Ezekiel 9:1-7: Judgment Begins

Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is.
Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.
— G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)

The time for talking is over.  God’s love constrains him to act.

Ezekiel witnessed atrocities that made his priestly blood curdle:

  1. There was a statue in God’s court that provoked outrageous jealousy.
  2. 70 civic leaders of Jerusalem were found worshiping every god under the sun.
  3. Women were weeping the Tammuz, in honour of a mythical god.
  4. A group of people turned their backsides to God’s temple as they bowed before the sun.

Centuries of wickedness would be punished in a moment. God shouts, and his six executioners ready their weapons for the massacre.  They gather at God’s bronze alter, which had been moved to the corner—ironically, to make room for Ahaz’s pagan alter.

God’s commands were simple and direct:  “Slaughter everyone who does not have my mark on them.  Start at the temple—where the wickedness is most manifest.  Pile the dead bodies in the temple: I’m  leaving.”

. . .

A seventh man arrived with the six executioners.  He looks out of place.  In place of armor: linen—the type of fabric that was used to clothe priests and angels.  In place of a weapon: a writing case.  His role was to go through Jerusalem ahead of the executioners, and to place a mark on the forehead of everyone who moans and groans over the wickedness of their city.

The mark was more significant than a simple “X”—the kind of mark a triage nurse would put on an accident victim needing immediate care.  This mark was a tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  When written in cursive script, it formed a cross.  In ancient times, it was often used as a symbol of ownership.  God owned these people—they didn’t belong to the executioners.

What did it take to receive this life-saving mark?  You had to be a person who moaned and groaned over the spiritual state of Jerusalem.  Ezekiel uses these same words later to label the grief he felt when his wife died!  This is not a group of old men leaning against the local coffee shop complaining about the state of the world.  These are people whose hearts were rent at the wickedness around them.

. . .

How does evil in the church make you feel?  When you see greedy pseudo-evangelists grasping for money, does it make you sick—or do you laugh it off?  When a church covers up scandalous action  to save face in their community, do you play along or cry out?  Does sin in God’s church anger you?

I’m not talking about wickedness in the world at large.  Israel knew better—the surrounding nations were not being punished.  The church knows better—we must not condemn the world in our self-righteous fury.

“The time has come for judgment to begin with the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17, NRSV).

. . .

Righteous Lord, let us see sin through your eyes.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 8:16-18 | Solar Cult

Ezekiel 9:8-11 | Intercession >

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One Response to Ezekiel 9:1-7: Judgment Begins

  1. Robin August 25, 2014 at 8:01 am #

    “The time for talking is over. God’s love constrains him to act.”

    I had to stop briefly at the word “constrain” and look it up, because it can mean more than one thing, opposite things, in fact:

    con·strain
    -severely restrict the scope, extent, or activity of; synonyms: restrict, limit, curb, check, restrain, contain, rein in, hold back, keep down;
    -compel or force (someone) toward a particular course of action (your intended use of the word, I assume); synonyms: compel, force, drive, impel, oblige, coerce, prevail on, require;
    -cause to appear unnaturally forced, typically because of embarrassment; synonyms: unnatural, awkward, self-conscious, forced, stilted, strained.

    Apparently, the word “constrain” comes from from the Latin word “constringere” to constrict, constrain, from com- + stringere to draw tight

    I’m not sure if you were aware of how loaded the word you chose was, but the feelings that it evokes may be a small picture of the heart of God at the time. There is a tightness in the chest, knowing that grave trespasses have been committed, being angered and greatly offended by them, knowing that, by law and by rights, those trespasses have to be punished. God HAD to act, not to save face, not because he was embarrassed or because the Israelites made him look bad, but because what they were doing was abominable and the wages of sin is ALWAYS death (Romans 6:23): the two cannot be separated. Was God just being legalistic? NO! I think what compelled him more than anything was that deep love for his people (how’s that for conflict?). He would do anything (legally) to save them, even if it meant suffering, not only for them, but also for himself.

    I can’t imagine the gut-wrenching that goes on within God’s Being, over his people, present company included. He must cut the cancer of sin and death that takes root and grows within us, and that causes great pain in both of us. And yet, he is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

    For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
    weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

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