Ezekiel 8:1-4: Outrageous Jealousy

Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep,
You’ll cry and cry and try to sleep.
But sleep won’t come the whole night through,
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.
— Hank Williams (“Your Cheatin’ Heart” © 1952 by Fred Rose Music, Inc.)

Imagine a couple that have been married for 30 years. The husband is kind and very patient.  He has worked hard his whole life to provide for his wife.  One day the husband returns home with a special gift for his wife.  He has worked extra hours at the office, but it will all be worth it when he sees the expression on her face.  He enters the house and hears his wife call him from the bedroom.  As he enters he sees a new picture on her nightstand.

  • “What are you doing with Frank’s picture here?”
  • “Well, I kind of like the way he looks at me.  And we’ve been married a long time.  Why do you look so upset?”
  • “I made a covenant with you to be faithful, and I have never swayed from my promise.  How could you even consider this!”
  • “Relax, there’s no reason I can’t love both of you.”

This is what Israel did to God.

. . .

Ezekiel’s practice of laying on his side, staring at a miniature of besieged Jerusalem while cooking rationed food over cow dung has got him an audience. (I imagine it would still earn an audience today!) The elders of Judah were sitting in front of him when God’s hand fell heavy upon him.  God’s hand had been on him before, but this is the first time it has fallen with such force.

Ezekiel sees a vision of God—the same vision he had in chapter one.  That fiery person grabs Ezekiel by a lock of his hair, and supernaturally drags him in a series of visions to his homeland.

. . .

Standing right by the temple (that was supposed to be dedicated to the worship of Yahweh alone) was “the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy” (v. 3, NRSV).  This double use of the word jealousy serves an emphatic function.  Daniel I. Block translates this line as, “the outrageous statue of jealousy” (Ezekiel, NICOT, 1997).  There was an idol to a foreign god in the courts of the only real God!

When we compare God’s relationship with Israel to the relationship between a husband and wife (as is often done in scripture), we begin to realize how horrific a crime this is.  This was no mere dabbling in another culture’s art forms: this was adultery.

No wonder God grabbed Ezekiel by the hair.  He was acting like any betrayed lover would.  God is not some dispassionate deity who watches from his throne, aloof  in the heavens.  He is passionately involved in the daily lives of his creatures.

. . .

Passionate God, help us to understand how much you care for us.  When we feel like running to other priorities—other gods—drag us by our hair back to you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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