“Are we on God’s side?”
has always been a better question than
“Is God on ours?”
— Jim Wallis (God’s Politics)
When Pelatiah died, as we read earlier, Ezekiel cried out in grief to God, “will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel” (11:13, NRSV)?
The last time Ezekiel blurted out his emotions before God, God reaffirmed his resolve to judge without mercy (9:8-10). Ezekiel had no reason to believe anything had changed, yet once more he dares to question God. This time, God’s response was different. His resolve to judge those in Jerusalem had not changed one bit. Ezekiel made the mistake of assuming that the remnant of Israel were those still living in Jerusalem.
. . .
We already saw what had happened back in Jerusalem. The powerful and affluent were taken into exile. This left a bunch of underlings who lept up the social ladder to fill the vacuum. They saw themselves as the blessed of God: the choice cuts of meat, or in our parlance, the “cream of the crop”.
Their main problem was that they mistook silence and circumstance for divine favor. They were no different from those who were deported, but pride led them to believe that God had chosen them to be the remnant of Israel. After all, Yahweh lived in Jerusalem, right?
. . .
Ezekiel suffered from this same misunderstanding of God’s presence. He would have formerly assumed that God lived in the temple. Therefore, those still in physical proximity to the temple had to be the remnant of Israel. God disagreed.
God told Ezekiel the truth: he was the sanctuary for the exiled Israelites. Symbolically, God’s glory was in the process of leaving the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. In reality, God had already been with the exiles in the foreign lands. The remnant of Israel were not those living in Jerusalem, they were those in exile—like Ezekiel.
. . .
There is so much truth here for us. God lives where we are. God lives within us. Our heart is his temple. We would also be right to say that he is our sanctuary wherever we are. Physical proximity to a “place of worship” means little, if anything, to God.
So, do we act like God is with us always—or do we behave like we leave him behind every Sunday afternoon in the church building? When we disobey God and receive no punishment, do we assume God didn’t see, or that somehow God just decided to overlook our sin?
. . .
Lord God, let us never mistake your silence for approval, or your patience for ignorance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.