King after useless king – every single one just following in the horrible footsteps of their father. Every generation was a fresh lot of evil after evil. Every new king did “evil in the eyes of the Lord” – they were simply a mess. And worse yet, they knew they were doing wrong, and kept doing it.
So at this time, Babylon was a very powerful city, and they were taking over most of the smaller cities pretty regularly. They invaded, and the king at that time surrendered, so Jerusalem was taken over by Babylon (as God said they would be). At this time, Ezekiel was a prophet, and he very clearly warned the people that God would destroy them if they wouldn’t get back on track with him.
Although this is difficult to comprehend sometimes. The God we know is one who is loving and forgiving – it seems extreme to put to death thousands of his own children. But we are God’s children, and when we think of it in the context of our own parents, I’m not sure anyone would say that the responses they ever get from their parents when they do something wrong are hugs, smiles and presents. Nope, like our parents, God has the right to correct us when we’ve made mistakes. And the degree of this punishment is dependent on what we’ve done wrong.
When I forgot to text mum when she told me to, the response was a gentle reminder. When I accidently didn’t put out the bins on bin day, the response was an annoyed reminder. When I (as a child, I’ll make clear) smashed the entirety of my mum’s 20 year old mug collection that she treasured quite dearly…well, let’s just say, no reminder of that day is needed.
In the same way, God’s responses when his people failed to listen to him varied as well. He forgave them, and gave them second chances. He gave them stern reminders, but continued to bless them. He would give them gentle reminders consistently, but there’s only so many times He could turn the other cheek, especially when things just kept getting worse. He needed to take action to get his people back in order. And if you think about the fact that these were God’s people – his children! He loved them so much. So you can just imagine the horrendous things they must have been doing to bring God to that point. Our God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, all it would have taken was for them to turn back to Him, which they failed to do. So unfortunately, the harshness of death was the only solution.
God also appointed another prophet, Jeramiah, who was very young and not great at speaking publically. He was very nervous, but God gave him the words he needed. Jeramiah had incredible empathy for the people, and he would weep for the pain they were going through. What an incredible spiritual gift – the ability to feel the pain of the people around him, so he could really push God’s message to them, and help them see. And yet the people still refused to listen, blatantly ignoring all messages the prophets had.
The people grew hard and more and more evil. The prophet’s begged for them to listen, and again and again God would give them a chance for forgiveness. But as many times as he would plead, they would refuse. Not just this, but they’d make fun of it all, thinking it was a stupid joke.
How hard must it have been for the prophets? Their faith in God would have been so strong, to continue fighting for Him.
But it was to no use, and destruction was surely to come on the people. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
And although the prophets did grieve this pain, they also rejoiced because of the other promise God had made. He had spoken to them that from the ashes of that destruction would come hope and renewal in God’s people.
It’s an incredible parable at the end of this chapter – dead bones on the ground who, when spoken over, began to grow tendons and flesh. Then, God breathed life into them, and they were whole again. From death, God brought life. This vision was the hope they were relying on to get them through.
Here’s some questions for reflection:
How does God’s promise of restoration for his people give you promise for today? Can you see hopelessness in your world, or as the world as a whole? Where might God already be breathing life into those dry bones at the moment?
What feelings do you have about God’s destruction of his people throughout the last few chapters? If this makes you mad or confused, I encourage you to explore it further, and attempt to understand it through a leader at youth, Shane and Christy, or even (carefully) trusty, ol’ Google. It’s a tricky area, but I encourage you to turn it into something that brings you closer to God, not pulls you further away.