If you are reading this book a chapter at a time, this is where it might be important to remember that chapters and verses are editorial editions added much later to Scripture. This is important to note, because normally when we see chapters in our contemporary reading, that means we are on a whole new topic. Often within Scripture that is not the case. In this week’s chapter, we see a continuation of the vision that started in the previous chapter. Without that information, you may be prone to ask a lot of wrong questions about what is happening in chapter 9.
At the beginning of this chapter, God calls together all the men that are charged as executioners and punishers in the city of Jerusalem. Six men with weapons and a scribe appear. The scribe is charged to “Pass through the middle of Yerushalaim, and put an X on the foreheads of the people who are groaning and who are moaning over the offensive things that are done in the middle of [the city]” (Ezekiel 9:4, Goldingay). The men with weapons are then charged to follow behind and kill every person (man, woman, and child regardless of age) that the scribe does not mark. They are then to take all of the bodies and pile them up in the Temple. Ezekiel asks of God why he is destroying His own people, and God replies, “The waywardness of the household of Yisra’el and Yehudah is very, very great. The country is full of bloodshed. The town is full of injustice…I, too – my eye won’t spare and I won’t pity. I’m putting their own way on their head” (9:9-10, Goldingay).
“We often speak of people not living up to their faith. But the cases in which we say this are not really cases of people behaving otherwise than they believe. They are cases in which genuine beliefs are made obvious by what people do. We always live up to our beliefs — or down to them, as the case may be.”Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God
I feel like, if we do not remember that this is a vision, we are led to ask questions like, “Why would God order the deaths of so many people, especially innocents?” We may even begin to question how this is the same God that revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. But I think this piece of the vision is actually very congruent with the God that we know. Here, God is seeking to remove all of the evil and injustice from His people. He is seeking to make them pure and good, as they were always supposed to be. After describing all the evil practices that we used to do in sin, Paul writes, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:9-10, NASB). Jesus has freed us from the grip of sin and offered us the gift of life. Once we accept that gift, it is our responsibility to put to death all of our former practices that are not God honoring. This means that we must look to disciplining ourselves towards Christlikeness. Becoming more like Christ is not something that just happens the longer you are a Christian; you must intentionally seek to put to death the old ways to become more like Christ.
Maybe there is something in your life that you are having a hard time giving up. Maybe it’s a relationship, an activity, a practice. Whatever it is, has God marked it for destruction? If we want to live lives that are glorious to God, we must be willing to let go of everything in order to have more of Him. In this week’s vision, God is purifying His people so they are no longer evil and wicked. Is God seeking to purify something in your life so you can be more like Him? Are you resisting because it’s not that bad or everyone else is doing it? We must put to death our old selves, so we can become the new creations we are in Christ.