Where Is the Whitewash You Covered it With?

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EZEKIEL 12:1-14:11 | HEBREWS 7:1-17 | PSALM 105:37-45 | PROVERBS 27:3

Ezekiel continues to record the vision and the instructions he receives concerning his people in his battered homeland of Judea.  Ezekiel is in exile at the time he receives his calling to go back to his people and preach to them of an even greater destruction that is to soon come upon them.  This would be the second and final destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem—within ten years of the first invasion by the Babylonians.

The prophecies of Ezekiel will come to pass in 586 BC in full, and yet at the time of Ezekiel’s commission, it appears that the people in Judea, as well as those living in exile in Babylon did not believe that another greater destruction was to come upon their people.  There was doubt and derision among them, and in order to address this, the Lord says to Ezekiel to make it clear that there is going to be no further delay in the prophecies that Ezekiel makes.  These things will come to pass post-haste, and the Lord instructs Ezekiel to inform the people to snap out of their reveries.

Ezekiel says to them:  21 The word of the LORD came to me: 22 “Son of man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel: ‘The days go by and every vision comes to nothing’? 23 Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to put an end to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.’ Say to them, ‘The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled. 24 For there will be no more false visions or flattering divinations among the people of Israel. 25 But I the LORD will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious people, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign LORD.’”

Ezekiel goes on to lambast the other prophets of the day—both in exile and in the motherland—of the wrath of God that will soon descend upon them for their false prophecies.  He says to them, these words of the Lord: 10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, “Where is the whitewash you covered it with?”

And there’s more where that came from.  Ezekiel goes on to tell them what God really thinks, and what he is going to do.  He serves as the Lord’s mouthpiece in these words:  15 So I will pour out my wrath against the wall and against those who covered it with whitewash. I will say to you, “The wall is gone and so are those who whitewashed it, 16 those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace, declares the Sovereign LORD.”’  Put away your peace-pipes, folks, the time for peace is a way off, the Lord seems to say.

And yet again, there is the steadfast exhortation to turn away from idolatry, and Ezekiel is told this by the Lord:  6 “Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!  Let it not be said that the people were not warned!  Let it not be said that a prophet was not sent to them!  Let it not be said that a clear sign was not given to them even in the destruction of the Temple the first time around!

We turn now to our reading of the book of Hebrews, and find the writer has picked up where he last left off concerning the person of Jesus Christ to be a more perfect priest in the likeness of the high priest, Melchizedek, a priest that ministered to Abraham even before the establishment of the house of Levi and the order of the priesthood endowed to them.  It is important to the writer that he explains this concept as clearly as possible to a readership that consists primarily of a Jewish heritage.

These Jews are considering the validity of the person of Jesus Christ to be the Messiah, and are filled with some uncertainty about giving up their traditions and customs that include honoring a priest in the temple.  But here comes this person—perhaps it is Paul, perhaps it is another—who is writing to tell them to reconsider their views in light of the new faith they have adopted.  In Christ Jesus resides a new way of worship and faith.  It is Christ, the author of Hebrews writes, who is the ultimate priest, a High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek, the mystery priest, that had appeared from nowhere to whom their ancestor and forefather, Abraham, paid tithe and tribute.

This is what the writer says: 11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.

Turning next to our reading of the psalms, we find that we have come to the end of Psalm 105, a long psalm of praise and thanksgiving in which the psalmist lists the long history of his peoples’ existence and establishment as a nation that started with one man, Abraham.

Finally, turning to our proverb for the day, we find one in which, Solomon, the wise king of Israel, speaks to the power of provocation in these lines:

3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
   but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

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