For an introduction to this series, click here.
Sept. 30, 2006
In this passage Ezekiel finishes his vision of Jerusalem and returns to Babylon. Zeke doesn't have a lot of good things to say to either group. He warns the people of Jerusalem against fighting against the Babylonians, who have returned to finish off the city because the Jews would not accept their defeat as a work of God. Multiple prophets of God commanded the people to cooperate with the Babylonians, but the people kept fighting and being defeated. God does present a promise to Israel that one day God will bring the Jews home to Israel, and in that day there will be no one to molest them and they will serve the Lord with joy. Of course, this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled in its entirety.
Meanwhile, when he is transported back to Babylon, he finds more trouble. You can find deeper philosophical treatments of this elsewhere in books and on the 'net, articles written by brighter minds than mine. Let's just suffice it to say that God demanded worship that was vastly different from every other god of the rest of the nations. They were not to make any graven images, any physical representations of God. They were to worship God out of the truth that He revealed to them. Ezekiel confronts some women who disobeyed this concept in 13:17-19:
And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own minds. Prophesy against them, and say Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die, and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies. (ESV)
These false prophets, men and women, were profiting by exploiting the poorest and most vulnerable of the exiles. And isn't it true that such things happen today? So-called Christian churches and pastors of many stripes take advantage of the poor and the gullible, selling them religious baubles and promoting a false gospel that only enriches themselves. God condemns both the sellers of the baubles for their greed and the baubles themselves in this passage. Of course this is a passage from the Old Testament, but God has always desired to be worshiped in spirit and truth, not with religious baubles. This is not to say that physical objects have no part of worship, because even the OT goes into great detail of the objects that were used to worship God in the temple, both for sacrifices and, in the times of David and Solomon, for music. But the physical objects are used by us for a greater purpose: they are not an end in themselves. God is the ultimate of all that is good, and He lives inside us. What physical object could surpass that?