We have been looking at the first prophetic tasks of Ezekiel the prophet. We have seen how he was to construct a representation of the siege of Jerusalem, to lie for 390 days on one side and for a further 40 days on his other side. That for the 390 days he was to bake and eat a special bread and to drink a rationed amount of water. Then we read that he was to shave himself with a sword and to use his hair in various ways to show how God will reveal his judgement on Jerusalem.
From this, I briefly discussed some of the difficulties about what this reveals to us about the nature of God. This is an uncomfortable question for many Christians, and I can certainly understand why many avoid even thinking about this topic. But I do not run away from difficulties or fail to acknowledge that they are there. Why? Because I believe that whatever such difficulties exist come from a human source and not a divine one.
When you really consider what God has given to us in the covenants in the bible, he really was keeping things quite simple. Even when you consider the vast number of laws and implementations that were delivered for the nation of Israel in the books of Moses, Jesus and the expert in the Law agreed that all of these can be fulfilled by obedience to just 2 laws: to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself. This is not hard to understand, and it warms my heart to know that it can all be summed up in one word: love. So if things are made complicated, that must be from the human side.
Let’s read again Ezekiel ch. 5:
‘Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. When the days of your siege come to an end, burn a third of the hair inside the city. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city. And scatter a third to the wind. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. But take a few hairs and tuck them away in your garment. Again, take a few of those and throw them into the fire and burn them up. A fire will spread from there to all Israel.
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: this is Jerusalem, which I have set in the centre of nations, with countries all around her. Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees.
‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: you have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.
‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents. I will inflict punishment on you and will scatter all your survivors to the winds. Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because you have defiled my sanctuary with 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 and pursue with drawn sword.
‘Then my anger will cease and my wrath against them will subside, and I will be avenged. And when I have spent my wrath on them, they will know that I the Lord have spoken in my zeal.
‘I will make you a ruin and a reproach among the nations around you, in the sight of all who pass by. You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I the Lord have spoken. When I shoot at you with my deadly and destructive arrows of famine, I will shoot to destroy you. I will bring more and more famine upon you and cut off your supply of food. I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the Lord have spoken.’
It is interesting that the Lord compares the standards of the people of Jerusalem with those of the surrounding nations. The law as recorded in the books of Moses does not apply to other nations, and Jews have taught that the covenant of Noah is what is required. There’s not so much to learn about that, and you can read about it in Genesis, and mainly in chapter 9. There is not a lot beyond not eating the lifeblood in meat, and not committing murder, because we are created in the image of god. Of course there is the required acknowledgement of God, and thanking him.
So what was God saying? That other nations at least were ready to acknowledge God. We have an example of this with a prophet of the period: Jonah. He was sent to Nineveh, and the city repented and avoided the wrath of god.
He was also suggesting that the Israelites who were not acknowledging God were eating food against the law (with the lifeblood). And one thing we know: that there was unpunished murder. That is the way that God would see it, because it was recorded that even babies were sacrificed to the idols on occasions. God has caused to be written in many parts of scripture the fact that he detests the shedding of innocent blood. So it also suggests that the surrounding nations were not involved at any time with the sacrificing of human life, and that they judged against murderers.
From these things we can see that the surrounding nations at least kept to the basics of the covenant of Noah, even if they also had idols and false gods that they worshipped.
A note here about history. Some think that the diaspora happened only with the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Israelites by the Romans, but we can see in this passage that there was a scattering to other nations that was to happen as part of this judgement of Jerusalem.
In fact there was more that had already happened. Ezekiel was with the exiled Israelites of the kingdom of Israel. But earlier in history the kingdom of Judah had been destroyed by the Assyrians and it’s people scattered. That was the true beginning of the diaspora. And we also know that many Israelites remained in the lands that they had lived in when taken to exile after the time that the Israelites were allowed to return.
The scattering of the Israelites was prophesied by Moses when declaring the blessings of following the decrees of God and the curses for ignoring these decrees. The actual dispersion happened over a long period of history, and some have calculated that we must consider this to have begun at least 500 years before the time of Christ.
Here is something that may shock some of you who read this. I even hope that it will bring a little bit of shock… But I truly wonder if the Lord could bring the same charge against the church that he was bringing against Jerusalem in this prophecy – that the church could not even hold up to the standards of the nations it is in, but has fallen. It has failed to heed the words of scripture. It has failed to protect the innocent. It has even approved the shedding of blood. You can’t say this is not true, because it is a matter of record and it is continuing today.
We have Christians supporting the politicians who want to fight wars in foreign lands without any sense of protecting their own land or the lands of their allies, but only because of greed, or because they want to increase the empires of their own very greedy corporations. Or, simply, because war is good for business and increases wealth.
We have Christians supporting politicians who make economic decisions that will bring poverty and starvation to many third world countries.
We have Christian leaders recommending to their churches, the voting for paedophiles, misogynists, thieves, liars, and murderers.
How can God ignore a church that is supposed to set a standard of morals and of giving loving aid to all, and yet instead supports the morally bereft and ethically destitute? And I have to say that this applies most of all to my own country, UK, and to the USA.
There are prophets who have been sent to speak out against this. But they have been ignored or silenced. (And the latter has included murder to keep them silent.) It is like a repeat of the times of the prophets, when God reached out again and again over 390 years. And so far the church is failing, because it teaches the law rather than the love which Jesus taught.
- Because it places it’s congregations in chains with the threat of a pagan hell, instead of making sure that there are no needy among them, and then spreading this love to their neighbours and further.
- Because it has approved of people and politicians who despise the poor and needy, bringing further difficulties and suffering on the most vulnerable people in our societies.
- And because it has supported the greedy, and preached greed through the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ which has worked for the majority about as well as any national lottery with its one-in-several million true successes.
- And so the poor and vulnerable in a congregation feed into the greed and selfishness of the multi-million dollar preacher who points to their own life and situation as ‘proof’ of this gospel of Mammon.
How far apart this is from the instruction of Jesus to the rich: to sell all they have and to distribute to the poor and the needy. How far this is from the early church where many sold all that they had and presented the money at the disciples feet, and among these congregations none was in need.
The church has not fallen to the world’s standards, it has gone worse.