Watching for Re-Creation (Ezekiel)

Monday, October 24, 2022


Thank you Mary for your excellent work on this transcript!

Channing: [00:00:00] Hi! I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:12] We focus on feminist interpretations of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me manual as a guide for study. We understand scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with The Divine, others, and ourselves. We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred texts with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture.

Channing: [00:00:41] While Mormonism, with its iconic floral foyer couches, is our background, we follow our faith and our God on the winding path of spirituality over institution, and connection over condemnation. We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you’ve found yourself feeling a little too faithful for some and not enough for others: Welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. This podcast is funded by our listeners’ generous donations. If you'd like to support our work, connect with us on Patreon or on our website at

[00:01:23] Hi, friends. Welcome back to the podcast. For today's episode, we'll be covering Ezekiel chapters 1-3, 33-37, and chapter 47 as assigned in the Come Follow Me manual for the date's October 24th through the 30th. These chapters, honestly, are perfect for Halloween, so we're really excited to share some of the kind of spooky images that we get to see in this week's text. But before we dive into the specifics, of course, we've always been asking for every single new book and new character that we come across in the text: who is Ezekiel? It's a great question. So Ezekiel was an Israelite refugee from the first Babylonian capture of Israel. If you remember back to our episodes that we did in Jeremiah, Jeremiah prophesied that Israelites would be taken out of Jerusalem and it came true and Ezekiel was one of them. And we learned in the very beginning of the book that Ezekiel on his 30th birthday received a vision from God that called him to prophetic ministry. The book of Ezekiel contains his teachings, calls to repentance, and the vivid visions that he continued to receive throughout his life. Ezekiel's primary prophetic purpose was to critique Israel for idolatry and their failure to live up to covenant responsibilities. And additionally, he was also called to bring the people of Israel to repentance and to foretell the future that awaited Israel and the surrounding kingdoms if they did not repent. The book of Ezekiel was kind of a little bit tricky cuz there's not a really fantastic organization to it. But this framework might be difficult for some of our listeners to understand the book of Ezekiel. We found it really helpful to look at the book of Ezekiel in two different parts. Splitting between chapters 1-33 being the first part, and then the second part being chapters 34-48. The first part we can kind of see Ezekiel's call to ministry, his attempts to persuade the Israelites to repentance, and his prophetic visions of God and the destruction of Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. And then for the second part, chapters 34-38, we can kind of see Ezekiel's visions of a restoration of the Israelite community and a community and a people that live in right-relationship with God. We also see the neighboring nations restored, and we also see the earth restored, which we will talk about today. In this second half of Ezekiel, God seems to be really making everything new and we wanted to give a little bit of credit for this framework and the conceptualization of the book of Ezekiel to, there's a website called the Bible Project and they offer short, concise little videos about what each book in the Hebrew Bible is about, so shout out to them. That was really helpful to kind of have a visual aid to look at how to put all these chapters together. So we're just so excited to dive in today. 

Elise: [00:04:34] Yes. Now, maybe just as a side note, there are some really problematic chapters, especially like chapter 16 and chapter 23, which aren't assigned for the Come Follow Me manual. But these chapters deal with the metaphor of a woman being used to describe Israel's betrayal and wickedness against God, which we've talked about in the past. So, I don't know how much of Ezekiel you're all planning to read, but there's kind of like a content warning for those chapters being particularly graphic, vulgar and quite brutal. But I think if we started the first three chapters that are assigned, Ezekiel has a creative, very creative, and also very, very spooky vision of God that I think it's important for us to highlight simply because of how fanciful and kind of magical it is. So, Ezekiel has this vision of four creatures with wings, they have feet like a cow, hands like a man, and they're all joined together and they have four different faces. There's the face of a man, the face of a lion, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. And this creature, they are all, or I guess they're combined so it's standing on top of this wheel. And this wheel is made all of eyeballs. So spooky! Yes. And above them, above this creature, there's this platform that holds a throne and on the throne sits a man and there's this—you can't really make out this person because it's so bright—but we know that this person is the color of fire and amber and it's not until the very end of chapter one that Ezekiel realizes, “Oh my gosh, this is God! This is God on this throne.” And because of this, well, two things I was thinking of. First, I was thinking- I don't have children, I don't know if this is a great idea, so Channing you can tell me, but one of the things I was thinking of is that like you could have your kids try and draw this picture of God for like family home evening or something and see what hilarious renditions come out. I really love child drawings.  

