For the Love of God, Volume 2/September 30
From Gospel Translations
1 Kings 2; Galatians 6; Ezekiel 33; Psalms 81—82
EZEKIEL 33 MARKS A TURNING POINT in the book. Chapters 33—37 record oracles related to the fall of Jerusalem. Although the warnings and calls for repentance continue, one now hears a rising note of comfort. As long as the exiles found it difficult to believe that Jerusalem could fall, Ezekiel was full of warning. Once the fall has taken place, God in his mercy gives Ezekiel words that will comfort the exilic community, nurture their faith, and steel their minds and wills.
Before that turning point arrives, the first half of the chapter returns to a theme first introduced in 3:16-21: Ezekiel the watchman. The theme returns because Ezekiel now begins a new phase in his ministry. In a sense, he is being recommissioned. At the same time, the news he is about to deliver regarding the fall of Jerusalem provides the people with a new opportunity to repent and trust God. So the first half of the chapter (33:1-20) divides naturally into these two themes. On the one hand, God reminds the prophet of his awful responsibility as a watchman (33:1-9). He is committed to standing somewhat apart from his fellow exiles. He must keep a vigil, listen to God, and proclaim faithfully what God tells him to say, warning of judgments to come and eliciting faith in God’s faithfulness. On the other hand, the people are called to respond to the watchman’s warnings (33:10- 20). They are neither to trust their own righteousness nor to slide into fatalism. The appropriate response is always to heed God’s watchman, for God himself is the One who declares, “As surely as I live . . . I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (33:11).
So the news arrives: Jerusalem has fallen (33:22). Ezekiel is now released from the silence God earlier imposed: he can converse openly and can say things other than what was given to him as a prophet. But all that he says in the rest of this chapter are more words from the Lord. He has two themes. (a) Regarding the people left among the ruins of Jerusalem, they are ever the optimists. They think they will reestablish themselves, even though they have not renounced their sins. So God will continue his chastening until there is only desolation, so that they will learn that he is the Lord (33:23-29). (b) As for the exiles whom Ezekiel addresses directly, they have learned to enjoy listening to him, as one enjoys listening to a gifted orator—but they have not learned to repent.
Where are the closest analogies to such stances today?