Ezekiel chapter 20 provides both a historical account of the nation of
and its infidelity to their
Elohim, and a prophetic word which is yet to be fulfilled. It starts
with a scene that occurred on the 10th of the month of Av (itself a
very significant date, as on that day siege was laid to Israel by the Babylonians years before the
present scene). On that day elders of Jerusalem Israel,
which had been exiled some 120 years before, came to the prophet to seek a
word. The word that they received was not an encouraging one, but a morbid
account of Israel Israel’s (and ’s)
failures and their consequences in spite of the love and grace that Elohim had
shown them. Judah
As the prophet continues speaking for Elohim, he embarks on a future scenario, one that may just be relevant for our day and age! If that is so, it behooves us to pay close attention to this passage.
What Ezekiel describes in verses 33-44 of chapter 20 is the ultimate goal that Elohim has for His people, being one of several prophets to have done so. However, in between this future scenario, and the historical account he inserts a few verses in which he lays out a preparatory scene with accompanying conditions required by YHVH. This particular section appears to bear considerable relevance to the current emerging Israelite nation.
“As I live,’ says Adonai YHVH [literal wording], ‘surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out.” And here we get to the crux of the matter: “And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the
, so I will plead
My case with you,’ says Adonai YHVH. I
will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the
covenant; I will purge the rebels from
among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the
country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel.
Then you will know that I am YHVH” (emphasis added). From here on is a description of the goal
which follows the testings: “As for
you, O house of Israel,’ thus says
Adonai YHVH: ‘Go, serve every one of you his idols -- and hereafter -- if you
will not obey me; but profane My holy name no more with your gifts and your
idols. For on My holy mountain, on the
mountain height of Israel’ says Adonai YHVH , ‘there all the house of Israel,
all of them in the land, shall serve Me; there I will accept them, and there I
will require your offerings and the firstfruits of your sacrifices, together
with all your holy things. I will accept
you as a sweet aroma when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out
of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will be hallowed in you
before the Gentiles. Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I bring you into
of Egypt , into the country for which I
raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers”. Further sanctification
is to take place in the land: “And
there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were
defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the
evils that you have committed. Then you shall know that I am YHVH, when I have
dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your wicked ways nor
according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel,’ says Adonai YHVH”
(Ezekiel 20:33-44). land of Israel
YHVH declares here, in no uncertain terms, that He WILL rule over His people in His land, but before that can take place the Israelites will be “processed”. This process will entail being brought to what is being called “the wilderness of the peoples” which is where
will make His people “pass under the rod and bring them into the bond of the
covenant”. Those who will not “pass the test” will remain in that “wilderness”
and will be barred from entering the land and living in the Kingdom which He
will set up. It seems that at this juncture in history, it is this segment that
calls for our attention and focus on what it means to “pass under the rod” and
to “enter the bond of the covenant”, so that we will not find ourselves in a
perpetual “wilderness of the peoples”. Israel
This “wilderness” is obviously not a geographical location, but a condition and a state of being that many of us have been in for quite some time, and others are being brought into it. These are the ones who are the strangers and foreigners in their own so-called native lands; strangers to the systems of this world, at odds with the man-made structures and demands around them, and are awaiting their release from these conditions and places. However, this release will not take place before they experience the above-mentioned processing.
The prime model before us is the literal wilderness or desert where our ancestors spent an eventful period of 40 years, after having come out of a considerable time of oppressive slavery. It is for this reason that we will be exploring that journey, trying to learn the lessons that are there for us during our time of “processing” and “preparation”, with view to the destination and destiny that Elohim has for us His people.
When our Hebrew progenitors were in
were still looked upon as a nation, as their forefather was called from the
womb to be a “goy” - one people, one nation (see Genesis 25:23). However, they
were a people living within a nation and governed by that nation. We see
the evidence of this when YHVH had to obtain (via Moses and Aaron) Pharaoh’s
‘legal’ permission to take His people out (e.g. Exodus 6:10-11, 14:17). Yet even in their debased conditions the Hebrews did have elders with some type of
governing authority, as is evidenced, for example, by Moses calling the elders
together to tell the people about their impending exodus (ref. Exodus
3:16-17). Then again, just before their departure from Egypt , Moses
told every family elder to take a lamb for their respective houses/homes (ref.
Exodus 12:21). But it was only after departing from Egypt that,
YHVH recognized and declared Israel’s national identity as a kingdom of
priests and a set apart nation (ref. Exodus 19:6), but not without placing
conditions upon them. At that point they were still nomads who had no permanent
territory or place of residence. Nevertheless, this declared
nation-in-the-making had a recognized governmental administration during its
wilderness travels; both civil and religious, as well as already
recognizable elders from their time in Egypt, as pointed out above.
The Hebrew word for elder is “za’ken” and means an old person or someone with
seniority. The elders were often first born males, or ones who had proven their
faithfulness in family and community affairs. This we have seen previously in
the family of Jacob (as exemplified by the difference between Reuben and
Judah), before the brothers went to Egypt the second time (ref.
Genesis 42, 43). Egypt
The wilderness nation, or nation in the wilderness, was subject to the dominion and rule of the Almighty, with Moses being His chosen leader who also judged the people’s disputes. The spiritual leadership was soon to be invested in Aaron and the priesthood. By instating these elders, the initial foundation of a civil administration was laid. Moses, for his part, was responsible for overseeing both offices (administrative and spiritual).
In our day it is Yeshua who is gathering the people of Elohim, restoring our lost identity to us, and anointing us with the Spirit of Holiness. Thus the words of the prophets of old are being rapidly fulfilled, such as the one cited above from Ezekiel, reaffirming that YHVH intends to gather the seed of
from all the countries
where He sowed them/us and to bring them/us back to the land of promise. Israel
Although our wilderness experience is a ‘condition’ more than a literal wilderness, we, like are ancestors are and will be "sifted" under our given circumstances. In other words, our present time frame is one of preparation, which will no doubt continue to intensify. While “passing under the rod” meticulous attention to our spiritual state is required of us. YHVH even declared that He would bring out the transgressors as well as the rebels from within our ranks, and they will not enter with those who have learned righteousness through obedience. And again, like our forefathers, we also need to consider the setting up of functional administration which pertains to our community life, to the families within those communities, and to our individual relationships with each other and with those outside, that is, those who reside in what has been termed as "the world".
With much less of a visible reality and structure (when compared to the situation in the wilderness), and being redeemed under the renewed covenant, how does this wilderness pattern as it was experienced then, pertain to us in this day and age in the proverbial, rather than literal, wilderness?
Being measured and tried during this time period and under the given conditions, as well as having the example of Israel’s forty years journey, how do we transition from religious congregational structures and mind set to a community minded life style and mentality (of a nation in preparation), while bearing in mind the fact that we are in a cooperative and individual “under the rod” reality?