Friday, November 04, 2016

Reading Through Ezekiel #2

EzekielWe continue the journey through the strange book of Ezekiel accompanied by Ezekiel The College Press NIV Commentary, by Brandon Fredenburg. In this section, Ezekiel has to deal with the misconception among the exiles that Jerusalem was impregnable because of the temple. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The next three chapters introduce a section (12-24) that deals with the misconception of the people that God's blessing was tied to the land and temple and therefore God would not allow them to be destroyed. Ezekiel forcefully shows that God has abandoned the people in Jerusalem because of their idolatry. The king will be defeated, his armies killed, humiliated and taken to Babylon. The false prophets, who are saying that "everything will be all right," will be proven wrong by the destruction of the temple and by their own deaths.

Yahweh’s flight from the temple is not only because it has been defiled (8:6); it is also to demonstrate that he is not limited in his actions by their limited conceptions of him. The bad theology of the exiles is, in principle, no barrier to Yahweh’s blessing them. Nevertheless, Yahweh is not at all content for the exiles to continue in their false perceptions. Ezekiel 12, 113

Part of what made them false prophets was their easy willingness to announce covenant blessings without sufficiently laboring to call people to account for their covenant violations. In short, false prophets were superficial social critics eager to proclaim Yahweh’s final period of covenant blessing without first announcing the responsibilities necessary to enjoy them. Ezekiel 12-13, 123

In e second half of chapter 14, along with chapters 15 and 16, Ezekiel gives us 3 pictures of why God is just to destroy Jerusalem. First, he uses the stories of 3 people (Job, Noah, Daniel) who were able to save themselves by their righteousness, but not the people around them. In the 2nd analogy he turns upside down the traditional grapevine imagery for Israel. If a grapevine is not bearing grapes, it is useful only for firewood. Finally, he compares (16) Jerusalem to a nymphomaniac prostitute wife. God did everything for Jerusalem, but she took his wonderful gifts and used them to indulge herself in the fertility cults and in political alliances with other nations rather than trusting God and his covenant. The only solution was the removal of Jerusalem so she could be cleansed and restored in the future.

The righteous character of these three (is) compared to the treachery of those still in the homeland. By this measure, no one other than these three could be exempted because of their righteousness. The righteousness of the fathers does not overcome the treachery of the children. Ezekiel 14.12-20, 138

“And so the parable is one of the failure of function. God had given Israel a task to undertake, but she had failed to fulfill it.” Jerusalem is useful for only one thing now. It is ready to be burned. Ezekiel 15, 140

The depth of love, care, and concern he had for his wife Jerusalem could not have been greater or more lavish. The depth of her treachery could not have been more depraved and indifferent...By not turning Jerusalem over for community disgrace and punishment, Yahweh would have been undermining essential community values of honor and shame. His inaction would have been interpreted as allying himself with her shameful activity. Ezekiel 16.43, 151

Ezekiel 17-20 continue the section that explains the reasons for the impending fall of Jerusalem and calls for the exiles to repent before it happens so they can experience God's blessing in Babylon. Israel's final four kings were disasters who broke covenant with God and man, oppressed their own people and led the nation in idolatry. The people were also guilty of ignoring God and His covenant. The past actions of the nation made the destruction of Jerusalem inevitable, but the people could be blessed by God in Babylon if they would repent and live according to God's way.

Yahweh’s action is an action of reversal and utter grace. It is he who will dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. Indeed, since he has spoken, it is certain: he will do it. Yahweh will reestablish a Davidic king by his own gracious action in his own good time in his own sovereign way. Ezekiel 17, 162

It was certainly true that the evil actions of a father could have sorry consequences for his children. But it was not true that God held people responsible for the actions of others. Each must answer for his or her own life.” Ezekiel 18, 174

Bound up with Yahweh’s patience is his determination to fulfill the purpose of the covenants: intimate relationship between himself and his people, particularly manifested in worship. Ezekiel 20, 181

Chapters 21-24 are the final part of this section which shows the inevitability and reasons for YHWH bringing all the covenant curses down on to Jerusalem. 21 portrays the calling of the sword of Nebuchadnezzar as God's instrument of judgment. God will direct and empower his sword until Jerusalem and its people are completely destroyed. 22 gives three basic justifications for this: The leaders shed the blood of the innocent to enrich and empower themselves; they are not fully committed to love God (idolatry) and they ignore God's laws. Chapter 23 indicts Jerusalem with disgusting and profane language as a whoring wife who deserves a worse punishment than Samaria. Finally the beginning of the siege and inevitable fall of Jerusalem are announced in chapter 24.

And you have forgotten me, declares Lord Yahweh. All the previously mentioned sins are attributable to this one cause. This claim strongly implies that the sins that characterized Jerusalem were not simply individual lapses in judgment or holiness. Instead, they point to a deeper, wholesale defection from Yahweh’s will as disclosed in the Sinaitic covenant. Ezekiel 22, 204

The final pronouncement summarizes the reason Oholibah/ Jerusalem must be destroyed. Though married to Yahweh, she has treated him with utter contempt...Because of the disdain Oholibah/Jerusalem had for their marriage and Yahweh’s graciousness, he will cause her to bear the consequences of her lewdness and whorings. Ezekiel 23, 216

Ezekiel has been their inspired interpreter of the purpose and need for Yahweh to invoke the covenant curses upon the city. The time for warning, pleading, and leniency was finally over. On that very day, Jerusalem was besieged; eighteen months later, it will fall. Ezekiel 24, 223

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