OT: Ezekiel 1:1-3:15
Wow, we are about to venture into some serious weirdness. Here is what Harris has to say about our new book:
"A younger contemporary of Jeremiah, the priest-prophet Ezekiel was taken to Babylon during the first deportation of Judah's ruling classes in 597 BCE. Although tightly structured, with the oracles arranged in generally chronological order, Ezekiel's prophecies and mystical visions are filled with strange and grotesque images puzzling to modern readers." He goes on to say that "the symbols that Ezekiel evokes to describe his visions are at once so bizarre and so compelling that in medieval times Jewish teachers commonly forbade anyone under thirty years of age to read the book." Okay, so my birthday is coming up in just over a month, and instead of telling my age, I think I'm just going to tell people that I'm now old enough to read Ezekiel:). But more to the point, Wow! You have to be thirty just to read this book? And back then, thirty was "older" than it is today, right? Apparently, the Jewish scholars were worried that the book would "seduce young minds unready to venture into serious mysticism." I'm not even sure what that means! Harris further makes his point by declaring that "no other prophetic book int he Hebrew Bible, with the possible exception of Zechariah, features such hallucinatory material." Well. I'm ready to get this party started!
According to Harris, the first verse of today's reading indicates that the year is 593 BC, and he also notes that the "River Chebar" is actually "a large irrigation canal near the Euphrates River in Babylonia." It is in this year that Ezekiel receives a crazy vision involving four winged creatures, each with four faces, and each a mishmash of various animals, including man. They also each have these wheels that follow them, and there is a lot of fire and smoke and lightning involved. It's all very crazy, but so far, nothing that would "seduce" my young mind. One thing that Harris theorizes is that the "image of wheels within wheels having eyes along their rims probably represents Ezekiel's attempt to picture Yahweh among his heavenly servants in other than strictly anthropomorphic terms." I like that. I like the idea that Yahweh is not essentially anthropomorphic. I guess it is b/c I am often tempted to make God out to look a lot like me. Ezekiel's crazy imagery reminds me how different He is.
Of course, it is an anthropomorphic figure who gives Ezekiel the scroll and tells him to eat it. Despite the fact that the scroll is covered with "words of lament and mourning and woe," it goes down pretty easy, tasting "as sweet as honey in [Ezekiel's] mouth" (2:10, 3:3). God then tells Ezekiel that He is sending him to an obstinate people, but that He will make Ezekiel just as obstinate as them (but not in a bad way). Unlike Isaiah, Mr. "Here I am; send me," Ezekiel leaves "in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me" (3:14). He then sits near with the exiles near the river "for seven days--overwhelmed" (15). Then again, maybe that's not so odd. After all, that vision was a lot to take in!
NT: Hebrews 3: 1-19
The Hebrew writer continues to maintain Christ's supremacy, and I continue to be fascinated with his use of the OT. First, he compares Moses and Christ (2-5), which is makes perfect sense to me, but then he says quotes a psalm and says that the Holy Spirit says it (7). I thought that was interesting, and, like 2 Tim. 3:16, highlights that the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of scripture. In that light, the inspired Hebrew writer can apparently use OT scripture in ways that don't seem to fit with the immediate context of the scriptures themselves (see Heb. 1:5-13, 2:12-13). I'm not sure, but this might be an example of that sensus plenior stuff that I talked about earlier.
Today's reading also urges Christians to hold firm to the truth:
"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (12-13).
Psalm 104: 1-23
A praise psalm extolling the power of God, as witnessed in His awesome creation.
Three verses about the deceitfulness of a "malicious man."