Ezekiel lived much of his life away from home. He was one of the young men taken off to Babylon in the first wave of Babylon’s subjugation and destruction of Israel. The city of Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 B.C. but this was only the end of a process that began some seventeen to eighteen years earlier when the best and the brightest, like Ezekiel and Daniel, were taken into captivity. Ezekiel loved his country and longed for home but, alas, this was not to be. He would never go home again, except in the visions God occasionally sent his way. Some of them must have been pure torture. Before the city of Jerusalem and the temple were actually destroyed, he had a vision in which he clearly saw the temple back in Jerusalem. It must have been wonderful to see his home, his place of worship, his country. But the vision turned sour. He saw the temple alright but he also saw the glory of God leave the temple, hover over the city, and then depart. He knew that Jerusalem’s destruction couldn’t be far off.
Years later, long after the devastation of his homeland, Ezekiel had another vision. He is home. He is in the city of God and the temple of God. It’s as if the war had not happened. A messenger of God leads him to the eastern most gate of the temple. As he looks east, he sees the glory of God which had long ago departed from Israel. It is coming from the east, coming toward Ezekiel. It is accompanied with loud sounds and such splendor that the only thing Ezekiel can do is fall on his face. In his vision he sees the glory of God enter the temple. The power and love of God is palpable to Ezekiel. It is overwhelming. All he can see in the temple is the glory of the Lord. Out of the darkness a voice speaks. Son of man, this is my home. This is where my throne is. This is where I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.
How does one praise God in a foreign land? How does one proclaim the goodness of the one who has taken away everything that you hold sacred and dear? Ezekiel and the psalmist saw a future for God’s people, a day when God would dwell in their land again. And what is true of the land in which God dwells? Kindness and truth meet. Justice and peace kiss. Truth springs up from the earth and justice looks down from heaven. The Lord showers his people with gifts – benefits, increase, justice, salvation. Hear the word of the Lord: God proclaims peace and it is for those who fear him. Israel forgot God and lost everything. Ezekiel and the psalmist proclaim a day when Israel will again fear God and know the blessings of the One who dwells in our land.
The Gospel lesson is another warning that even the best and most religious of people can lose their focus on God. Everything becomes about them. They show no concern for others. They do everything to be seen. They strive for honor and glory. They love pompous sounding titles. They want for themselves what belongs only to God. They exalt themselves and God is nowhere to be found.
Ezekiel fell on his face. The psalmist feared God. Jesus took the form of a servant and humbled himself even to the point of death. It is here that the glory of God dwells.
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