Ezekiel 22:1-16: Don’t Forget

Better to sleep in a house full
of adders and venomous beasts
than sleep in one sinne.
— William Fenner

Ezekiel is not the kind of book that reads like a novel. (You have probably guessed that by now!) Instead, it’s a collection of prophecies that God gave Ezekiel to deliver. Many of these prophecies are self-contained; meaning, they have their own internal structure and form. Chapter 22 is a good example of his.

Chapter 22 is God’s legal response to Jerusalem. The chapter is full of language and customs borrowed from the courtroom.

  1. In the first 16 verses, God indicts Jerusalem.
  2. In verses 17-22, God delivers his judgment on Jerusalem.
  3. In verses 23-31, God explains why he judged Israel—evoking many of the themes from the first 16 verses.

Let’s look at the first 16 verses now.

. . .

One of the biggest paradoxes in Christianity is the tension between moralism and morality. Moralism is the human-centred attempt to make God happy with you by living the way he wants you to. Morality is how we live in response to God’s grace (moralism=bad; morality=good). In life, however, these definitions constantly intermingle.

The maxim is true: we are saved by grace. Yet that grace should stir in us a loyalty and love for the person who offered it to us. God is faithful to us, we need to respond in faith to Him.

. . .

In many passages of Scripture, God clearly lists how he expects us to live. In the New Testament, we have the sin-lists of Paul. In the Old Testament, the prophets remind us. In God’s indictment of Jerusalem, there are 10 behavioural issues that God is concerned about:

  1. The leaders are guilty of shedding blood. While this most commonly refers to murder, it can also be a critique of improper worship (animal sacrifices that deal with blood). Whenever I read about murder and its punishment, I can’t help but remember Jesus words on the topic: “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; . . . But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22, NRSV).
  2. The people dishonour their parents. Honouring your parents is one of the ten commandments, and is therefore central in the moral consciousness of the Jewish people.
  3. Immigrants, orphans, and widows are extorted. God’s love for the underprivileged is a common thread that ties both testaments together.
  4. They broke the Sabbath. This is another of the ten commandments that Jerusalem was ignoring. Sabbath rest was meant to be a blessing and marker of God’s covenant people—and they were ignoring it to be like the surrounding nations.
  5. People slander others. This can be tied to the commandment against lying, but is more fully expressed throughout the Bible in the exhortations to avoid gossip.
  6. They participate in pagan ritual meals. This is what was meant by “those in you who eat upon the mountains” (v. 9, NRSV). Idolatry (spiritual adultery) is a perennial temptation.
  7. They indulged in a variety of sexual sins. You can read the list of particulars for yourself. The bottom line is that they ignored God’s guidelines for community life to indulge their own passions.
  8. They accept bribes for murder. Judges are commanded in Exodus 23:8 never to take a bribe. Bribery perverts justice.
  9. They extort their neighbours by charging too much interest. God made it clear in the Torah that the Israelite community was to be generous to each other.
  10. “You have forgotten me, says the Lord GOD” (v. 12, NRSV).  Ouch.

. . .

While trying to avoid lapsing into moralism, I believe that God still cares about the same sorts of things now that he did then.  This might be a good time to read through that list and think about how those same actions permeate our society, and even our lives.

. . .

Omniscient God, search my heart. Help me to live a godly life, in response to your costly gift. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 21:28-32 | Plot Changes

Ezekiel 22:17-22 | Fiery Furnace >

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