Ezekiel 20:27-32: Following Suit

It’s easy to vilify the enemy
and claim that we are on the side of God and good.
But repentance is better.
— Jim Wallis (God’s Politics)

The parody of Israel’s history is over. Israel was rebellious in Egypt, as well as the first and second generation of desert wanderers. Now Ezekiel has skips over large tracts of Israel’s history—conquest and kingship—and gets right to the point: Will you act like your ancestors?

. . .

The ancestors were bad. In case the exiles didn’t fully understand the situation, Ezekiel offered another brief list of sins:

  • “Wherever they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices
  • and presented the provocation of their offering;
  • there they sent up their pleasing odors,
  • and there they poured out their drink offerings.” (v. 28, NRSV)

The depth of Israel’s depravity is blunt: she couldn’t pass up even one opportunity to sin! If there was a hill or tree around, she would disrespect Yahweh by offering sacrifices to human inventions of “wood and stone” (v. 32, NRSV).

The question rings out: “Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your ancestors” (v. 30)? You’ve seen what they did; will you follow suit? This question is incredibly life-giving. It evokes the argument from chapter 18: it didn’t matter what your ancestors did, you will be judged by your own actions. God listed the sins of their ancestors clearly through the mouth of Ezekiel. Now he waits for their response.

. . .

In case the exiles were harboring some illusions that they didn’t sin like their ancestors, God listed some correlations to leave them without excuse:

“When you offer your gifts and make your children pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day” (v. 31, NRSV).

How dare they presume to approach God in that state? The Di Neroesque question from 20:3 is repeated in v. 31: “You talkin’ to me?”

. . .

There is hope to come, and v. 32 gives us a quick glimmer of it: “What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone’” (NRSV). Beneath judgment lies the steely determination of Yahweh’s love.

No matter how determined Israel is to worship idols, God is even more determined to grab them by the ears and turn their faces back to their true Creator. This love is tough, but profound.

. . .

Patient God, when I forget you, when I turn to other interests, please do whatever it takes to set my eyes back on you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 20:1-26 | Three Movements

Ezekiel 20:33-44 | Tough Love >

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