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Exclusively published to the Touchstone website each week, these Daily Reflections are brief commentaries on the lectionary readings contained in the St. James Daily Devotional Guide. The reflections are penned by Patrick Henry Reardon, editor of the Daily Devotional Guide and a senior editor of Touchstone. Father Reardon provides here a very brief directional clue for one of the texts each day. Long-time readers of the Daily Devotional Guide will find these reflections an additional help to their reading of Holy Scripture which they can print and keep with their Guide.

The Daily Reflections will be updated weekly.

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Sunday, May 2

Ezekiel 19: This is a "lamentation" (19:1,14) descriptive of
JerusalemŐs recent history in a tripartite allegory. The lioness, Judah,
gave birth to two kings, the two lions, whose stories are told in the first
two parts of this allegory. The first king (19:3f) is Jehoahaz, who took the
throne when the great Josiah was killed in 609 at the Battle of Megiddo. His
very short reign (only two verses here) came to an end that very year,
because he was deposed by Pharaoh Necho and taken in bondage to Egypt (2
Kings 23:31-34). The second king (19:5-9) is Jehoiakin, deposed by the
Babylonians in 597, after an unsuccessful rebellion on his part, and carried
away to exile in Babylon, along with the cream of JudahŐs leadership,
including Ezekiel himself (2 Kings 24:8-16). At the time of this oracle,
both of these "lions" are still alive, but they are impotent to help their
mother, Judah. This mother is then portrayed as a vine in the third and
final section of the oracle (19:10-14), which describes the devastation
attendant on the inept and irresponsible government of JudahŐs last king,
Zedechiah.

Monday, May 3

Ezekiel 20: This oracle, delivered on August 14, 591 B.C.,
was occasioned by an inquiry made to Ezekiel from a group of exiled Jewish
elders, apparently not deterred by their earlier failure in 14:1-11. So
Ezekiel answers them:
Beginning with IsraelŐs ancient sojourn in Egypt, prior to the Exodus,
idolatry has been an abiding sin of GodŐs Chosen People, he tells them. That
rebellion against the Lord in Egypt was simply continued during the peopleŐs
wandering in the desert of Sinai. During both of those periods God spared
His people, so that their enemies (and His) might not take comfort from
their destruction. Indeed, because Israel constantly violated the LordŐs
ordinances, these ordinances proved not to be good for them, inasmuch as the
very disobedience rendered the people morally worse (20:23-26). (This is a
motif, of course, that St. Paul will later develop in his Epistles.)
Then, even after their settlement in the Promised Land the people continued
their ancient infidelities. Now, after all this, do they dare to come and
"inquire of the Lord"? They are told that this amounts to a mockery. They
have always known GodŐs will, yet they have decided to disobey it. Why
should the Lord have anything further to say to them? (We should
particularly observe here that, among the sins of Israel specifically named,
child sacrifice is very prominent. Since the murder of unborn children is
one of the most serious offenses of our own society, this oracle seems
especially relevant today.)
Even after conveying this oracle, however, Ezekiel goes on in verses 32 to
44 to deliver a prophecy of IsraelŐs eventual restoration. Although IsraelŐs
kings have brought the nation low, God is still IsraelŐs true king (20:33).

Tuesday, May 4

Ezekiel 21: The deep, very personal lamentation in this text
will remind the reader of EzekielŐs older contemporary, Jeremiah, who
expressed very much the same sentiments during that decade immediately
preceding the fall of Jerusalem in 586.
There are four oracles in this chapter (the first oracle actually beginning
in 20:45), three of them against Jerusalem, and the fourth against the
Ammonite capital of Rabbah (the present city Amman, capital of the modern
country of Jordan). Even as Ezekiel speaks, the Babylonian army, with its
"well polished sword," is already on the march toward those two cities. The
imagery alternates between fire (particularly a forest fire, with Jerusalem
being the timber) and sword, both images combined in that of the lightning.
The references to the "Negev" in the first oracle (20:45Ń21:7) should be
understood simply as "the south," which is often the case in Ezekiel.
The invading army, marching from Babylon, did not go directly westward
toward Jerusalem, a march through the Arabian Desert being quite
prohibitive. Instead, it march up and around the Fertile Crescent, following
the course of the Mesopotamian and Syrian rivers, so that now it has turned
southward, in the direction of the Negev Desert, tramping toward Jerusalem
and Rabbah.
In the second oracle (21:8-17)Ezekiel address the Babylonian sword itself,
which is the instrument of GodŐs vindication. The Babylonians, though they
are acting as GodŐs instrument in history, do not know this, no more than a
sword recognizes who wields it. The third oracle (21:18-27), continuing the
image of the Babylonian sword, portrays another of EzekielŐs symbolic
actions, which must be explained to those who witness it. It pantomimes a
fork in the road; which city, Jerusalem or Rabbah, will Nebuchadnezzar
strike first? The final oracle (21:28-32)addresses to Rabbah the same
threats that have been spoken to Jerusalem.

