Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Ezekiel is a strange book, full of weird images and metaphors.  In chapter 3, the prophet is told, “O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”  Surely, the Lord says, they will listen to you.  But he is also told that his speaking will be futile. “But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.”
The issue really isn’t an issue of hearing, but of obeying.  We use the word “listen” in the same way.  “You didn’t listen to me and now you’ve made a mess of things.”  We don’t mean that the person didn’t actually hear us or pay attention to us, they just didn’t do what we told them to do.  They ignored our advice or instruction.
This is the same situation with the Israelites.  They weren’t hard of hearing, they were disobedient; they didn’t need their ears checked, but their hearts.  They were hard-headed and stubborn.  “Listening” is just a metaphor.
And if in this context “listening” is a metaphor, might “speaking” be a metaphor as well?  Probably.  And if the issue is one of obeying vs. disobeying i.e. how they live their lives, then “speaking” is probably related to how the prophet lives his life.  That is why Ezekiel is told to eat the scroll.  When we eat something, it turns into our own flesh.  We literally live and move and act out what we eat for the world to see.  Eat too many Double Stuff Oreos (one of my personal weaknesses; I literally cannot eat just one or two), and the resulting jiggle around the waist is visible for all to see.  Our bodies are made up of what we eat.  So Ezekiel is being told to eat the scroll so that the Israelites will be able to see God’s instruction in a living body rather than on a dead sheepskin or inert papyrus.
And so it is with us today.  Much is made of the need to get the Bible translated into a person native language, and then to get the new translation into the hands of people, whether is book form or in audio book form.  I applaud these efforts, and they are valuable, helpful, and important.
But not nearly as important as when we digest the Word and allow it to literally form our bodies for the world to witness.  I'm not talking about memorizing Scripture, though that has some value, but only insomuch as that which is memorized is enfleshed in our lives.  The task of helping others have a relationship with God through Christ is not so much that of handing them a Bible or some religious literature but of transubstantiating God, giving flesh to His Spirit, carrying on the incarnation of Christ in the world.
      Those of us who have grown up reading and studying the Bible know that having a Bible in our own language, valuable as that is, isn’t enough.  It needs to be studied, interpreted, often painstakingly parsed, and even then there are passages we don’t fully understand.  We actually find that having it in our own language isn’t enough—that translations from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic are not as valuable as actually understanding the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic of the texts.  And then we have to understand the literary and historical contexts, which entails a great deal of study, and not just historical and literary studies but cross-cultural studies.  Just to understand a book.
But a life is easier to understand.  I can read a book about how to do something—build a house, play an instrument, fly a plane—but much more helpful, if not necessary is to learn from someone who already knows how to do it and shows me how to do it.  I really don’t want to fly in a plane piloted by someone who has only read a book, do you?  And learning about God and his Plan for all creation is much more critical than flying a plane.
      People will come to the Lord not so much because we get the Bible to them but because we get God’s Word into us and live out his message of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and unconditional love. 

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