We have been looking at the last part of the first task of Ezekiel the prophet. This is the visual representation of the siege of Jerusalem, while demonstrating the patience of the Lord for 390 years. The prophecy in words tells how things will not end happily, and yet there are positive messages that we can take and learn from.
We continue this by reading Ezekiel 7:10-13:
See, the day!
See, it comes!
Doom has burst forth,
the rod has budded,
arrogance has blossomed!
Violence has arisen,
a rod to punish the wicked.
None of the people will be left,
none of that crowd –
none of their wealth,
nothing of value.
The time has come!
The day has arrived!
Let not the buyer rejoice
nor the seller grieve,
for my wrath is on the whole crowd.
The seller will not recover
the prosperity that was sold –
as long as both buyer and seller live.
For the vision concerning the whole crowd
will not be reversed.
Because of their sins, not one of them
will preserve their life.
This text is full of how ordinary life will be interrupted by an inescapable doom. People go about their lives, and the picture used here is of buying and selling. It is a sign of how we all wish to prosper, and we spend the majority of our time selling our labour or our goods. Many people spend more time at this than they do with their family or their closest loved one. All wish not just to survive, but to prosper and increase wealth. The seller has more coin, the buyer has the things that make him or her appear better…
That latter point seems more true today than ever before, as people want to show status and so buy accordingly. So if they buy a car, a Ford will not do. No. That’s for losers, a winner must show status and so must have an Audi or Lexus. Never mind that it costs twice as much just to be able to do the same as the humble Ford.
And if they buy a TV, one of those cheaper Chinese sets will not do, it must be a Samsung or Sony despite the cost being two or three times more.
And if buying clothes, the right designer label must be visible, and not be a humble ‘own brand’ from the supermarket. Never mind that it falls apart too easily or shrinks in the damp weather.
A celebratory drink has to be expensive French champagne, and not any of the drinks from other countries that used to be called champagne in the past, but is not allowed that label now – and so the cheaper prosecco that tastes nicer is not acceptable.
And while paying exorbitant prices for status symbols, and while ignoring the fact that the quality often does not reflect the price, these people pour scorn on the ‘lesser’ people who drive a Ford (maybe second or third hand), who have the discounted and yet practical smartphone and TV, who are clothed in ‘own brand’ clothes from the supermarket. These more humble folk are branded as ‘losers’ even though they live comfortably and have all they need. They are made to feel that they should be seeking more, and lose gratitude for the things that the Lord has blessed them with.
This is one thing that struck me from our text. In buying and selling, we have not only a representation of how people just carry on with their everyday lives, but also how it is all about getting things for self. There is no mention of gratitude, or thankfulness.
The difference in the Kingdom, where loving and caring should be the norm, is that we would read about giving and receiving, about sharing and caring, about loving and being loved. We would read about thanksgiving to God, to each other, and for each other. We would read about provision for needs, and care with resources so that enough is left to provide for those who do not have enough.
The person who has stretched funds to the status symbol now has less resources – and this can be ongoing because such more expensive cars often use more fuel, have higher insurance costs and higher maintenance costs. Even buying a set of tyres for such a car can cost twice or even three times the amount than for a more humble car. People stretch themselves to this to have the status symbol and the pride of ownership, and so also (even though this is very rarely admitted) to look down on others with ‘lesser’ vehicles. And yet, now they have much less money left each month to spend on other things. The ability to share so that others don’t suffer without food, without clothes, or without a home – this ability is reduced. In fact, the thought about others rarely even enters the mind.
And this is a ‘norm’ of society that we have become used to. The fact that we earn money, work hard for money, as our ‘personal’ reward and why think of others? I worked hard for this, and so it is mine! Brothers and sisters – this is not the norm for the Kingdom of God!
Jesus spoke about loving your enemies. This was not only to be done in words. It was not some kind of mental assent. It was not to be in thoughts or emotions. No – it was to be practical love. Giving clothes if needed, food if needed. Ignoring words of hatred or insult, even ignoring violence to you, and giving love and care to them instead. Seems crazy, but I only share the teaching of Jesus – and he was not crazy!
And what happened when Jesus met the wealthy? We read more than once that he said something like: one thing you lack – sell what you own and give to the needy. This was practised in the early church, when many sold their property so that there was enough money to make sure that there was no-one needy among them.
But what happens today? The thoughts about love to enemies are only that – thoughts. The care for the neighbours, even though that is the second commandment of love, is forgotten and is only very rarely done. Why to think of this, because the hard work that earned money is for me, right? Wrong! You are in God’s family, and you are earning to bring what is needed to the family.
Yet it has become even worse than this! Many Christians not only do very little, or even nothing, to care for their local family of Christ, but there is a growing selfishness in society leading to a selfishness even within the natural family. So that parents care more about their status symbols, their entertainment, their ‘fun’ than to provide full care for the children. They even do not want to spend the time necessary with their children, preferring the television, the gaming console, or other distractions.
Children grow with this lack of what should be normal love and attention, and so do not return it the more as they grow older. So as adults they follow the example and think only of themselves. They do not place family as priority, and make less and less contact with parents. When the parents get old and weak and can’t work any more, in the past they would have care from family. But now, they are abandoned, and even sometimes called ‘losers’ by their own family.
But the day will come! It is here in the text – that day will happen when it is today!
What am I talking of?
That day when you yourself will fall into need, and because of the selfishness in the world that you participated in there will be none to help you. You will see those with status symbols pass you by while you starve. The day when you are old will come, and not even your family will visit or even phone you. The day of death will come – and then all the status symbols you collected will be meaningless. As the old saying goes: you can’t take it with you. Even Jesus taught a parable about this.
Through selfishness and self-centredness, the whole world is made to suffer. Yet this is the norm, and everyone sees the ‘logic’ without understanding the richer logic of giving.
No-one should be lonely, or hungry, or naked, or thirsty, or without a safe place to sleep at night. Yet these problems are growing rapidly in the world. And these problems are being contributed to, sadly, by too many in the church.
The day is near, and soon will be today! The day when you will understand that all of this was foolishness, and the love and the joy of the kingdom has been missed.