09 August 2011

"On that day the prince shall provide foe himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering." (v. 22)


Ezekiel's vision for a renewed national and spiritual life continues with mention of the Festival of the Passover in verses 21-24 and the Feast of the Tabernacles in verse 25. The festivals are only described in outline but there is one crucial difference to those found in their original form. That is the presence of the prince whose job it is to provide the sacrifices for himself and the people. This individual is mentioned in Ezekiel 45:7-9 in which he is apportioned a segment of land and then in verses 16-17 where he is given responsibility for providing the sacrifices for the nations worshipping life.

Further than that, all we are told about him so far is the statement that "... my princes shall no longer oppress my people; but they shall let the house of Israel have land according to their tribes" (v. 8). We then hear a charge to the princes of Israel to put away violence, stop oppression, do what is just and right and cease evictions of the people. Ezekiel's vision for the renewal of Israel clearly has a place for civil authorities who are tied into the religious life of the nation by outlining their responsibility for providing the sacrifices. There is clearly too an expectation of just and responsible government.

Given that Israel had a history of kings ruling over them, one is left wondering why Ezekiel spoke only of princes. Perhaps it is because the failure of the kings to maintain a just society and a faithful religious life was one of the main reasons given for the exile in Babylon. Now in Ezekiel's vision we have civil authorities who have a fundamental responsibility to the religious life of the nation and who do not have the supreme authority of a king. We should also notice that the people are no longer required to provide animals for sacrifices themselves, no doubt causing the relief of a considerable financial burden.

To Ponder

What responsibilities should our civil authorities have towards our nation's religious life?

The prince had both privilege and responsibility. Where are you privileged and what responsibilities does this bring?

Bible notes author: The Revd Jonathan Mead

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