From Death To Life

In the previous study we read Ezekiel 15 and saw how important it is to have the life of the Lord flowing through us without any blockages. The theme of prophecies against Jerusalem continue with the next reading:

The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.
Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, ‘Live!’ I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.”’
Ezekiel 16:1-7

This is the beginning of a lengthy prophecy denouncing Jerusalem for her adultery. It was also a blunt reminder that this city, like many present day cities of Israel, was not founded nor originally built by the Jews, but won by conquest.

There are the legends that associate the vision of the steps to heaven that Jacob saw, and the place where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice, with the mount of Jerusalem. In those times there was no city. But during the time of the Israelites being in Egypt, this changed, and when Joshua was overseeing the conquest of the promised land a city had been built. As the prophecy states, this was from mixed tribes of Amorites and Hittites, and these tribes were not destroyed by Joshua’s conquest.

That last fact could be the explanation for the strange phrase about the umbilical cord not having been cut. But the fact remains that this city was a place that suffered from the conflicts in the time of Joshua and where there was a lot of death and blood.

Unlike Jericho, the Jews did not completely destroy the city, later to build a new one. The control of the city had been in the hands of the Jebusites, and we read in Joshua that the king, hearing of how Joshua had destroyed other cities, and then hearing how others had made peace with Joshua, then went on to also make peace.

Unless you are well versed in the history of the period and the problems of interpreting history in Joshua, Judges and Chronicles, you would find it very confusing to sort out the facts from the seemingly contradictory tales. And, in some places, very contradictory… For instance, the declaration that the job was done and that there was peace in the land and not a single survivor of the semitic tribes that were previously in the region – this is the declaration of Joshua. But the first war-like declaration in Judges is to choose the first tribe to fight against the Canaanite tribes… strange. And certainly there was no clear freedom for the Israelites to enter Jerusalem in this book. Later in Chronicles we read of David defeating Jerusalem. And even this is a problem, because he did this by entering a waterway that was constructed by one of his descendants hundreds of years after him (Hezekiah). Weird. So research this with caution!!

But this is just a reminder of a very obvious and very important fact about the scriptures – that they were written by flesh and blood people. And people are subject to the fall, and so not perfect. Yes, the scriptures are inspired by god, with all that entails, as we are taught by the apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy. But never should we allow ourselves to convert the word ‘inspired by’ into the words ‘written by.’

This is even the big problem of calling the bible ‘the Word of God’. Yes, this is an old tradition, but it gives the impression that God wrote it all, and so places a greater weight of holiness on the books than was originally intended. In addition, the idea of the infallibility of scripture enters in as a result of this, but any true comparison of, say, the history as recorded in Kings with the history as recorded in Chronicles will quickly throw up enough problems to put such an idea into question.

And yet, with some who were taught in error, if you so much as mention that the bible contradicts itself in places, and that therefore proves within itself that it was not written by god…. Wow! This is a red rag to a bull to some, and you will quickly find yourself being accused of being the ‘mouth of Satan’ and that you will ‘burn in hell for eternity’. Ironic really, especially as that last statement comes from paganism and not from true scriptural spirituality.

But researching the origins of Jerusalem, and how it came to be held by the Israelites and become their capital – believe me, if you do this properly, it will throw up many of the problems and contradictions of the recorded history.

But Ezekiel is speaking as a mouthpiece of God, and the prophecies here should be more accurate than the recorded histories (which were influenced by the politics in government over the writers, as well as the general feelings of the times). You will actually find it hard to find references to the Amorites and Hittites with reference to Jerusalem for the time period of its actually being built and called Jerusalem.

The best that can be said is that, from the start, the city was a meeting point of the various Semitic peoples, and that there was then, as now, always friction between them. They would each want to present the history from their own point of view, just like today. You ask a Jew and then a Palestinian about modern history in the region, you will get two very different stories. Both will believe that they are telling you the complete truth. Both will be honest and honourable with you. But it feels like you are hearing about two completely different nations. This is an example of how you can have conflicting history while still telling the truth.

The reference to two of the Semitic tribes at the start of this prophecy therefore is to emphasise that the Jews had something, with Jerusalem, that was nothing special and was not originally theirs. It was even considered dead to God until in the possession by his people – and so he said ‘Live!’

If you take it that this may be a reference to the period when Kind David defeated the city and then made it his own city and the capital from which he controlled the land, then we have a period that may match with this. For David certainly made the city not only a centre for political control, but also the centre for the spirituality of Israel. It was he who originally had the great desire to build the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem, rather than to have the Ark of the Covenant being kept in tents and subject, even to being captured on occasion.

From the time of David’s conquest onwards, Jerusalem blossomed and grew. And this certainly matches the words of the prophecy of Ezekiel about how God tended the infant Jerusalem and looked after her into puberty and the teenage years, making her healthy and fruitful.

This was in marked contrast to how Jerusalem was viewed before the conquest of David, and when it was mostly in the hands of, and sometimes completely controlled by, other Semitic tribes. Because of the long ongoing conflicts with some of these peoples, this meant that many did indeed despise the city and what it represented. But after it became a centre of power for the Israelites, this began to change. We must not assume a swift change, because it is simply a fact that, for nearly all his life, there would be those among the Israelites who were not sure that David even deserved to be King, as another family line had originally been anointed. But that is another discussion for another time.

For us today, there is a positive message to take from these verses. That the Lord can take what has been rejected and left for dead, and to raise and care for this as his own child. He is love, and he wants to build and to bless and to nourish. How grateful we should be for such a god as this!

So if you feel rejected, or if you feel despised, here is a god who can change the situation completely. Allow his governance of your life, accept the gift of Jesus, and enjoy the benefits of his Fatherly care as an adopted member of his family. He has plans to bless you and to prosper you!

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