Today’s reading includes a chapter that is sometimes called the Bible’s pornographic chapter, the parable of Oholah and Oholobah. But the general theme of the section is about Israel’s abominations, Israel’s spiritual lewdness, and consequent wrath of God toward Israel. After reading so much judgment from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, I catch myself getting a bit weary of it and longing for more positive messages. I say “catch myself”, because I then remember that Israel was acting like an obstinate child being corrected by a parent, and I remember that sometimes we’re all a little deaf to judgment of God on sins that we like. Telling us about the real spiritual consequences of things that we do may not be pleasant, but they save our souls. The criticism, remember, is coming from Someone who loves us.
Contrary to her interest (22:3)
Whose interest is best served by obeying God’s commands? We may be tempted to think God’s interests, right? That’s Satan whispering in your ear, just like he whispered in the ear of poor Eve. Remember? “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:4, 5, NAS95) But he lied. It was really in the best interest Eve and Adam and their children to the present generation and beyond! Satan wants us to believe that God is the cosmic bully of the universe who wants everything His way — so resist, show Him that it’s not all about Him, stand up to “the man”! Ahem, that’s a lot like accusing the doctor that taking your medicine or submitting to surgery is all about him — OK, stand up to “the man” and die. Disobedience to God is not all about God, it’s about choosing death over life. God is pointing to life, and it’s in our best interest to follow.
Leacherous women (23:1-49)
We’re not used to hearing the term “leacherous” used as a descriptor of women, but it’s really the best description of the women Oholah and Oholobah — Israel and Judah. The four-letter word beginning with “s” in our vocabulary usually refers to a woman who will promiscuously engage in sex with any man, but usually for some monetary or prestige gain. Oholah and Oholobah were beyond that — they simply lusted for the “men” of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Ezekiel describes their passion to engage in adultery (usually a term reserved for idolatry) as being like a passionate sexual urge.
How foolish, we might think. We can’t image people doing things like that — but wait, don’t we sometimes throw ourselves at worldly activities with a similar passion? Fashion, sports, TV, movies, entertainment, hobbies, drugs, drink, parties, etc.? So what if we skip church to do them? So what if we allow it to consume our time and our lives that should be used for better reasons? So what if they lead farther and farther away from God? So what? A lot, that’s what. It matters.
And by the way, just in case you ever wondered, did you notice how God views “going to 2nd base”? “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; and they played the harlot in Egypt. They played the harlot in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and there their virgin bosom was handled.” Ezekiel 23:2, 3, NAS95. God labeled it harlotry. Yes, there’s more to sexual immorality than technical sexual penetration.
The death of Ezekiel’s wife
Sometimes the death of a loved one can have a meaning beyond the mere harsh reality of death. I rather doubt that God just decided to take her life to make a point to the exiles (although God is God and can do as He desires — we’ll let God tell us about that later in Heaven). Perhaps she had been ill for a while. But the time of her death gave the LORD a chance to make a point. I’ve known the deaths of friends of mine to have made a powerful statement to those who knew and loved them — not that God deliberately caused them to die to make His point to others, but the occasion of their death, the lives they lived, the reflection upon the meaning of life, and even (as in Ezekiel’s case) how loved ones may be dealing with it is often more powerful than 100 sermons.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.