“Yell out and wail, son of man. The sword is against my people! The princes of Israel and my people–abandoned to the sword!” (Ezekiel 21:12, The Message)
“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. . .He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.” (Psalm 103:8-10, The Message)
What is the character of God? How does God look on humanity? By juxtaposing the verses above, selected from today’s readings, we see two very different answers to these questions. The stark contrast between the image presented in Ezekiel and that offered in Psalm 103 reveals a tension allowed to exist within the pages of Scripture. The Biblical witness reflects a long history of our attempts as humans to come to grips with the nature of God and the terms by which God will judge us on the basis of our behavior. Like the people of Israel, we try to interpret circumstances and events in our lives in terms of God’s activity in them. Because we are human, we can never pretend to fully know what God is like.
However, as we read the prophets and the Psalms side-by-side, we are able to view them from a different vantage point than their original hearers. We know that Jesus is coming. When God comes in the flesh, we get firsthand experience that enlightens our understanding of the nature of God. Today, Ezekiel presents an image of an angry God who will strike to kill. In the person of Jesus, we meet the forgiving God who would choose to be killed himself rather than inflict death on others.