Thursday

31 March 2016

“I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.” (v. 14)

Psalm: Psalm 148


Background

By 586BC the Babylonians had totally sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and taken all but the poorest Judaeans back to Babylon in exile. The Jewish faith had been deeply rooted in the belief that God dwelt among them in the temple and the exile caused a crisis of faith, in which the people questioned whether they were still God's chosen people, whether God had broken God's promise to save God's people, or, worse, had been unable to save Jerusalem. They questioned how long the exile would last and whether it would ever end.

Ezekiel was called to be a prophet while in exile in Babylon in 593BC, before the second wave of exiles and his first call was to warn the other exiles and those Judaeans still living in Judah that the temple was to be destroyed as God's punishment for their faithlessness. After the destruction the messages he was given became hope-filled, assuring the people that God had not abandoned them and that one day they would return to Jerusalem and the Temple would be restored.

The structure of the book of Ezekiel, therefore, reflects the three days of Easter: prophecies of doom and destruction resonate with Good Friday; the waiting of Easter Saturday is reflected in the middle section of oracles against the enemies of Judah; finally the prophecies of new life and restoration echo the Resurrection of Easter Sunday.

This passage is taken from the third section and is an allegorical vision promising new life to the exiles. The bones that Ezekiel saw had been lying in the valley so long that they had become dry and sun-bleached (verse 2) and there was clearly no life left in them. In the same way the exiles had lost all hope of ever returning to Jerusalem. But, as in the Resurrection, God did the impossible and gave new life where there was no possibility of it (verses 7-10).

In verses 11-14 God interprets the allegory, but uses another metaphor - of opening graves, to signal the restoration of hope and joy and the return to Jerusalem. It is significant that the image of the winds breathing life into the bodies (verses 9-10) equates to the people receiving the spirit of God (verse 14). True restoration of life is not merely about political autonomy, rebuilding a place of worship or returning to a familiar place, but being united with God by having God's Spirit within. Only life in the Spirit is life at all.


To Ponder

  • What promises do you hold onto when you feel dry and hopeless?
  • As you look at our political situation today, what theological questions does it raise? Are there any situations that feel like they have been abandoned by God?
  • What does life in the Spirit look like for you?


Bible notes author: The Revd Anna Bishop

 

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