Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 16:35 through 17 and John 13:21-38

Ezekiel 16:35-63 – For having given themselves to the terrible idolatries and human sacrifices that they performed (especially during the reign of Manasseh when – my note says – such practices were encouraged by foreign alliances), God will bring these “allies” together to bring Israel (Judah?) down. They will ravish “her” and leave her naked.

Compared with the nations around her, Israel has been by far the worst. Sodom and Samaria, Edom and the Philistines will gloat over Israel after God finishes punishing her.

In the end, however, after the retribution He brings, God will “remember the covenant that [He] made with [Israel] when [she was] a girl, and. . . will conclude a covenant with [her] that shall last for ever” (16:60-61).

Ezekiel 17 – Ezekiel presents an allegory to explain what he believes the Lord will do. The allegory is of a large eagle, who is said to stand for Nebuchadnezzar. He plucks off the top of the cedar tree that was Jerusalem and carries it off to Babylon. Then he carries the small seedling vine [those who remained] and sets it by the side of a stream, where it grows well.

It grows well until it begins to send roots out toward a competing power or eagle [Egypt] that is far “from the bed where it was planted for him to water them” (17:7). But this strong eagle will not let the vine thrive. He will eventually pull it up by its roots. The allegory is meant to convey disapproval of the alliance King Zedekiah (r.597-587 BC) had with Egypt (in 588 BC) to fight against the Babylonians. The prophet urges the king to abide by the oaths he has sworn to the first eagle. Because they have not obeyed the Lord God, the armies of the king will be defeated and the people scattered.

The chapter ends, however, with a repetition of the promise God made to replant his people “on the high mountain of Israel” (17:23) where it will become a “noble cedar” that will give shade to “every kind of bird” (17:24).

It must have seemed strange to some in Israel/Judah that the priest/prophet Ezekiel feels their future is tied up with remaining loyal to the empire that conquered them and carried them off to Babylon. Trying to re-establish their independence through alliances with other great powers like Egypt is not the path the Lord wants his people to take, but one can appreciate why they might have tried. The Lord wants his people to be patient and wait for Him to replant them in their promised land. 

John 13: 21-38 – At the end of yesterday’s reading Jesus predicted Judas’ defection: he “has lifted his heel against me” (13:18). The disciples react but do not understand what he means. Peter signals to the disciple sitting next to Jesus, “the disciple Jesus loved” (13:23) and urges him to ask Jesus who he means. Jesus tells him he will give a piece of bread to the one he is referring to. He gives it to Judas, and the moment he does this, “Satan entered him” (13:27) and Jesus tells him “What you ate going to do, do quickly” (13:27).

Judas goes out; it is night. 

Jesus speaks of the Son of Man having been glorified (13:31). He tells them he will be going where they cannot come. He gives them a “new commandment, that you love one another” (13:34). “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (13:35). Then he predicts the denial of Peter (13:38).

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