from today’s Office of Readings:
From the book of the prophet Ezekiel
16:3, 5b-7a, 8-15, 35, 37a, 40-43, 59-63
Jerusalem, the adulterous spouse of the Lord
Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: By origin and birth you are of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. You were thrown out on the ground as something loathsome, the day you were born.
Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood. I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field. You grew and developed, you came to the age of puberty; your breasts were formed, your hair had grown, but you were still stark naked. Again I passed by you and saw that you were now old enough for love. So I spread the corner of my cloak over you to cover your nakedness; I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you; you became mine, says the Lord God. Then I bathed you with water, washed away your blood, and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered gown, put sandals of fine leather on your feet; I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms, a necklace about your neck, a ring in your nose, pendants in your ears, and a glorious diadem upon your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver; your garments were of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. Fine flour, honey, and oil were your food. You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen. You were renowned among the nations for your beauty, perfect as it was, because of my splendor which I had bestowed on you, says the Lord God.
But you were captivated by your own beauty, you used your renown to make yourself a harlot, and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by, whose own you became.
Therefore, harlot, hear the word of the Lord! I will now gather together all your lovers whom you tried to please, whether you loved them or loved them not. They shall lead an assembly against you to stone you and hack you with their swords. They shall burn your apartments with fire and inflict punishments on you while many women look on. Thus I will put an end to your harlotry, and you shall never again give payment. When I have wreaked my fury upon you I will cease to be jealous of you, I will be quiet and no longer vexed. Because you did not remember what happened when you were a girl, but enraged me with all these things, therefore in return I am bringing down your conduct upon your head, says the Lord God. For did you not add lewdness to the rest of your abominable deeds?
For thus speaks the Lord God: I will deal with you according to what you have done, you who despised your oath, breaking a covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you. Then you shall remember your conduct and be ashamed when I take your sisters, those older and younger than you, and give them to you as daughters, even though I am not bound by my covenant with you. For I will re-establish my covenant with you, that you may know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord God.
I listened to this in the car this morning. It had my full attention from that initial image of the baby left to die– reminding me of my recent reading with Bella about ancient Rome that mentioned that a Roman father had power of life and death over his offspring, when a baby was born it was laid at his feet and if he didn’t pick it up to claim it, it was exposed to die.
This is imagery I’m somewhat familiar with– Israel as the unfaithful wife or harlot, God as the patient husband who seeks her out and takes her back. But so much more than that too. That he cared for her from infancy and clothed her nakedness when she reached puberty. That all her beauty was because of his splendor which he bestowed on her. The imagery of Jerusalem as a young girl…. This imagery fascinated me.
And in talking about it with my sister, she pointed out that the way God welcomes her back and cares for her is the same way that Jesus cares for the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene. I had never before thought of those women in the New Testament as types of Jerusalem or of Israel.
If I could convey one thing to non-Christians about my faith it would be this: that it is a love story. The greatest love story ever told. It is not a series of rules and regulations but a relationship. The most fulfilling relationship with the greatest Lover ever known, one who is infinitely patient, absolutely faithful, always forgiving, tender and kind.
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