The world by its wisdom knows all the structures of reality, but it cannot penetrate to the ultimate mystery; it does not know God.
— Reinhold Niebuhr (Justice and Mercy)
Terror is coming! reads the beginning of Ezekiel 7:25. The root of that Hebrew word translated terror or “anguish” (NRSV) is the same that gives the Hebrew noun, porcupine. The idea Ezekiel meant to convey was that of a bristling terror. When porcupines are threatened, they tuck their snout down and present their back and tail, quills at the ready, to their attacker. That fearsome display conveys a little of the fear that will strike Jerusalem.
. . .
In this passage, God undermines the traditional three-fold structure of Jewish society:
- Religious leaders such as priests and prophets will not be able to speak.
- Civil leaders such as the king and prince will despair.
- The people of the land—land owners—will tremble.
The most terrifying of those three statements is the first:
Disaster comes upon disaster, rumor follows rumor;
they shall keep seeking a vision from the prophet;
instruction shall perish from the priest,
and counsel from the elders.
Ezekiel 7:26, NRSV
Israel is completely dependent on God for her security. God called Abram, the patriarch of the Jewish people, and gave him many ancestors. God used Moses to rescue his people from slavery in Egypt. God shared his will with Israel on Mount Sinai. God kept Israel as they wandered through the desert for a generation. God granted many military victories—Jericho, Ai, etc.—that Israel should not have won. God gave them a king when they wanted one, even though it was not his first plan for them. In short, God was their life.
Now, God is refusing to speak to them. At times of national crisis, God would often raise prophets up to speak to Israel, and warn them that their sin would have consequences—unless they repented. Now, with Israel experiencing the greatest national crisis of all time, God’s prophet had no solution to offer. Israel was too wicked for too long. God’s mind is made up.
In this time of crisis, the priests would be equally useless. Everything they understood about God was tied to the land of Canaan, and the temple in Jerusalem. They would be completely unable to offer any spiritual advice with the temple destroyed. They would come to the conclusion that their God had abandoned them.
. . .
Reading the desperate situation of Israel makes me thankful for the way we communicate with God today. At Jesus’ death, God left the holy of holies in the temple (graphically symbolized by the curtain ripping from top to bottom). God now chooses to live in the hearts of his followers through his Holy Spirit. We can speak with God any time we want! The question now is not, “will God hear and answer us,” but, “will we take the time to speak with him?”
. . .
Lord God, thank you for hearing our prayers. Forgive us for the times we callously ignore you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.