In order to promote a sentimentalized love
we try to excuse God
from everything that might cause us to fear him.
— Gerhard O. Forde (On Being a Theologian of the Cross)
Imagine yourself as one of Ezekiel’s contemporaries in Babylon. You already have reason to believe that the priest-turned-prophet is a few fries short of a happy meal. In fact, he spent the last evening digging a hole through the wall of his own house in order to crawl through with a refugee’s bag. We’re already refugees. We’re already in foreign lands. We cannot be exiled from exile!
Now, with exaggerated motions, watch Ezekiel sit in front of the crowd eating his bread and drinking his water while shaking profusely. Truth be told, he’s spilling more than he’s drinking. This must be some new object lesson from God—whom he claims to talk to even though we’re miles away from the temple where Yahweh lives.
. . .
The hardheaded rebellion of the people is a common refrain in Ezekiel. The refugees cannot manage to understand why they have been exiled. God, in an effort to break through their willful ignorance, ordered Ezekiel to perform simple object lessons to teach them. Eating bread and drinking water while shaking was the latest lesson.
The shaking was not meant to symbolize sickness or to invoke some strange comedic effect. The shaking represented fear. Like Ezekiel, the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be huddling around meager rations while shaking in fear of their enemies.
Why would they fear? God told Ezekiel plainly: “on account of the violence of all those who live in it [Jerusalem]” (v. 19, NRSV). Once again, God judged the Jerusalemites in the same manner in which they had sinned. They were violent; they would suffer violence. Once again, God is just.
. . .
A professor at seminary once told our class that the Christian has two options when it comes to fear. She can (1) fear God, and no one else; or (2) choose not to fear God, but end up fearing everyone else in stead. Whom to do you fear?
. . .
Lord of All, help us to fear you above everything you have created. In Jesus’ name, Amen.