Three men and a deity

Ezekiel 14:12-23
A group of church leaders once visited me while I was in seminary. From time to time, they would check in on those of us in school. While we shared lunch, someone asked me if I had read anything interesting. As it turned out, that morning I had finished an article that wondered if the prophet Ezekiel was on drugs.

If you’ve never read the book of Ezekiel that might be a strange question. If you have read it, you know why it isn’t.

There have been legitimate, scholarly inquiries into Ezekiel’s mental well-being. Theologians wonder where his visions really came from. Psychologists wonder what voices he actually heard. Was the prophet on edge? Did he have mental health issues? I have no idea. I’ll let the experts decide.

All that to say, the book of Ezekiel makes for an interesting read.

Considering Ezekiel’s circumstances, we can appreciate what he is saying. There’s no room in his message for quaint pleasantries or trite calls for rapprochement. Ezekiel is a prophet of the exile. He had known what was in store for the people of God. His visions, then, are vivid announcements of God’s judgment against them.

Quite frankly, the people loved their idolatry more than their God. And there was no way to avoid the consequences of their stiff-necked disobedience. Although, I imagine they thought they could. Perhaps they would call on God to remember the moments of righteousness of people like Noah, Daniel and Job. Scripture affirms they, indeed, were righteous figures. But God says, “even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they would save neither son nor daughter; they would save only their own lives by their righteousness.”

That language takes us back to Abraham. He pleaded with God to not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. What if you found fifty, forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty or even if only ten righteous people there? God responds to righteousness with mercy.

That is, the people had strayed so far from God, no one else was considered righteous, apparently. Why did the Lord have to bring to mind such grand, perhaps older examples? In Ezekiel’s hypothetical case, mercy would extend to the righteousness of Noah, Daniel or Job only. Now, none of this has anything to do with the conversation of working our way to heaven or doing things to get God on our side. The reality was the people would not be able to rely on them for salvation.

This all speaks to the importance of righteousness. It matters to God. And there’s hope that Ezekiel offers as well. Sons and daughters would be brought out of God’s judgment. Their righteous example will speak to the people. They will show them the difference between disobedience and righteousness. Even after judgment, God’s desire for righteousness does not subside.

It’s scary to think how much of Ezekiel’s message to Israel seems to apply to us today. How much of the church today has confused God’s sense of righteousness with self-righteousness? Do we cling to our fabricated notions of tradition and heritage while ignoring the reality of how far we’ve turned from a devoted life to God? 

As crazy as his visions and activities look to us, may we receive Ezekiel’s words as a wake-up call. A call to recenter our lives around God’s righteousness.

Stay blessed…john