Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 4

OT: Ezekiel 10:1-11:25

Apparently, Ezekiel's vision from yesterday didn't contain any actual images of slaughter. God tells the cherubim to slaughter the wicked of the city, but they don't actually do it in the vision. In fact, it doesn't appear that they do much at all, though at the end of the reading, the glory of the Lord does leave the premises (11:23).

Regarding the cherubim, here is a quick, disposable thought. Harris remarks that Ezekiel's vision of the cherubim resembles some of the statues that were around palaces in Babylon (for an example, see picture here). I don't know if those statues are related to Ezekiel's vision, but if they are, it occurs to me that perhaps God meets people where they are and appears to us in forms that they can recognize, forms that will resonate with them. (This thought was loosely inspired by The Shack, by the way, so make of that what you will).

But back to the departure of God's Spirit. Harris has something interesting to say about that:

"Ezekiel then sees the 'glory of Yahweh' rise from its traditional seat between the gold cherubim in the Temple's innermost sanctuary and pass through the city gates tot he east. This strange event is probably meant to show that Yahweh's kavod (a Hebrew term that can be translated as 'glory' or 'influence') has permanently abandoned the Temple and now roams the world, operating in new and unpredictable ways. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel realized that Yahweh did not need a material shrine in which to house his presence, nor would he protect a sanctuary that had been contaminated. With Yahweh's departure from the Temple, he could be with his people anywhere, including idolatrous Babylon."

I like how Harris suggests that the departure might have two distinct elements to it. On the one hand, it was a symbol of the contamination of the Temple. On the other hand, it was a reminder that Yahweh was everywhere, even with the people in exile.

Anyhow, a slaughter doesn't ensue. Instead, the vision ends, and Ezekiel is instructed to prophesy to some of the leaders who are leading Israel astray. While he is prophesying, one of them dies (13). Wow. Surely that grim event helped prove Ezekiel's point!

One small thing I didn't understand was the metaphor that everyone kept using about the meat and the pot. Jaazaniah and Pelatiah kept telling people that "this city is a cooking pot, and we are the meat" (11:3). See, to me, that sounds bad. It sounds like you will get cooked in the city and then eaten. And yet, apparently, it is meant to be good. Ezekiel disagrees with the phrase and says that instead, the city is the pot, and "the bodies you have thrown [in the street] are the meat" (7). What? I have no idea what that means.

Ezekiel concludes with a prophecy promising restoration to a remnant.

NT: Hebrews 6:1-20

The Hebrew writer hit several different points in this section:

--Elementary teachings are clearly defined as repentance from sin, "faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" (1-2). In other words, the bare bones of the gospel. Now, laying on of hands is something that my church doesn't do today, with the understanding that it was an "apostles only" type of thing. And I don't know why "baptisms" is plural. Other than that, though, I can see that all of those things really are elementary teachings.

--In 4-6, the Hebrew writer sets forth the interesting idea that a Christian who falls away cannot be restored. Not only does this idea fly in the face of the "once saved, always saved" mentality, it also buts up against my own understanding of repentance. Surely a true Christian who falls away can come back, right? Are these verses saying that they can't? I feel like I've known people who have wandered from the truth and then returned. Of course, most of those who pop in my mind might question whether they were actually Christians the first time around, but still. Those verses left me with a few questions.

--In verses 7-14, the writer exhorts his audience to be diligent in doing good.

--In 16-20, there was a lot of talk about oaths that kind of went over my head.

Psalm 105:16-36

In this continuation of yesterday's psalm, the psalmist focuses on God's work while the Israelites were in Egypt, from Joseph to Moses.

Proverbs 27:1-2

Against boasting about tomorrow and tooting your own horn.

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