A mouth full of words – Tuesday, 19th Week in ordinary time – Ezekiel 2:8-3:4
We are nourished from two tables at the Eucharist. The table of the word and the table of the bread. Often, we think that the table of the bread (Eucharist) is more important than the nourishment we get from the table of the word (the readings of sacred scripture) and so we permit ourselves to enter mass late; enquiring about the ‘validity’ of mass when we are late. Hold on to this thought as we study today’s text.
Ezekiel was called by God while in exile. Like the prophet Isaiah he was a priest but scholars have opined that before he exercised his priestly ministry in Jerusalem, he was taken off into exile along with King Jehoiachin and thousand others in the 598BC. It will be several years later under King Zedekiah that Jerusalem will finally be destroyed. Ezekiel is now called by God in exile, in Babylon, to be his prophet.
God speaks to Ezekiel and calls him a ‘mortal’. In several translations this reads as ‘son of man’. This is a phrase peculiar in the Old Testament to Ezekiel with the exception of two instances in the prophet Daniel. It is used 93 times in Ezekiel and its purpose is to emphasise the great gap between a transcendent God and the human being. But in Daniel it takes on a messianic meaning, taken up later by Jesus, who refers to himself several times as the (not a) “Son of Man”.
In chapter one, Ezekiel see the vision of a chariot with four living creatures with human like form. He fell on his face when he heard a voice speak to him. Today’s text describes a strange apocalyptic vision but its meaning is clear. The voice that he hears commands him to stand and commissions him to do as he is told. Ezekiel is given a brief background of the people he is to speak of; his own people. The biography of the people he is to prophecy to is brief because they are predictable; they and their decedents are no different (2:4). God calls them ‘a nation of rebels and sinners’ (2:3). ‘They are stubborn’ (2:4).
At this time the children of Israel still had something of a kingdom in Judah and a temple in Jerusalem. Yet many of them were also scattered across the Middle East, by the forced exiles under the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Ezekiel’s word was for all of them.