Saturday, October 20, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 4-5 and John 10:1-18

Ezekiel 4 – God tells Ezekiel how he is to embody or act out the prophecy God has given him: he lays a brick in front of him and scratches on it the name “Jerusalem.” Then he is to surround it with “siege works” - an iron pan that will fill the role of a wall between him, the besieger, and the city.

He is told to “lie down on your left side and take the sin of the House of Israel on yourself” (4:4). He must lie on his left side for 190 days, and then on his right side for 40 days. The Jerusalem Bible note says the “sides” of his body and the “days” have to do with the respective periods of exile Israel and Judah suffered.

He is then to make bread to live on during this time and bake it on a fire made from human dung. The prophet objects to this and says he has never defiled his soul with unclean eating. God relents and lets him use cow dung, a natural fuel for this region of the world. Inside Jerusalem, the people will “pine and waste away as a result of their sins” (4:17).

Ezekiel 5 – The prophet is told he must cut off his hair and beard, weigh the hair and set fire to a third of it in the middle of the city during the siege. Then another third and toss it from a sword all around the city and the last third he is to scatter – a sword will take this third down.

A little “remnant” of hair will yet remain. These are to be wrapped in the folds of his cloak. From this tiny remnant, he is to take a few and throw them on a fire. From these a fire shall again issue – it is a mystery what exactly this “fire” will be, but it could be the fire of the prophet’s message, coming as it is from the small remnant in exile. It does sound like his message.

And this is the message: “This is Jerusalem, which I have placed in the middle of the nations, surrounded with foreign countries. She is so perverse that she has rebelled more against my observances than the nations and more against my laws than the surrounding countries . . . Therefore, the Lord Yahweh says this: Since you are more rebellious than the nations around you, since you do not keep my laws or respect my observances . . . I have now set myself against you. I will inflict punishments upon you for all the nations to see” ” (5:6-8). One third of Jerusalem’s inhabitant “shall die of plague or starve to death . . . a third shall fall by the sword, outside you; a third I will scatter to every wind, while I unsheathe the sword behind them” (5:12). They will become an object of contempt and shame (5:14), an example to all the nations.

John 10:1-18 – Anyone who does not “enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit” (10:1). The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd . . .The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . .the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers” (10:3-5).

“I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture”(10:7-9).

Jesus is not only the gate; he is also the shepherd who can lead them through the gate. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11).

“I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (10:14-15). The Jerusalem Bible note here indicates that “knowing” here is not just mental; it is experiential knowing.

Interestingly, Jesus says also that he has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16). Mormons think this is a reference to God’s work among other peoples in other parts of the world.

The Jews remain divided about him.

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