reflections in Ezekiel 33-34.
The last time the Lord called Ezekiel a watchman over the house of Israel was when He called him: when the Lord set him on his feet, set His Spirit in his bones, and said, “Speak what I say to you, no matter what they hear or refuse to hear.” He says the same things here, as the sword (unbeknownst to those in exile with Ezekiel) advances upon Jerusalem. Ezekiel has warned them, yet even still he must keep warning them, because they are still so blinded by their sin—as we are—and are asking—as we are—“How then shall we live?”
The way we ask it is more nuanced, more direct: “Why do I still sin?” We know the answers, yet we struggle, inaudibly whispering, “How then shall I live?” Not thinking that we are worthy, valuable to God, forgiven by Him, but that we are still so sin-sick, sin-stained, sin-stuck. But the answer for Israel—the answer for us—the trumpet from the watchtower sounds, saying, “Turn and live.” Turn, and find your life abundant in Him. That’s what He says to us when our restless hearts stir with longing for MORE, longing for life, longing to know purpose and meaning beyond the sin we still keep stumbling in.
And that’s exactly what He says to His scattered sheep here. The stumbling block of sin has been left by their wicked shepherds, who didn’t care to turn away and live. And their sheep suffered the consequences. But God says, “I will rescue my flock.” This word rescue caught my attention; in Hebrew, it floored me:
Yasha—to rescue, to deliver, to savefrom the Arabic: to make wide, spacious, sufficient; to be or to live in ABUNDANCEto be liberated, saved, placed in FREEDOM; to be victoriousto save from moral troubles (only in Ezekiel)
This is what He shall do. Through a Savior, through the lineage of David, and through a fully restored intimacy like His people—we—have never known before, through a new covenant of peace.
And what a beautiful covenant it is, laid out before them here, full of promises and hope and blessing for the future.
But then, the words skid at the end, a stark shift from future to present tense, like a rough gear change that grinds and churns as the car engine dies out. When that happens, you’re stuck, suddenly more aware of your harshness, your shifting hand’s clumsiness on the stick, your foot’s jerky movements over the clutch. You’re jerked into a shuddering stop. And you have to restart the car, reignite the engine, reshift into first, second, etc, all the while, more aware of what you’re doing.
Maybe that’s what God was doing here, too. Skidding us to an awareness, a patch of black ice to wake our sleepy eyes up on a late-night drive. All this will happen, this covenant of peace will come, your future will be secure, your hope will be certain. You will have a place to land after all this.
But for now, for this moment, as reality skids and stutters and dies and all you have are questions, shaking hands and stopped up ears—hear this, He says, be reminded that this, right here, right now, this is who you are: “You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God.”
As we fidget and fumble our questions about the future like a game of Jenga, each unsteady block a question mark, taunting, leaning, towering—what will I do? what does God want of me? what is ahead of me?—God draws us back, to let the pieces scatter, the engine die, to rest in who we already are, and forever will be: His.
Let that simple belonging silence the thoughts that threaten to tumble.
Say to the lies: You do not define me. I know who I am. I am His. And He is mine.
And that’s truth enough to know how to live.