6–12 November 2016.
Ezekiel is a strange and often difficult book to read because it is full of confusing and even frightening prophecies. And Ezekiel himself doesn’t just use words to share God’s message with the people. Instead he also uses dramatic and often disturbing actions. If any of our church pastors did the things that Ezekiel did, we would be worried about their sanity! But it’s important for us to look past the strangeness, and to focus instead on the deeper messages that Ezekiel is trying to give the Israelites.
We see an example in chapter 5. Ezekiel takes a soldier’s sword and uses it to shave off his hair and beard. On the one hand, shaving off hair was a common sign of sadness and mourning. On the other hand, using a sword to do this was not common at all! But Ezekiel does this to show the type of destruction that is coming to Jerusalem.
The destruction of Jerusalem was a controversial topic. Many Israelites believed that Jerusalem was God’s home, a divinely protected city, one which would be invincible forever. They laughed at the idea that Jerusalem or its temple could ever be destroyed. After all, they thought they were chosen by God, that they were a blessing to the nations, and that Jerusalem was the center of the world. So how could the city be destroyed.
But that’s exactly the reason why God condemns them. In vv. 5–9 we hear how God placed Jerusalem at the center of the world, to be a role model, a light and blessing to all nations. But instead of doing this, the Israelites became the absolute worst of all nations: they rejected God, ignored his ways, and became the perfect example of everything that was corrupt and morally wrong. Through Abraham God established a covenant or treaty with the Israelites. But now they had abandoned their loyalty to God and broken the contract. That’s why Jerusalem will be destroyed.
But we should be careful not to criticize the Israelites too quickly. After all, doesn’t God have the same expectations of us? Doesn’t God want us to be a shining light to the nations, and to be an example of justice, peace, and love? But like the Israelites we also often fail at this. So let’s pray that we can learn from Israel’s example, and that with God’s help we too can keep trying every day to be a wonderful blessing to everyone around us.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis