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5th July

Ezekiel 9-12; Psalm 31

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
5th July

Ezekiel 9-12; Psalm 31

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Ezekiel we’ve read through Ezekiel’s commissioning, his prophetic acts, and started the accusations against Judah. The book started five years after the first group of Israelites had been exiled to Babylon. Jerusalem was still standing, and many Israelites still lived there. Ezekiel received a vision of God, sat upon his throne over Babylon. The throne was carried by four creatures that had, amongst other features, wheels for feet. The symbolism here was that God is not restricted to just being the God of Israel. He can move, because he has authority over all the earth.

God charged Ezekiel with speaking to the Israelites still in Jerusalem to repent and change their ways before it was too late. But God also warned Ezekiel that the people would likely not listen to him. After taking a week to process all he had seen and heard, Ezekiel started acting out prophetic declarations. He made a miniature model of Jerusalem and acted out sieges against it. He laid on his left side for 390 days to symbolise the 390 years that the northern kingdom of Israel would suffer. He then laid on his right side for forty days to symbolise the forty years those in the southern kingdom of Judah would suffer.

Throughout this whole time, Ezekiel was meant to eat food cooked over human dung. This would represent the unclean food that the people would be forced to eat in exile. When Ezekiel protested, as one who had been trained as a priest and kept himself clean, God relented and allowed him to eat food cooked over cow dung instead. Ezekiel then took a sword, shaved his head and beard, and the divided the hair into three groups which represented the three different ways God would punish his people.

After more time passed, God gave Ezekiel a vision of what the people were doing to his temple back in Jerusalem. From the outer gates to right inside the inner temple, the people were worshipping false gods and idols. They had desecrated the space that had been reserved for God.

Ezekiel 9-12

Having seen the idolatry and false worship of his people, God calls in the executioners to bring destruction. He summons six men, plus a seventh who was dressed in linen. God tells the seventh man to go through the city and place a mark with all the people who are grieved at how their people have turned away from God and towards these idols and false gods. He then tells the other six to go out to strike and kill every man, woman and child they find that does not have a mark.

As these men go out, Ezekiel weeps before God. He asks God if he is really going to destroy all of his people, leaving no one left. God points out that the wickedness of the people is so great that he can not let it continue. But then the man dressed in linen comes back to say his job is done. He serves as a reminder, both to Ezekiel and to us the reader, that a few who are disgusted with the wickedness around them will be saved.

Then we see a picture very similar to Ezekiel's vision in Ezekiel 1. God summons his chariot throne and gets into it so he can leave, symbolising God's presence leaving the temple. We didn't look too much at the imagery in Ezekiel 1 because it is so weird. But part of what makes it so strange is how unfamiliar it is. But to an Israelite, all of these images are things they would have seen in the temple. In the temple, there were four cherubim. These beings that are referred to as the 'living beings' in Ezekiel 1. Two as part of the temple and two as part of the Ark of the Covenant.

On the walls of the temple were images of animals, such as lions and oxen. There were also objects in the temple that were given wheels so you could move them about (see 1 Kings 7:29-36 for some examples). The point, which we've mentioned before, was that God's presence is not limited to the physical temple in Jerusalem. All this imagery they have come to associate with the temple follows God's presence, and that is able to move, even into a foreign land such as Babylon.

To put it another way, these passages use temple imagery to say that God's true temple, his presence, can go anywhere. Nowhere is beyond the reach of God. Which is a useful message to a people that have been taken from their land into exile. But right now, God's presence is leaving the physical temple because of the faithlessness of his people.

Next, God brings Ezekiel back to the outer gate of the temple courtyard where he shows Ezekiel twenty-five men. These men were the leaders of Jerusalem at the time. These leaders were faithless and wicked and would lead the people to their downfall. The Babylonians have defeated them once and God has been warning them that the Babylonians will come again if they don't repent.

