Ezekiel by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling (1510)
I think that the prophet Ezekiel is one of the more esoteric and mysterious figures in the Bible. We know of the enigmatic opening chapter. We are familiar with chapter 36, “The Valley of the Dry Bones,” which prophecies the rebirth of the nation of Israel after almost 2,600 years of exile, pogroms, domination by gentile and Muslim nations of the world and the Holocaust, yet God remembered His promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), God redeemed the Jewish people and brought them back to the Promised Land of Israel as a nation on May 14, 1948.
According to theologian Charles Ryrie, Ezekiel was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom (Judah) between the years 592-570 B.C. Ezekiel’s ministry was to keep before the exiles the sins which had brought God’s judgment on them and to assure them of God’s future blessing of redemption in keeping with His covenant.
Throughout the book of Ezekiel you find the leitmotiv of redemption. In chapter 16, “The Parable of the Adulterous Woman” conveys this strong theme:
… And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.
None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.
And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live …
According to Ryrie, this chapter depicts Israel as an unfaithful wife. Her sin is described in verses 3-34, her punishment in verses 35-52, and her redemption in verses 53-63. Israel is also likened to an infant child thrown out and left to die, discarded like garbage in an open field with its umbilical cord still attached, blooded, bruised and utterly hopeless, yet Israel would ultimately be redeemed by the Lord (v. 6-7) and despite her wretched condition, God repeatedly commanded Israel to “live.”
During this Christmas and Hanukah season the spirit of redemption is critical to our understanding of God’s love of mankind. Hanukah is the Festival of Lights, the eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century B.C. Rabbinical tradition held that God miraculously extended a one day supply of oil to keep the Menorah burning for eight days.
Christmas demonstrates to all nations our desperate need for a redeemer, a savior which is Christ the Lord. Redemption is evident in the words of this song,”Mary, Did You Know?”
Mary, did you know / that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? / This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
While the Book of Genesis was our beginning it wasn’t the beginning for humanity which was conceived in the midst of a war of wars between cataclysmic supernatural forces infinitely greater than flesh and blood. Remember, before Lucifer was thrown out of heaven he was the fourth ranking figure in heaven next to the Trinity, the chief musician and archangel whose glory lighted all of heaven.
Ezekiel wrote of Lucifer in Chapter 28 using metaphor to call him the King of Tyre:
Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee …
Ezekiel’s dramatic soliloquy of Lucifer takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden where this evil figure precipitated the fall of mankind and thought he had defeated God when he shackled humanity in the cyclical bondage of sin and death, yet God through the prophet found a way to present the enduring narrative of redemption. In v. 17 Ezekiel writes of Lucifer: Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.
During this Christmas season, Ezekiel teaches us that although evil exalts itself and the heathen rage, yet evil will not prevail forever. Even Satan and all his works will one day be cast down to hell.
Applying Ezekiel’s redemption in modern times, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps sensing President’s Obama’s craven duplicity and America’s rapid loss of prestige before the international community over the past two years, is beginning to show renewed defiance against Obama’s two-state solution: “Israel’s leader does not want to share Jerusalem.”
Palestinian spokesman Husam Zomlot says Netanyahu is distancing himself from the “international consensus.” Good, because the redemption of Ezekiel mandates Israel keeping, protecting and thriving in their birthright, the land of Israel which God promised Abraham and their forefathers. An eternal covenant that God told Ezekiel, “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.”