Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Service of the heart

Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both priests, served as prophets in the period of time of great national tragedy, the destruction of the First Temple. In response thereto, they developed different theologies to address the temple’s destruction. Jeremiah blamed the people of Israel for their misconduct in ethical behavior. Ezekiel blamed the people for their ritual misbehavior.

Jeremiah developed a theology of repentance, exile and restoration. He told the holy remnant in Babylon to repent and to wait until God restored them. In Ezekiel, repentance is required for individual physical salvation, but outside of a description of cessation of idolatry (14:1-11; 18:30-32; 20:30ff.), there is no hint that human activity is needed to effect restoration to the land. Indeed, in contrast to Leviticus 26, contrition and remorse take place after redemption (Ezek. 16:54, 63; 20:43; 36:31: 39:26).

Ezekiel, prophesying on foreign soil, makes the shocking statement that God gave Israel laws that He knew “were not good and judgments they could not live by.” Instead of talking about ethics, Ezekiel uses women as a symbol of priestly and ritual uncleanliness.

Ezekiel stands in stark contrast to Jeremiah seeing the fall of Jerusalem as inevitable and certainly different than Isaiah who saw Jerusalem as inviolable. He concludes that the reason for the destruction was the people of Israel’s total depravity from the beginning of its history. However, Ezekiel places greater emphasis upon priestly rules and ritual uncleanliness. In his development of the first Hebrew apocalypse, he presents a new Messianic Temple where his priests will follow ritual rules that he has changed from those in Leviticus.

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel discussed God providing the people with a new heart. Jeremiah tells the people to “apply circumcision to your hearts.” Ezekiel says in the name of God, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

Copyrighted 2005


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