Again the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has not been cleansed or rained on in the day of wrath.’ There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 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. Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 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. The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice. “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. 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 .” – Ezekiel 22:23-31
Ezekiel is once again called upon in this passage to share a less than flattering word picture of the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel, and its leaders, are compared to “a lion tearing its prey”. Now there were probably those within the community that took this as a complement and an apt description of the way they were used to doing business. The people of Israel are not comfortable with their role as sheep being led by a Shepard – they would prefer to be lions in control of their own destiny. There are many modern day God-seekers who have a similar problem – myself included at times. Our culture likes winners and those who come across much more like lions than lambs.
The water comes into this passage when God describes the nation as “You are a land that has not been cleansed or rained on in the day of wrath.” This seems to be saying something a little confusing. The people are not treating God with respect yet He is staying His wrath. Why? Why not blast them and be done with it? I suspect it the same reason we would not even imagine visiting wrath on our own children when they are doing something wrong. There is a mixture of love and maybe even a sense of responsibility for the child’s actions. How old does a child have to be before they can be considered the master of their own decisions? How many times does a nation have to mess up to before it grabs a clue and begins to make better choices? It is a good thing that God is patient and has decided to extend His arm and stay His wrath for us rebellious sheep.
The passage suggests that even those who have been given the task of leading the nation spiritually, the priests, are lost in the weeds of greed and idolatry, “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” This sounds eerily like the times in which we are living now. It seems sometimes that the idea of things being holy or set apart has “gone out of style” and it is very difficult to distinguish the clean from the unclean, or the bad from the good. All seems to be mixed together into a grey goo of confusion where no one is able to discuss the objective good or bad of almost any choices we make.
The earthly leaders are not faithfully following God any better than the religious leaders, and are using their power, and view from the top, to do evil rather than good. There is a sense that the leaders are taking advantage of those less fortunate than themselves. They are being “unjust” and acting like wolves rather than shepherds. They are even putting words in God’s mouth, “this is what the Sovereign Lord says’—when the Lord has not spoken”. This happens with modern day God followers too when they allow our worship and relationship with God to become encrusted with damaging traditions and dogma.
In the end God looses his patience and says that He will rain down his wrath on them because He has not found anyone to “stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land”. Fortunately for all of us who are still messing up like those in the passage God has found someone to “stand in the gap” for us, Jesus.
Prayer: God thank you for extending Your arm to save us even as we continue to mess up and confuse bad for good.