OT: Ezekiel 12:1-14:11
Phew! Lots of things hit me in today's reading. The first, and perhaps most powerful thought for me personally, came after reading 12:11, where the Lord tells Ezekiel to, "Say to them, 'I am a sign to you.'" I have been thinking a lot about the role of the prophet, and mainly about how I would not want to be one! As I've read Isaiah, Jeremiah, and now Ezekiel, I have seen the degree to which prophets are just pawns in God's chess game (a phrase that I have repeated several times lately in real life). In other words, it is very obvious that they have a role that is more important than their lives, dreams, and personal happiness, and that role is to convey God's message to His people. And they are to convey that message in whatever way God sees fit. Have a kid, and name him this. Have another kid, and name him that. Go naked for three years. Lie on your side for years. Shave your head. Make a fool of yourself. Later, God has Hosea marry a prostitute, with whom he has a very tumultuous relationship, simply to give the Israelites a picture of His relationship with them. Reading all that from the perspective of my selfish humanity, I want to say to God, "These people are not your toys! A child is not a political statement! A marriage is not a metaphor! These are people's lives you are messing with here!"
But then I see the greater truth of the situation, which is backed up by the rest of Scripture. The prophets are not exceptions to humanity; they are just dramatic representations of the rule. I believe that the purpose of my life, of all of our lives, is to glorify God. My little hopes and dreams, and my personal happiness, strictly speaking, are irrelevant in light of God's greater purpose. His glory and His purposes are the main goal here, and we are pawns in His chess game, a game that seeks to achieve that goal. And as Christians, our job is to embrace that role, to embrace the fact that life is not about us but about God. Jesus came to teach us that truth, to teach us how to die to ourselves and to give ourselves over to God's purposes. And He also came to show us that when we do give ourselves over to God's will, that then we find life. Because true life is found in doing what you were designed to do, in fulfilling your purpose.
In light of that reasoning, I could see, for example, how God could have planned for my brother, Mike's, life and death to happen the way it did as just another way to achieve His purposes. I have no idea what those purposes were, but perhaps they include my family ministering to and witnessing to others as a result of that experience. I know that my mom, especially, has had some really powerful witnessing experiences resulting from Mike's death. Now, would she say that those experiences were worth his death? No, she would not. Neither would I. Just like I wouldn't say that a lot of the experiences of the prophets were worth the pay off. But...it's not my call. It's not my chess game. I am reminded of what Eli says when told about his impending death, or maybe the death of his sons. I don't know, I can't find the reference, but he basically says, "He is the Lord. Let him do what is right in his eyes." At the time, I was struck by Eli's resignation, but now I can kind of see the beauty of it.
But back to the verse itself, about the prophet being a sign to the people. From what I can recall, I don't know that Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel performed any miraculous signs when they prophesied (besides people dying as they spoke). Rather, their lives were the sign; God sent His message through their words and actions. Like them, we Christians today don't perform any miraculous signs, like Jesus and the apostles did. But like them, our lives are supposed to be the sign to others. Our actions are the signs. Like them, we are just normal people who are controlled by God's Spirit. And no, we don't have visions or dreams, but we do have God's Word, and we do have God's Spirit living inside us. And those two things should lead us into living a life that is very different from the lives of most people around us.
So it's funny. I have been feeling very sorry for the prophets, and I still wouldn't want their job, but I'm seeing more and more how I have their job. Thankfully, it is not as direct and dramatic, but there are definitely some big picture similarities between them and Christians today.
Wow, that took awhile to type. I had some other thoughts, but I'm going to shorten them. For one, I have begun to wonder where these false visions and false prophecies came from. I guess I've always assumed that the false prophets were just straight lying. Perhaps they were trying to curry favor with the king or with the people, or perhaps they wanted attention. I don't know; I didn't give it much thought. But two verses today made me think about it more thoroughly. In 12:24, Ezekiel prophesies that "there will be no more false visions or flattering divinations among the people of Israel." For some reason, it occurred to me today that maybe the false prophets weren't always just flat out lying. Perhaps they were deluding themselves into thinking that their visions were real. In 13:25, Ezekiel even says about the women, "therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination." So there is definitely the idea that people actually saw these visions. Since both visions mention divination, it may be that these visions sprang from a darker spiritual source (I don't know much about witchcraft at all, which is why that sentence is vague). Anyhow, the takeaway for me came from the idea that "the heart is deceitful above all things," and I wondered how susceptible Christians today are to such visions. Do I delude myself into thinking "Peace, peace," when there is no peace? Do I delude myself about the nature of the Christian life, the nature of what God expects from me, in order to make my ideas fit better with my own desires for comfort, security, and stability? Just some thoughts.
Okay, believe it or not, I have more to say (about the whitewashing metaphor in 13:10-16 and about God's motives as revealed in 14:5), but I really need to move on.
NT: Heb. 7:1-17
I forgot how detailed the Hebrew writer got about Melchizedek today. The whole reading was an exploration of this peripheral OT character and a fleshing out of the comparisons between him and Christ. What I found most striking was the way that the writer embraced the fact that we know so little about him. For example, he says that Melchizedek was "without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life," and because of that, "he remains a priest forever" just like Christ (3). Okay, so clearly, the historical Melchizedek had a father and mother, had a genealogy, had a beginning of days, and an end to his life. But the literary Melchizedek did not. The Mel that the Jews knew in Scripture did not have any of those things b/c they weren't recorded. So the author of Hebrews is really not using the real Melchizedek here at all. He is using the literary creation that resulted from the lack of details about the character. And it is that very lack of details that allows the Hebrew writer to compare him to Jesus. That is fascinating to me. It really shows the Hebrew writer's artistic angle. He definitely does not use the text of the OT in a way that any modern historian would approve of. But it seems clear that he doesn't even claim to. Half the time, when quoting the OT, he just says that "it is written somewhere." He makes no effort to cite his source! For him, though, the source doesn't matter. It doesn't matter who said it and in what context. He is re-contextualizing everything in the light of Christ. It's such a bold move! Can he even do that?
I guess he can, b/c he did:).
The third installment of this praise psalm that traces through Israel's history. And it takes quite a cheery approach to what was in reality a very tumultuous existence!
Regarding provocations by fools.