EZEKIEL 7:1-9:11 | HEBREWS 5:1-14 | PSALM 105:1-15 | PROVERBS 26:28
Ezekiel’s commission from the Lord to go back to his people continues, and the wrath of the Lord remains unabated even in the mere telling of the things to come upon Jerusalem and her inhabitants. This is surely a people to be pitied, for the level of destruction that is to befall them is truly horrific. These are the words of the Lord to Ezekiel:
23 “‘Prepare chains!
For the land is full of bloodshed,
and the city is full of violence.
24 I will bring the most wicked of nations
to take possession of their houses.
I will put an end to the pride of the mighty,
and their sanctuaries will be desecrated.
25 When terror comes,
they will seek peace in vain.
26 Calamity upon calamity will come,
and rumor upon rumor.
They will go searching for a vision from the prophet,
priestly instruction in the law will cease,
the counsel of the elders will come to an end.
27 The king will mourn,
the prince will be clothed with despair,
and the hands of the people of the land will tremble.
I will deal with them according to their conduct,
and by their own standards I will judge them.
Ezekiel is then given a glimpse into the deep-rooted practices of idolatry that are taking place right in the heart of the Temple, by the priest and the people alike. Seen from any direction, there is an example of blatant idol-worship to various and sundry gods. It is bad enough that Israel has forgotten the God of her forefathers, but it is even worse when the small remnant of Israel that was left behind after the deluge of the Babylonian invasion practices such idolatry right within the heart of the Temple. Could there be anything more detestable? The Lord doesn’t think so.
But Ezekiel is appalled at the extent of decimation that the Lord has allowed on the people, and so, Ezekiel cries out: “Alas, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?” And this is what the Lord tells Ezekiel: 9 He answered me, “The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.’ 10 So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.”
And yet, even in the midst of the execution of this wrath, there is a small remnant among the remnant that is spared. Ezekiel is privy to the sight of a man who walks around with a “writing kit” and goes about placing a mark on the foreheads of those who lament the abominable idolatry that is taking place within the walls of the temple and the city. Ezekiel soon learns that it is the ones who are found with a mark who will eventually be spared.
We now turn to our reading of the book of Hebrews, and find that the anonymous writer of this epistle is continuing on the same theme of Christ being the perfect priest, nay, the High Priest of the people. To many in that day, this would have made complete sense, given their Jewish practices of having a priest in the temple. However, the writer is slowly but surely dismantling some of the fundamental beliefs and practices of the Jewish faith even as he proposes these new constructs.
Jesus Christ is the High Priest, but he is not physically present in the temple, no, he is seated at the right hand of God—he is God himself, in the perfect union of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit being the third member of this group), who intercedes to God, the Father, on your behalf, even as the Holy Spirit ministers to you for your every need. Is that too complex a construct?
The writer hopes it is anything but, because the new believers in this faith—which is soon to be called Christianity—will hopefully understand that this is a more perfect design of worship that eliminates all barriers between God and man, and allows each and everyone who believes, access to the throne of Grace, i.e., to God himself, and therefore empowers each one to petition God, the Father, through his son, Jesus Christ.
This is no ordinary arrangement—it is most extraordinary in every which way. Man is no longer doomed to eternal misery; rather, he is empowered to choose for himself whether or not he wishes to accept this gift of salvation that is being offered to him. If he accepts, he is immediately accepted into the fold of God’s everlasting love and mercies; if he chooses not to, the decision is entirely his. God does not wish for anyone at all to perish—be it Jew or non-Jew, because you see, God is the perfect gentleman: he would never expect you to spend even a moment with him by force, let alone an eternity. How does that strike you for being polite?!
Continuing with the theme of the new High Priest, the writer explains it in this way: 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
With this lengthy discourse on the various nuances of this new faith and its recommended practices in relation to existing Jewish observances, etc., the writer is essentially urging his readers to “grow up”! There is a thinly veiled trace of exasperation, perhaps even a little impatience in wishing for these truths to be accepted and absorbed, even as the writer says these words: 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
We turn now to our reading of the psalms and find one in which the psalmist is singing aloud the promises of the Almighty to his people. Alas, the children of Israel needed much reminding about this, because as per their history, they were quick to forget who they were and who their God was. David reaffirms his faith and knowledge of his God, Yahweh, in these verses:
5 Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations.
Finally, a verse from the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, the wise king of Israel, speaks to the ills of a slanderer and a sycophant:
28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.