EZEKIEL 5, 6, 7 and 8
First, a further thought about yesterday’s reading: (1:26) “…High above on the throne was a figure like that of a man”. And the reason it was like a man is that it was a man. Our God is not a passionless force or a robotic tyrant, he is also a man (see Revelation 1:13). That is why we are created in his image. It is an amazing source of comfort that the ultimate power of the universe (and outside it) is personal – a perfect man as well as perfect God, who understands our weaknesses and our limitations and who delights in his offspring with a passion that we cannot even imagine. The “Man of Heaven” is on our side (well, really, we are on His) and is working for our good every second of our lives, preparing a place for us that is our eternal home.
Today we begin with a decent haircut; in fact, a very thorough haircut and shave, since the whole lot comes off! Ezekiel’s razor was a sword – in fact, a very sharp battle sword. So, the bald, clean-shaven Ezekiel is then required to weigh the cut hair carefully into three equal heaps, placing one inside his model city of Jerusalem, one outside the model’s walls and one being scattered in the wind. For good measure the first two heaps are then burned or hacked about with the sword.
Having acted out this drama silently, Ezekiel introduces the prophecy that interprets it. As a result of Judah’s idolatry, a mighty punishment is imminent, says the Lord. He had placed Israel and Judah in the very centre of the surrounding nations, to be an influence for good and for God in their midst – and example of perfect human living. But Judah degenerated into idol-worshippers even worse than the nations around her, with moral standards that failed to match the average nation of the world. That is what occurs when a person rejects God: their first moral foundation was built on faith, so when that faith crumbles, so does the morality and ‘ex-Christians’ sometimes have the worst morals of all.
God says “Because you have defiled my sanctuary will all your vile images and detestable practices, I, myself, will shave you; I will not look on you with pity or spare you. A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds an pursue with drawn sword” (5:11-12). God then goes further and gets Ezekiel to prophesy against the mountains of Israel, extending his punishment to the whole land rather than just Jerusalem. It is these mountains that hosted the ‘high places’ where more idol-altars were sited. God had required Ezekiel to take a small tuft of his hair and tuck it in his belt safely. These were the remnant who were taken ‘safely’ into exile and survived. (6:8).
Later, Ezekiel had another vision in which a powerful angel carried him from Babylon to Jerusalem, showing him also the glory of God near his temple. God then shows Ezekiel the four pieces of evidence of Judah’s spiritual adultery: North of the temple was an ‘idol of jealousy’, probably a statue of Asherah, the Canaanite fertility goddess. Then in the temple courts a large frieze of paintings of Egyptian-style idols that were being worshipped. Then, near the North Gate, women sitting ‘mourning’ the death of the Babylonian goddess Tammuz, who was supposed to die at the height of summer.
Finally, in the very inner court of the house of God, a group of elders with their backs to the temple, blatantly worshipping the Sun god! The Lord was incandescently angry – it was like a man coming home to find his wife in bed with another man – and he vowed not to show any pity to the adulterous nation under any circumstances!