01 November 2010

Nov 1

Reference links:
Old Testament

We start the book of Ezekiel today, and it looks like we'll be spending awhile with it (48 chapter, about 3 of which we cover today). Let's see what Harris has for background:
A younger contemporary of Jeremiah, the priest-prophet Ezekiel was taken to Babylon during the first deportation of Judah's ruling classes in 597 BCE. Although tightly structured, with the oracles arranged in generally chronological order, Ezekiel's prophecies and mystical visions are filled with strange and grotesque images puzzling to modern readers. The first set of oracles describes the prophet's call and conveys messages of judgment and doom on Judah and the Jerusalem Temple, from which Ezekiel sees Yahweh's "glory" depart, abandoning the holy city to Babylonian invaders. Breaking with Mosaic principles that punished younger generations for their elders' misdeeds, Ezekiel emphasizes individual responsibility. The second part records oracles of judgment against foreign nations such as Tyre and ends with news of Jerusalem's fall. In turn, this provides a transition to the third section, oracles and visions of Israel rebirth and a future restoration of the Temple cult. 
The book of Ezekiel does a good job of setting its context right from the start:
On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. This happened during the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity. (The Lord gave this message to Ezekiel son of Buzi, a priest, beside the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians, and he felt the hand of the Lord take hold of him.)
He has a vision where he sees weird multi-faced humanoids. There are also a bunch of spinning wheels covered in eyes. I am guessing there's some symbolism here, but I'm not good at decoding such things.

Above them was a crystal surface. I can guess the meaning of that, at least. The world view of the ancients was that the world was encased in a crystal sphere and the heavens were outside of that (the sphere held back the primordial waters).

God appears as a man whose upper part looks like "gleaming amber, flickering like a fire" and below "like a burning flame, shining with splendor." Certainly, not an old man with a white beard. He's on a blue lapis lazuli throne with a glowing rainbow halo. This seems to be the only time the word "halo" appears in the New Living Translation.

After that, Ezekiel gets his mission: he shall be a prophet to rebellious nation of Israel. God lets Ezekiel know from the start that they will not listen.

Ezekiel, not surprisingly, will be delivering a message of sorrow. That is, based on precedent, what prophets of Israel do. Ezekiel receives the message by eating the scroll containing it, and the scroll is sweet like honey. One way to interpret this is that even sorrowful truths are sweet.

Then he snaps out of his vision and sits in wonder for several days.

New Testament

Today's content: Jesus is better than Moses because he is God's son. Jesus is in charge of God's house and that house is built out of believers. People should not have evil hearts because that turns them away from God. The people Moses led out of Egypt turned out of God, and you believers don't want to be like them, right?

Psalms and Proverbs

Evil hateful people hide their hate, but their wrong doing will eventually be exposed.