I’ve been re-reading the prophets in these days of pandemic. The prophets often speak to a people in crisis — and while they speak hard truths those hard truths are full of hope. The prophet Ezekiel was such a preacher.

And they shall know that I am God – 59 times in the prophecy of Ezekiel this phrase is repeated, reminding us that God is a God who wills to be known! The God who wills to be known is fully aware of our tendency “to wander” from the Lord we say we love and Ezekiel’s people were no exception.

They professed to believe, but in the midst of catastrophe (invasion of Israel by Babylon) many were overwhelmed by the devastation and ready to give up on life. Others refused to see the catastrophe for what it was — God was on their side so how could anything bad possibly happen to them?

Neither saw the truth and glory of God.

In the opening chapter Ezekiel points us to the violent storm front (probably an analogy for Babylon) thundering into the land. The violent storm’s raging winds and pounding rain sweeps away the dead branches of religion that arrogantly presumes God will bless every act of people who say with their mouths “I believe” while living as though God does not exist. The rising waters wash out the cracked foundations of institutional religion that is self-serving. The bow left in the wake of the storm front reveals the kavod, the glory, of “God who will be known.” In its mystery and beauty, God’s glory is as dangerous as a hot summer afternoon electrical storm here in the south.

Those hot summer afternoon electrical storms may sweep away the dead branches and wash away cracked foundations, but they leave behind greener grass after the lightning infuses massive doses of nitrates into the earth to be taken up by the plants.

The storm front that rages into the opening chapter of Ezekiel leaves new life in its wake. It brings with it the water of life that flows from the temple of God:

[The Lord] led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep… it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in … He said to me, “Mortal, have you seen this?”

Then he led me back along the bank of the river. 7 As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other…On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (47:3-12)

Dark cloud risin’, looks like rain. Fear it — and welcome it!

The Rev. Camille Josey is the pastor at Silver Creek Presbyterian Church.

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