Pride has its fall – Friday, 19th week in ordinary time – Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63

Pride has its fall – Friday, 19th week in ordinary time – Ezekiel 16:1-15,60,63

This is the longest chapter in Ezekiel and has two allegories The first allegory speaks of Judah as the ‘adulterous wife’ (verses 1-43) and the second allegory of the ‘three sisters’. (44-58). The story is told in all its sordid detail making even the lector and even the preacher hesitant in wanting to proclaim or explain it because the of the many explicit metaphors.

The word of the Lord spoken through Ezekiel concerns Jerusalem and the depths of her wickedness and infidelity. Throughout this chapter, Jerusalem is used to represent not just the city but the nation of Israel as a whole. In it, Ezekiel spells out the history of God’s faithfulness to a nation that no one cared about.

Israel’s beginnings were humble and poor. There was none to care for her at birth; not a single nation even pitied her. That was not all, for Israel was hated from birth (you yourself were loathed on the day you were born).

The rite of accepting a child included the cutting of the umbilical cord, the washing and cleansing of a new born babe, being rubbed with salt and wrapped in cloths. While some of these rituals sound a bit bizarre to a modern reader, it said a lot about the acceptance of a child at the time of Ezekiel. Cutting the cord, washing, rubbing down with salt, and clothing the new born were customary legal acts of legitimation.

If this child were to be rejected by the parents, then none of these rites would be performed and the child would be left in an ‘open field’. It is here, says Yahweh, that he found Israel; in a field, abandoned, flailing in blood, abandoned by a parent who had legally relinquished all rights to and responsibilities for the child. We are told that barbarous nations who wanted to get rid of a child born with any deformity or one they could not support, would leave the child in a field as prey for the wild beast.

Here lies Israel lost and vulnerable. If not for the care of their covenant God, they would have perished. It is besides a field that God willed that Israel lived and grow up like a plant. Why, one would ask would God care for an abandoned nation? Was it because Israel was amazing or holy? On the contrary they were weak, poor, struggling, and near death. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 has the answer. “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers.”

Under God’s care Israel became larger, stronger, and more mature. She became very beautiful and came into young adulthood. Now God took Israel and loved her like a husband would love a newlywed bride. God entered into a covenant marriage with Israel. Nothing was too good for this new bride. Israel was anointed with fragrant oil and clothed in fine clothes and sandals of leather. God adorned her with all kinds of jewellery, and even put a beautiful crown on Israel’s head and God provided richly for Israel’s every need.

Because of God’s generous love and care, Israel excelled in beauty and was raised to a royal status. They became famous among the nations, and it was all because of God’s splendour that he had bestowed upon them. It was not of themselves!

But Israel abandoned her husband, trusting in her own beauty. Pride was the root of Israel’s decline. What follows in Ezekiel 16:15-35 is one of the strongest denunciations of Israel’s sin found in the entire Bible.

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