A HOLY INTOLERANCE
Mighty God, in You I find completeness and wholeness. Guide me in the way everlasting.
Read EZEKIEL 22:23–31
23 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has not been cleansed or rained on in the day of wrath.’ 25 There is a conspiracy of her princes[a] within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26 Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says’—when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.
30 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
a Ezekiel 22:25 Septuagint; Hebrew prophets
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“It does seem in the Scriptures that God has a preference for those the world calls ‘nothing,’ and that he chooses them to be the ones through whom he makes his truth clearly known” (Tony Campolo, b. 1935).
This Scripture is no mere opinion written by a discerning journalist. It is “the word of the Lord” (1), given to a man brave enough to speak the unspeakable. Ezekiel the priest, deeply knowledgeable in the law, may well have grieved over the appalling misbehavior of his colleagues (26), but it was Ezekiel the prophet who had to speak these words. It was God’s grief he was compelled to articulate. This required courage, because these were not words of false comfort and hope, but of condemnation and judgment upon God’s people.
God condemned the predatory behavior of Jerusalem’s kings, and the graphic language of Ezekiel’s description of their cannibalistic behavior echoes the words of Micah (3:1–3). Their disregard of the lives and rights of ordinary people is mimicked by their underlings, who likewise are driven by greed and exploit their power and influence to their own advantage (27). The prophets, instead of speaking God’s word into the situation, prostituted their vocation and curried favor with those in power (28). Not surprisingly, the corrupt behavior of kings, priests, bureaucrats and prophets is copied by ordinary people (29). Corruption at the top permeates the whole of society.
Another inevitability is that it is the weak and powerless who suffer, those who have influence in high places, including migrants and refugees (29). Folk at the bottom of the socio-economic heap are denied justice, however, and it is impossible to exaggerate the significance of this. Ezekiel, like other prophets before him, reminds us that the “poor and needy” (29) have influence in the highest place of all. It is, after all, God who is speaking through Ezekiel, and God who is acting as their advocate. Jesus later appropriated this advocacy role (Luke 4:18,19), something with immense implications for his Church.
Ponder this prayer: “Lord, in how many ways does my foolish heart make false distinctions among Your people? Reveal them to me… Rebuke me in Your love” (Max Lucado, b. 1955).
Lord, You see through all my pretense and deception. Take it away, I pray. Cleanse me from my sin and continue to make me anew.