezekiel and the rest of the people of Israel.

When this vision happened Ezekiel was in Babylon where he and many other Israelites have been taken by their enemies. Israel's hopes had been crushed, their land stripped of much of its wealth and the temple in Jerusalem, which used to symbolise God's presence with them, had been destroyed. Ezekiel was forced to live in a foreign land and, no doubt, was longing for home, whilst also asking why God had allowed such disaster to happen to God's people and what the future might hold. The Jews had a tradition that every 50th year, on the Day of Atonement, a horn was to be blown which proclaimed the release of all enslaved Israelites, so the 25th year could be intended to symbolise a turning point for the captive Israelites - time to stop looking back to the disaster of their enslavement and start looking forward in hope.

This vision happened on the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem. We can imagine Ezekiel, perhaps pondering the terrible events, suddenly caught up in a vision which takes him back to the land for which he longs, back to a city on a mountain (just like Jerusalem) to meet someone who tells him that he must listen attentively - because he is going to learn something that he must declare to the broken, hurting, people of God.

The man is carrying a linen cord and a measuring reed - Ezekiel would recognise both as instruments which are used (normally by carpenters) to measure buildings. In the next part of the vision the man begins to measure this new city - which is the symbol of a new hope.

To Ponder

A message of hope given on the anniversary of a disaster. Can you think of equivalent anniversaries for us today? What equivalent messages of hope are there?

Imagine you are Ezekiel and that you are asked to describe your vision to a people who perhaps feel that God has let them down. How would you feel about your task?

Bible notes author: The Revd Judith Rossall

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