The Lord said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
This is an optional Old Testament selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 9. If chosen, it will next be read aloud in a church by a reader, on Sunday July 8, 2018. It is important because it states the truth that a prophet of God is His creation, through His Holy Spirit.
This short five-verse reading option from Ezekiel is fairly straightforward in the translation above, stating that God filled Ezekiel with His Holy Spirit. Once filled with the wisdom of God, Ezekiel was sent to prophesy before the wayward Judeans, before their exile to Babylon and after.
Ezekiel was called Buzi (beyond being the the son of Buzzi), “because he was despised by the Jews.” (Ezekiel: Wikipedia article footnote: Radak – R. David Kimkhi – in his commentary on Ezekiel 1:3, based on Targum Yerushalmi). The name “Ezekiel” means, “God Strengthens” or “Strengthened By God.” He was of the priestly lineage (Kohen: “a member of the priestly class, having certain rights and duties in the synagogue.”), believed to have been descended from Joshua. The words Ezekiel spoke to the children of Judah, as read in the Book of Ezekiel (regardless of who wrote them onto scrolls of parchment), proves God’s statement, “Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”
As for a few observations of the actual Hebrew text and the translations English-speaking Christians recognize, whenever Ezekiel is said to hear God speak to him, with a reference to “O mortal,” the reality is Ezekiel wrote, “ben-adam” – “son of man. The translation as a “mortal” human being is relevant to being one of “mankind.” As a male human being, all male human beings are “sons of man.” This means the address is to the physicality of being human, which all human males are.
In the way that Jesus of Nazareth addressed himself as “Son of Man” (such as in Matthew 18:11, but many others) where the capitalization is an application of translation and not what was written (“huios tou anthrōpou” or “υἱός τοῦ ἀνθρώπου”), the assumption that comes from the capitalization is that Jesus addressed himself as the Son of God, in the form of Man. Beyond that, one can assume Jesus (as the Christ Spirit) was the Son of God, whose soul was that of Adam – the Son of God. However, both Ezekiel and Jesus were stating they were both males of mankind, which is ordinary, normal, and typical – not special.
While Jesus was divinely conceived, always to be holy, he was to be born of a woman. That made him a son of man. Likewise, Ezekiel was a son of man born into a holy lineage, predestined to become a prophet. The specialization and uniqueness then comes when ordinary men are transformed by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit; or as Ezekiel wrote: “A spirit entered into me.”
This realization means it is ordinary, normal and typical to read the Holy Bible (or have it read to one) and see Ezekiel like one sees Jesus – as special, as those blessed by God for holiness. It is this failure to see how Ezekiel and Jesus were just like all other men (and women) of the earth. They became special by welcoming the God into their hearts, so they could hear His voice through the Mind of Christ. They became special because of their sacrifice of self (God did not say, “O Ezekiel”) so the Holy Spirit could enter into them. They became special because they heard the voice of God speaking directly to each, such that each responded to what God said (“speaking” = “’ā·mar” = “commanding, advising, designating, and giving an order”).
Normal mortals are like Cain was when his sacrifice to the LORD was not shown favor. Normal human beings often get angry and let their faces become downcast (from Genesis 4:6-7), where “face downcast” or “countenance fallen” is derived from “nā·p̄ə·lū p̄ā·ne·ḵā”.
Those words of Hebrew literally translate to state “lie down before,” where one’s emotional outbursts when things do not go one’s way are like a child throwing a tantrum, lying on the floor and screaming. If children do this ordinarily, normally and typically, so too do mere sons of mankind, no different than Cain did. This is how one should see the statement here by Ezekiel, that God “set me on my feet.”
In the first two verses of this reading selection, we read how God told Ezekiel, “stand up on your feet” (verse 1) and then how God’s Holy Spirit “set me on my feet.” The same word, “amad,” is the root used in the translations “stand” and “set.” It is then important to see how “standing” is the opposite of “lying before,” such that a righteous prophet of the LORD must “rise up” from the ordinary, the normal and the typical and become “upright” before God. Because Ezekiel did this while he was a mere “son of man,” a simple “mortal, then so too can all human beings do the same. However, that requires a willingness to hear the LORD speaking AND it means releasing oneself from the rebelliousness, impudence, and stubbornness that makes life seem so much easier to transgress than to comply with what the LORD says.