But despite that, these leaders have been trying to pretend like everything is okay. The Babylonians aren't coming to destroy us, so you build your house. It will definitely be safe. They liken Jerusalem to a pot full of meat, which seems weird to us. But the point they were trying to make is that the fire of Babylon may come, but the people won't get burnt because they're safe in this pot.

This is obviously the opposite message that God has been saying. So God predicts the death and destruction of these leaders along with the city. Lo-and-behold, a little later, two of the twenty-five men died. So once again Ezekiel weeps before God at the destruction of all his people.

But this time, God gives Ezekiel a glimmer of hope. Yes, he's going to destroy his people and scatter many of them to different nations. But while they are in those nations, he will still be there to protect them. And one day he will gather them all back and restore them. He will remove their stubborn hearts of stone and give them a fresh new heart that desire to follow God. Then God gets into his chariot throne and leaves, while Ezekiel reawakens back in Babylon. He goes on to tell his fellows Israelites in exile everything he saw.

A little later, God comes to Ezekiel again and gives him another prophetic act to live out. This time Ezekiel is to put together a pack like someone who was about to be taken into exile. Then, as night comes, he is to take his pack, dig a hole through his wall, and walk out into the night.

When Ezekiel finished what he was doing, God explained what it all meant. Just as Ezekiel prepared the pack for exile, so will the people of Jerusalem be taken into exile. Just as Ezekiel dug a hole in his wall and left through it, the Babylonians will break down the walls of Jerusalem and take their prisoners back through it. God is sending the Babylonians like a net to capture his people.

Next Ezekiel is to eat and drink nervously, to be a model of how the people in Jerusalem will eat and drink nervously, wondering where their next meal will come from. The people are clearly throwing around a saying in response to Ezekiel's prophetic acts. "The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing" (Ezekiel 12:22). Another way to say this might be, 'people have been saying this for ages and nothing has happened'. So God responds to these comments, saying he will make sure this saying is never said again. The day is near where everything that has been prophesied will happen. God has said it. He will do it.

Psalm 31

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm. It follows a chiastic structure, where the passage reflects itself, with a closing section of thanksgiving and prayer.

a) Psalm 31:1-5 - Prayer

b) Psalm 31:6-8 - A declaration of trust

c) Psalm 31:9-13 - Lament

b) Psalm 31:14 - A declaration of trust

a) Psalm 31:15-18 - Prayer

d) Psalm 31:19-24 - Thanksgiving and praise

The psalm opens with a prayer to the Lord to intervene. The psalmist appeals to God as their refuge and fortress, and repeatedly asks God to help, deliver and rescue. 

They then declare their trust in the Lord. While others may trust in idols, the psalmist only trusts in God. They can be confident that they will be able to rejoice because God is faithful and will not deliver them to their enemies.

Next comes the lament, as the psalmist shares their struggle. They are in distress. It feels like they are wasting away from grief. Their entire life seems to be spent in sorrow, and their strength fails them. They are hated by those who know them, and those that don’t avoid them. 

Having shared their lament, the psalmist goes back to declaring their trust in God. This leads them to make bigger requests from God, knowing that he will answer them. They ask to be rescued from their enemies and blessed with God’s love. To save them from shame, but bring the shame of the wicked upon themselves.

And then the tone of the psalm shifts, as though the psalmist has heard from God and knows that he will intervene. The psalmist now turns to thanksgivings and praise. He is a God that stores up good things for his people. He protects them from the wicked. 

God has been faithful and loving. Though the psalmist felt like God was hidden from them, God had heard their cry. The psalm ends with a call to the others saints, those who are faithful, to love God. May they be strong and take courage as they wait on God.

This psalm shows the power of lament, and how it leads us to making big requests of God. To begin with, all the psalmist could do was ask God to save them. But as they alternated between declaring their trust, and sharing their hurt and pain, it brought them to a place where they could ask God not only to save them, but bless them. 

From there, God’s faithfulness led them to a place of praise and thanksgiving.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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