Ezekiel was the first book of the Bible I ran through with a one volume commentary. The notes on the text itself were entered directly into my Bible as marginal notes. In a notebook I jotted down comments regarding the relevance to life today as I saw it at that time. I started with Ezekiel because I knew so little about it, and found that within the denomination I was working at the time it was pretty well written off to those of a more evangelical persuasion. I figured "it's all up from here".
Once I got into the text, I discovered that it was a record of the ministry of the first minister to the Exiles just after they arrived in Babylon, that is, during their adjustment period in a new culture and context. The text just jumped off the page for me because at the time I was working as a minister on a remote First Nation's reservation with a population of about 1000 who at the time operated primarily in Oji-Cree, with about fifty English speaking outsiders working there besides myself. There were differences of course between our two situations, but there was also a great deal of overlap, and I felt a lot of appreciation for Ezekiel's ministry at the time. When I was finished working my way through the book, I felt "If this is the bottom, I'm in for a great journey." Indeed I was. These are the unedited notes I jotted down at the time regarding the perceived relevance of the book of Ezekiel.
Chapter 1 – Key ideas of his theology here:
- transcendence of God
- God's glory
- God is a spirit
- God is mobile versus limited to Temple – visits his people
- God’s controlling power
deity – muted description – human form? Our “best” conception if we must use concrete terms?
3:5ff – Pick up some time regarding culture/linguistic differences and the word of God – interestingly enough the cross-cultural situation would have “success”. What is it then that makes for a pagan or a people's reception of the word? We may rule out cross-cultural ministry but from what is said here does God necessarily rule it out? What does it say about individual specific calls to labour in God's vineyard? God’s call is away from “success” here. God's perception of his servant and his advice to him.
(In our situation it is the feeling of cultural inferiority and superiority that is the problem. – later, there will be room for “missionaries” again.)
3:16ff – The weight of ministerial (pastoral) responsibility. The aids to work he gives in terms of binding his servant from untimely comments – wasting his tongue by babbling on, on any old thing thereby diminishing his effectiveness? In :25 it appears that the people will restrict his movement and God will restrict his tongue – relevance for the pastor or prophet within a community of people God selects for him (sometimes)?
5:13ff – Ezekiel seems to have monitored God's hand in world affairs and viewed it in light of his understanding of God's activity – wrath needing to be spent – what does this say about the “slow to chide, plenteous in mercy”? Is God ever angry like this “today”? If time is a man-made phenomenon, then God is ever the same – how about our understanding of him?
11:12ff – God's people are to be light to the nations – and are to take their cues from God, not the nations.
11:14ff – God not man chooses the remnant and the stock from which his true spiritual people will grow – it's all along God’s solution to the human situation of sin and only a spiritual route will do – and yet note that “very human” servant of II Isaiah.
15:5 – quality before testing and purging (stress) has something to do with a person's reaction to it. A counterbalance to the “salvation in midst of stress” themes. Just at what point must a person make his/her response? Wait till the stress? Maybe too late.
16:59ff – note the effect of God's grace. The “heap of burning coals” syndrome. Not on account of any faithfulness to the covenant on their part.
17:22ff – “God the Forrester” – his transplants will work. Because they draw their spiritual life-blood from him? Messianic view? To what extent does Christ fulfill this type of expression? – in three dimensions of time?
18 – the nature of personal responsibility before God. No carryover generation to generation or past to present – either way – it's how you present yourself now to God. God's desire and ultimate goals are perceived very clearly in this chapter and come with reassurance and challenge. (They are blaming their fathers for their troubles but had only themselves to blame). The problem in seeing this is in man's “justice” not God's.
20:48 – the first (?) Of the reflections of a minister on himself and his role and “success”. He's getting some feedback on God's output through him (and method). So God explains in: 21.
24:25f – God's preparation for Ministry to a stricken people – on the days of their numbness he came through his own grief made deep through like adversity “honed” up by God to fill the breach (?) (check this out later in light of the rest of the book as I go through it) and refute in season.
25:3 – the sin of gloating over the misfortunes of God's people and house and scoffing at God's redeeming work.
25:8 – the sin of disclaiming God's covenant relation with his people – or not recognizing its actual existence.
29:17ff – the payment for services rendered to God does not seem to be denied even pagan instruments of God.
33:1-9 – the minister's responsibility is to sound the warning not to make the various individual's responses to it. That responsibility is not required of him. But if he doesn't warn -- then that is required of him. In this context it's a warning of a return to justice by human beings – they hear of God's love but will soon learn of God's admixture of justice therein.
36:22f – salvation – the gift of God, for his own reasons and purposes, initiated when he wills – the flipside of a salvation “worked out in fear and trembling”.
37:11ff – the loss of hope amongst the children of God is ministered to by God through his prophet. The promise of a new flesh on the old bones and a reminder of a larger picture than their exile days. Sometimes within the events of the overall activity of God we lose a sense of direction – yet God doesn't and here we see him giving some perspective to his people.
43:6 – interesting that using a church as a crypt is seen as distracting from the working relationship of the restored people – I wonder about the other uses we make of the church building as a “museum”– especially secular kings?