In the heritage of Ezekiel, where he was descended from Joshua, who was a true servant of the LORD, as an assistant to Moses and subsequent leader of the Israelites. Joshua also was a prophet of Yahweh, just as was Ezekiel and Jesus. This unique stature was not among mere mortals, as much as it was among the children of God. All gods have their priests and prophets, in the same way that all nations have their kings and presidents, and all humankind has its teachers and guides. Ezekiel, as Joshua and Jesus, stood up among Israelites, Judeans and Jews, because it was those, chosen by God to serve only Him as His priests, who refused to be extraordinary, because they wanted to be ordinary, normal, and typical – like the people of other nations.
Ezekiel, as Joshua before and Jesus afterwards, was a prophet that told the warning spoken by the LORD to His chosen priests. The Book of Ezekiel was not lessons of righteousness spoken to the whole of mankind, as it was the Word of God to those who had fallen into the gutter before their LORD. The lessons of the Gospel were likewise not to stories of Jesus being sent to save all the sons of man. He came to warn the Jews that they had also fallen into the gutter before their God. The message was to “Arise! If you want to be a priest of Mine, then you best become like Ezekiel, Joshua and Jesus; or you will become mere sons (and daughters) of man and lose the right for eternal life.”
As an optional reading selection chosen for presentation on the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, in the season of Church time when ministers (prophets) to the LORD should be well along the paths God has sent them to travel, the basic lesson here is to stand tall among mere men and women. A ministry then means being a pillar of strength in a cesspool of worldly beings. One is called by God to rise from that muck and be a standard-bearer of righteousness, so the rebellious, the transgressors, and the impudent can see that hope of salvation remains alive.
The English word “transgression” is defined as, “An act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense.” (Google Dictionary) Seeing this as a legal term, where the Law of Moses came from God to the Israelites, as the Covenant between their service as God’s priests, with the agreed rewards as God’s chosen people being eternal salvation, the prophets of the LORD have always only been sent to warn those who profess belief in the One God, and not anyone else. This means a transgressor is anyone who has sworn allegiance to Yahweh (Jews and Christians), expecting the reward of Heaven for simply believing in that God, but who have laid down with the non-believers, going against the Laws of Moses, the rules of Jesus of Nazareth, and the code of conduct that makes one truly a priest to the One God. Such acts by other sons and daughters of humanity do not constitute breaking those laws and covenants, because they serve the gods of the world – the gods of money, sexual stimulation, war, artificial means of transcendence, and any other worship of the physical, rather than the Spiritual.
This reading then focuses less on being sent into the world to right all the wrongs, as God told Ezekiel, “Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.” This says one who refuses to hear will still know that a prophet of Yahweh has come into the world simply because he or she stands among those who wallow in emotional instability. If one wants to hear what a prophet has to say, then that one will rise to ask questions, like, “What has the LORD said to you?”
This means a ministry today is no different than ministry was for Joshua or Ezekiel, as they had to rise above the level of being sons of man, mere mortals, so they could hear God speak. A minister has put oneself in a position so that the Spirit can enter one’s being and strengthen one’s upright position. Once standing, a minister can hear the voice of God speaking words that explain the meaning of Scripture. A minister then radiates the joy of that enlightenment, so the others of mankind can know that God has come near.
When we read in Ezekiel today, we can apply ancient words to today’s reality. We can see how this Scripture can state: “[God] said to me, [son of man], I am sending you to the people of [faith in the One God], to a [religion] of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.” What was truth then is still truth today. Jews who have rejected Jesus as their promised Christ are doing nothing more than pretending to obey the Law are transgressors to this day. Christians who have entered the churches as political activists and apologists for sins against the Law are transgressors to this day.
The Hebrew word “pasha,” which translates as “transgressed” and “rebelled,” also infers “to break away (from just authority).” This means the plethora of denominations and sects of Judaism and Christianity, evolving over the millennia, are by definition “transgressors” of the true purpose of one’s original faith in God. Thus, ministers are sent by God for the purpose of replacing the lost with those found, as beacons that others can see.
This makes a minister be an example of the truth, so those who have fallen, like God came and spoke directly to Cain. God speaks through His prophets indirectly, so they speak as symbols. Thus, a minister can make it known that it is possible to do what is right by example, rather than words. The sight of a risen prophet shows the world it is possible to rule over sin, rather than have sin rule over a mere mortal.
Text copyright by Robert Tippett