Power can be an extremely destructive thing in any context,
but in the service of religion it is downright diabolical.
— Richard Foster (The Challenge of the Disciplined Life)
You know you’re approaching a profound section of scripture when the section heading (at least in my NRSV) reads, “Miscellaneous Regulations”. Nothing warms the soul and enlightens the mind quite like a healthy helping of miscellaneous regulations from the Old Testament.
To make things worse, these miscellaneous regulations didn’t belong to the glorious Torah that Yahweh gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai—not even as a footnote! They were a restatement—and in some cases, a revision—of what God told Moses.
And it’s that revisionary aspect that makes them interesting. Since they are miscellaneous regulations, I’ll draw two quite unrelated miscellaneous thoughts from them.
. . .
The first thing I found interesting was the severely curtailed role of the prince in the religious realm. Sure, he can enter the eastern gateway of the inner wall to observe the rituals of the inner court, but he can enter no further than the gate post where he must fall on his face in the presence of God.
In the ancient world (like todays to many people’s chagrin), politics and religion were not divorced. The king was often considered son of God or another form of the deity. That was not to be the case in Ezekiel’s restored temple. The prince could be found on his face in the doorway while the true worship of God proceeded beyond his influence.
It is always worth taking the time to ask how church and state are related today. Does true worship of God continue, regardless of the state—or has the church so endorsed public policy that true worship is a secondary matter to foreign policy and politicking?
. . .
The other thing I found fascinating was the boldness with which Ezekiel completely revised Moses’ Torah. Listing all the changes would be tedious here, but they involve the number and types of animals offered as well as the amount of oil and wine. Even the number of sacrifices per day was freely changed from every morning and evening (in Moses’ Torah) to the morning only (in Ezekiel’s Torah).
Ezekiel heard from God, and relayed the information to the exiles who needed renewed hope in their horrible situation. What would we do in his shoes? Would we question why God was changing the rules? Would we be too afraid of the people to relay the information?
I’m not suggesting that God is telling us to ignore the Bible in exchange for something completely different. There is continuity between Moses and Ezekiel. I wonder, however, if what God spoke could have radically new and hope-filled meanings in our era of self-imposed exile?
. . .
Lord God, speak to us again. Wake us from our exile. In Jesus’ name, Amen.