Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Ezekiel 22:29 By: Kathy Hill
“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.” Ezekiel 22:29.
We can put this verse in it’s proper context by reading the preceding verses where Ezekiel is calling out the sins of all of the people of Jerusalem, regardless of their station in life. Here we read of the transgressions practiced by the common people as well as the “princes of Israel.” The simple words used to convey the oppression of the poor and denial of justice to aliens by the common man, when contrasted with description of the atrocities of the sins of those in power, i.e., the priests, leaders and prophets whose transgressions are described in vivid detail elsewhere, makes this last verse seem almost like an afterthought. Extortion and a few civil rights abuses seem almost benign. As noted by Carlo in the preceding blog, the extent of evil by those in power was limited only by the human capacity to commit evil. Yet, we see here that God’s wrath at the people of Jerusalem includes without distinction, the powerless and those who had been lied to by their leaders concerning the Law. Those not in power will not be able to escape judgment by pleading ignorance, mitigating circumstances or that justice should be meted out on a sliding scale because God is not willing to adjust his punishment according to such modern concepts. In fact, we learn in the very next verse that God looks in vain for a man who had repented and could defend the city of Jerusalem. But he does look.
The fact that God was willing to spare the city if he could find one deserving man tells us that God puts great store in personal responsibility. One can not escape responsibility by blaming high ranking people. God does not recognize the so called Nuremberg defense. Nor does God draw a great distinction between the manner in which people sin.
We see a parallel between ancient Jerusalem and our modern society in our individual treatment of the strangers in our land. Granted, we may not be involved in human trafficking, slavery and the like. We may not employ dozens of illegal immigrants at a sweatshop, car wash or even a restaurant in order to pay less or because we believe “these people” will be more compliant. We may not short-change a person because we know we will not see them again or employ someone we know is here illegally. We may even disguise our disgust with the smelly homeless man in the coffee shop or carefully watch our words when confronted with someone we perceive as “different” so as not to offend, however I think this verse is a warning to us - not just as a nation, a region or a city, but individually, that these things are not enough. I believe God is calling on us to change our hearts.