The Lord is here, present. In me, now. God had to break the paradigm of being present only in the holy of holies in the temple in Jerusalem. We’re used to it now, but imagine if we’d only ever known the temple system.
This book narrates that shift, against the backdrop of Jerusalem being destroyed, from the margins of it, in exile in Babylon.
God arrives spectacularly, a gleaming Prince atop a rolling throne, in the visions that commence the book.
Much time is spent making it clear that Jerusalem is done for, the dream is gone, and deservedly so. Very, very deserved. Because of very familiar arrogance, corruption and apathy.
The centre of gravity has shifted to the exiles, longing to get back to the action. They are now the action, they are the ones who were saved from the destruction. There is no there there in Jerusalem any more.
God is in hearts of flesh.
God is Spirit that breathes life to dry bones.
God is a prince, the Messiah.
The rolling vision of God from the start of the book inhabits a crazily detailed temple of dreams that has not been, and I think will not ever be, built in stone, on earth.
The Prince stands in the gap between God’s impossible holiness and our endemic imperfection. A river of healing flows out from the temple of dreams across the whole earth, and we are all children of the Prince.
There is no longer a literal Jerusalem of the promised land. The city that continues by that name has no special claim to God’s presence.
God is here, as I write and think.
I wrote my thoughts about Ezekiel mostly against the backdrop of a wonderful holiday in New Zealand, which now seems like a beautiful dream. God seemed present there, in the majestic, often starkly empty South island.
Challenges awaited ahead, when upon return I was blindsided by a very cold loss of my job, the financial security of our family. I’ve been wondering if, like Ezekiel, God is telling me to spend a year in my house, lying on my side, staring at a saucepan.
This book has a lot of pain, but trusting God’s plan when logic and experience fails can require us to see visions past the pain of loss.
The rolling presence of God preparing Ezekiel
1 a vast vision of Gods presence in a time when the temple is destroyed, the land lost
2 preparing Ezekiel to be a prophet, a message of pain and lament, an expectation of resistance
3 overcoming Ezekiel’s negativity. Armoured within and without, called to be a watchman: deliver a message, not worry if it is acted on.
Performance art about Israel’s fall
4 Ezekiel’s wordless sermon is a performance art installation about the destruction of Jerusalem. It goes on about a year.
5 more Street theatre with glimpses of the horrible suffering of the siege of Jerusalem. I think about how evil destroys itself, the nature of judgement and learning.
6 the promised land won’t lose its symbolic allure until it is lost. Sometimes hope must die before evil will lose its grip.
Announcing the death of hope in what is lost, listeners refuse to accept
7 a chapter of unrelenting gloom and judgement. “Then they will know that I am God”
8 worshipping lies, sex, money and power, Ezekiel’s vision of the corruption of the temple is referenced by too many Christian critics today.
9 a vision of the temple without God, given over to idols and the few of the remnant that will escape the fall of the city
10 the glory of the lord leaves the temple, I compare the verse about no lamb being
snatched from the good shepherd
11 God has flipped the script. E thought he was being punished by being in exile, but he’s actually being spared judgement
12 the people are in denial about the visions of God judging Jerusalem
13 condemnation of easy prophets, who whitewash messages
14 the leaders around Ezekiel are hostile but recognise they have to give him a chance to speak. But he can’t speak into hostility
Analogies about why Israel must be judged, leading to the fall of Jerusalem
15 a vision of Israel as a dead vine. We can cut ourselves off from the author of life and bit notice straight away
16 Israel’s addiction to idols, despite being God’s chosen nation is compared to prositution. Cheap grace comes with deep shame.
17 A tree analogy compares the dumb moves of the last Israelite Kings to the grace of the true King, like a flourishing tree sustaining much life.
18 About how you can have a new heart, sin is historical but also personal. We all have the choice and freedom to face it, repent of it it and accept Gods grace
19 A lament over the betrayals of Kings who led them so badly. Lament is the start of pointing our frustrations and pain back to God, not being consumed by them.
20 The leaders and people’s response to the truth Ezekiel is speaking: they won’t understand, they accuse him of speaking in parables.
21 The sword of God’s judgement terrifies us in our perpetually unresolved state, mortal and immortal. But Jesus was there too.
22 In societies of inequality, of disadvantage vs greed, like theirs, like ours, Jesus stands in the gap
23 Israel’s sin compared to prostitution. God is concerned about alliances – who we get in bed with and why. In him we find constant love, not loveless lives of self serving alliances
24 The fall of Jerusalem, 10 years into his ministry, accompanied by two signs to Ezekiel in exile in Babylon: a vision of a ruined cooking pot and the death of his wife, who he is told not to mourn.
About other nations: Tyre
25 Israel is assured neighbouring nations will be judged too. I contemplate the morality of the blame game
26 Still considering other nations, we are not here for shadenfreude, God hates that
27 the imprint of God in our brilliant creative civilisations; the curse of death in their fragility.
28 God’s deep love for Tyre – by extention all of us – how it hurts God that their arrogance blinds them to it.
29 God’s love for Egypt, Babylon and Tyre: just because their stories are not told in such detail as Israel for biblical narrative purposes, doesn’t mean they aren’t loved
30 Israel’s temptation to go back to Egypt. When God breaks your circumstances, look forward in trust in the will of Yahweh, not backward to the idealised comforts of your slavery.
31 God compares Egypt to a tree, magnificent but locked into time, it will fall. At Christmas, I contemplate mortality and opportunity for Grace.
32 Egypt’s weakening and fall into sheol, the neverworld of substandard eternity, where there is a consolation of sorts, of losing your pride when you realise you are one of many
Israel and Edom
33 The first confirmation of Israel’s fall arrives, and the optimistic verses of the prophets that dismissed Ezekiel’s gloom sounds like empty sweet insincere love songs.
34 sheep metaphors to talk about reasonable verses selfish lives, coming at a time of maximum lazy indulgence on my part.
35 New year’s prayer in the light of God’s justice, a terrifying prospect without also God’s grace.
Hearts of flesh, bones that live
36 promise of beating hearts of flesh, not stone. And cleansing rain to wash away our idols from our hearts
37 My favourite passage as a child. The bones trick and the stick trick, God’s transformation of people and nations
Hostile nations confused by grace
The City of the unbuilt temple
40 Start of a very detailed vision of a temple that was never built. Why has God given us this?
41 Giving the people the dream of a vast new temple, scenes and dreams that motivate us mark us as spiritual beings.
42 the glimpse of God’s extreme holiness in the temple ritual serves to emphasise the extreme lovingness of Jesus’ life and death
43 Good comes to the temple. Why the temple vision is given: a reminder of God’s goodness, a call to recommit, and a promise of forgiveness
44 A Prince, a Messiah, will bridge the gulf between God’s impossible holiness and our impossible obedience
45 What it means for God to have given us a plan for an unbuilt City to think about
46 bit of a weird chapter making the point that the children of the Prince (/Messiah) retain his inheritance forever.
47 the temple vision spoke to the deepest longing of the exiled Jews, this speaks of the river that does from it and speaks to the whole world’s deepest longing.
48 the city of the unbuilt temple is called the Lord is there. And God is present, right here, right now, and we are building that city