Hello friends! Today we continue our time of reading of Ezekiel. I must admit that I really struggled with today's reading - I found much of the imagery used by Ezekiel to be with good intentions but also a biblical defense for abuse. So this is both said up front as a warning as you enter the text that Ezekiel uses some graphic language of a marriage gone awry to describe the relationship between God and Israel. Secondly, this is an opportunity for you to minister to me...help me find the good news in today's reading. Maybe something positive will stick out to you, or, a personal experience of yours will mesh with the text that would be willing to witness about. Share that privately or in the comments if you're okay with that.
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about God? (Or, what aspect of God does this reading highlight?)
What does this reading reveal was happening at the time for the author? In other words, what clues does this reading give that was "topic" of the town at the time?
What about this reading feels applicable to today? What does it inspire me to do?
- My Thoughts -
Alright, few thoughts that I have on this one and as mentioned above, they aren't necessarily positive today. I appreciate what Ezekiel is trying (but horribly failing) to do here by comparing God as a husband to Israel. It helps make God more relatable for people, and helps to make God more personal. To think of our relationship with God as we would with our own spouse adds a layer of "guilt" when we consider how "unfaithful" we have been with our church attendance or how active we have participated in our faith rather than just "consume" it for our own benefit. it's a strong metaphor. 10/10 zeek keep it up.
BUT, then the sermon turns sour. Dang it Zeek.
Ezekiel then describes God as an angry husband who "punishes" his wife and "covers her with blood in my fury." (Ezekiel 16:38) Further, according to Ezekiel, God "gives you what you deserve" (Ezekiel 16:59) but then takes the manipulative approach of love to say " but one day I will restore my love for you." (Ezekiel 16: 60) but you will be filled such shame for how awful you were for how good I am to you (Ezekiel 16: 63 - a paraphrase by me for effect.)
Ok, where to even start...uhm. First, to hell with all of this. I've known and seen too many relationships that were abusive and manipulative to know that this is exactly what is being described above. This wouldn't be as big of an issue if this was Ezekiel just being a piece of crap to his wife, but by using the metaphor of GOD being a piece of crap to Israel now causes an avalanche of problems. It permits "biblically grounded" families to read stuff like this and reinforce the awful and archaic belief that the man is the lead of the household and he can do what he wants as the leader. (Stop. That.) It permits abusive relationships by saying "Well look, God did it, so I'm just giving you the same fury that God gave Israel." and further permits this awful type of abuse by "justifying it" as if the abuser is the true victim here. "I don't want to hurt you but your actions are leading to this." Shame is never the right answer and shame is never the best teacher. Shame is an awful thing to do to anyone, and I truly do not think that God would support shame or vengeance in a covenant relationship. In other words, I do not believe that this is "the real God" speaking. I believe this is a frustrated (and potentially heartbroken and angry) Ezekiel addressing the proliferation of prostituion and adultery happening in Babylon rather than giving a sermon. As a preacher it's the constant reminder to check my emotions when declaring God's word as truth.
If you, or someone you know is in a relationship like this I NEED you to hear this - it is not right. It is not love. It is not normal. They are not "saving" you and you cannot "save" them. Run, and run like hell and find the life that you deserve. Call the church office and we can help you or them.
I want to be clear, as much as I was uncomfortable with this reading I DO think there is a strong image in the idea of God as a spouse/partner. I do think it's a powerful way to personify God and what we should expect of our faith. We expect our partner to be engaged, listening, active, and involved in the relationship. God expects the same, and the church provides the opportunities to do those things.
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 190 in our United Methodist Hymnal - Who Is He in Yonder Stall. I invite you to listen, hum, sing, or recite the words as you consider who Christ is in your own hearts. Lyrics beneath the video. :)
1. Who is he in yonder stall at whose feet the shepherds fall?
Refrain: 'Tis the Lord, O wondrous story! 'Tis the Lord, the King of glory; at his feet we humbly fall, crown him, crown him Lord of all!
2. Lo, at midnight who is he prays in dark Gethsemane? [Refrain]
3. Who is he in Calvary's throes asks for blessings on his foes? [Refrain]
4. Who is he that from the grave comes to heal and help and save? [Refrain]
5. Who is he that from yon throne rules the world of light alone? [Refrain]