Wednesday, May 5

Ezekiel 22: This chapter contains three oracular
prophecies, joined together by a common theme: ritual uncleanness,
understood either literally or as a metaphor. Ezekiel, as a priest dedicated
entirely to the correct worship of the true God, was particularly sensitive
to this matter of cleanness, or purity, in both the sacrifice and the
priest.
The first oracle (22:1-16), directed against Jerusalem, is full of the
imagery of blood, any flowing of which rendered a person ritually unclean.
Blood is, however, also an image of violence. The second oracle (22:17-22)
is directed against all unfaithful Israelites, who are described as dross
(that is, metallic impurities), which God will clean away in the coming
smelting process of His historical judgment. Ezekiel doubts that any true
metal will be found, once this process is complete. The third oracle
(22:23-31) is against the Holy Land itself, which suffers uncleanness
because of those who live there. These have defiled GodŐs land with
bloodshed and other forms of impurity, rendering the land unholy and no
longer fit to contain the LordŐs true worship.

Thursday, May 6

Ezekiel 23: About to see the ruin of Jerusalem, the capital
of Judah, Ezekiel thinks back to the year 722 B.C., when the Assyrians had
destroyed Samaria, the capital of Israel. How closely the two cases
resembled one another, he reflects, both cities unfaithful to God, like two
loose women who could not be trusted. This comparison of the two cities is
the basis of the long allegory that fills the present chapter.
Once again, Ezekiel traces the problem back to Egypt, where the Israelites
first learned the seductions of idolatry (23:3). Samaria, having handed
herself over to Assyrian seductions, was finally destroyed by Assyria
(23:5-10). Jerusalem was worse, falling under the idolatrous sway of both
Assyria and Babylon in turn (23:23:11-18). In addition, as a final irony,
Jerusalem was now turning once again to the gods of Egypt (23:2318-21); this
is EzekielŐs reference to King ZedechiahŐs recent appeal to Egypt against
the Babylonian overlord.
The various nations of the Fertile Crescent (23:23), all now part of the
Babylonian Empire, will attack Jerusalem from the north (23:4). History,
Ezekiel saw, was about to be repeated. Thus, in this chapter the prophet
extends the metaphor of marital fidelity that was the theme of Chapter 16.

Friday, May 7

Ezekiel 24: This chapter is constructed of two quite separate
parts, the first being the allegorical oracle of a pot cooking on the fire,
the second a prophecy and prophetic action connected with the death of
EzekielŐs wife.
The first oracle (24:1-14) is dated on January 15, 588, the day that
Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem. This siege is compared to the
flames surrounding a pot until its contents are cooked. This pot is, of
course, Jerusalem, where the long siege has begun. The rust on this metal
pot, which is the same color as blood and is likened to blood, carries
forward the image of dross from Chapter 22.
The second oracle (24:15-27) is occasioned by the sudden death of EzekielŐs
wife. He is not the only biblical prophet whose "home life" becomes part of
the prophetic message. Thus, Hosea was obliged to marry a prostitute as part
of his prophetic vocation, both Hosea and Isaiah were told to give strange
and symbolic names to their children, and Jeremiah is commanded to remain
celibate as a witness to the imminent passing of the era.
In the case of Ezekiel, he is ordered not to mourn at the death of his wife,
no matter how grieved he feels. He must then interpret this strange behavior
to his neighbors, giving him the opportunity to explain why, in their
concrete historical circumstances, it would be inappropriate for them to
mourn, even though their hearts are broken. Thus, in his grief Ezekiel
himself becomes a "sign" to the people who are soon to se their beloved city
destroyed.

Saturday, May 8

Ezekiel 25: Chapters 25 through 32 of Ezekiel contain
oracles directed against the other nations with whom the Lord has reason to
be displeased, IsraelŐs neighbors to the east and west (Chapter 25), the
north (Chapters 26 to 28), and the south (Chapters 29 to 32). Oracles of
this sort, scathing moral criticisms of IsraelŐs neighbors, go back to the
earliest of IsraelŐs literary prophets, Amos, in the eight century before
Christ.
Chapter 25 is critical of the neighbors to the east (the Ammonites,
Moabites, Edomites) and to the west (Philistines). Those to the east are
criticized in order, going from north to south.
Since the oracles refer to the unseemly and unconscionable rejoicing of
these nations at JerusalemŐs destruction, they should be dated no earlier
than the summer of 586. Otherwise, the oracles in this chapter are not
dated.
EzekielŐs references to the "people of the East," who will punish these
offending nations, may refer to the Babylonians, but the reference is
perhaps more probably to the marauding Bedouin tribes that frequently
attacked from the Arabian desert.



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