Channing: [00:06:37] Oh my gosh. That would be, I actually want to do that with my kids really bad because they would, they would come up with some cool stuff. 

Elise: [00:06:44] Yeah. Yeah. Very magical and very mystical. And I think the second thing that I'm thinking is what do I not expect God to look like? Or where do I not expect God to be? So this week I'm going to practice looking and imagining God in ways that I'm not really accustomed to or in ways that I don't usually expect God to show up.

Channing: [00:07:04] Yes. We love that theme. It's something that we talk a lot about on the podcast, the God of surprises. The surprising God. And we also see this theme of God being in unexpected places continue to show up in the first three chapters of Ezekiel because, obviously, Ezekiel does not expect God to show up to him in Babylon. Ezekiel is thinking, “Wait, aren't you supposed to be like at the temple in Jerusalem? Because that's where the Arc of the covenant is?” But God has actually left Jerusalem because of the unrighteousness there, and is there with Ezekiel in Babylon. So we can kind of take that same context and for our own selves and continue to look for an unexpected God in unexpected places. And we think that that's a really powerful takeaway from these first three chapters. 

Elise: [00:07:57] Jumping a little bit later, well, kind of a lot a bit later into the book of Ezekiel, we're gonna look at chapter 33. And in this chapter, it speaks about the role of the watchmen who are called to raise a warning voice. And this chapter says if you're called to be a watchman and you see the sword falling upon your land and falling upon your people, you have a responsibility to “blow the trumpet and warn the people.” Then verses four through six say that if the watchman has warned the people, but the people do not listen to the warning, it's their own fault. The blame is on the people for not heeding the call. But then on the flip side, if the watchman sees the sword or sees the harm but does not blow the trumpet and does not warn the people, then the watchman is responsible for not protecting the people. And I think we wanted to unpack this story just a bit by first asking: who are the watchmen? Sometimes I think that the watchmen could be like folks on the margins because they tend to have a more accurate view of the world because they're actually not committed to the status quo in the same ways that people in dominant positions are, and folks on the margins have had to learn how to live in both dominant and marginalized spaces because it's a survival skill. We also think that watchmen could be allies. You know, these people who are looking out for the marginalized and also using their trumpet influence to speak to the dominant culture too, not just to warn the marginalized groups.

Channing: [00:09:25] I think that's a really powerful way to interpret the watchmen, and I think it's a really great parable. It functions really well in that literary way. I think it's really powerful to look at it that way because the story reminds us—especially as Elise and I are allies and the rest of our listeners who also find themselves in an ally position—that we have a responsibility to keep a lookout for potential harm and abuse that could come towards marginalized groups. It reminds us of the saying, I'm sure you've heard it before, “see something, say something”. And that's a line that has been used to prevent terrorism. Like, we've heard it at the airport, right? See something, say something. But it's also popularly used in instances of abuse and sexual assault. If you see something blow your freaking trumpet. This parable also invites compassion and empathy for marginalized folks as watchmen, because they're always on the lookout and they're always calling out warnings of harm. Sometimes we might become frustrated with folks who seem to only ever talk about social justice issues. We ask ourselves and sometimes even ask them: why can't they just relax for a bit? Why do they always have to be posting about racism or homophobia? We really think that this parable offers an answer to these questions and offers some context for experiences of annoyance. First, as watchmen, these folks are constantly on the lookout and there is harm everywhere all of the time. Especially for someone who holds multiple marginalized identities, this world is a constant onslaught of harm and violence and threats. And secondly, as watchmen, marginalized folks are trying to keep their communities safe. This is a story of one single watchman. And with this perspective, I think we can really begin to understand how it can often feel like the weight of the world is falling on your shoulders because you're trying to protect your community and it feels like it's up to you, you one singular, one person. 

Elise: [00:11:35] Yeah. Yeah. I think those are some great points and why this is a really remarkable parable. But then on the flip side, I think that sometimes this can be seen as kind of a rough parable too, if we stick with this like marginalized or allyship outlook because for watchmens on the margins, it is an exhausting task. Especially like you said, if you're the only watchman, you have to be up like 24 hours a day and be constantly vigilant and it can feel like there's no time to rest. Additionally, if marginalized folks are supposed to be the ones that are the watchmen, it can make it seem like they have a responsibility for keeping powerful and privileged people and allies safe, which is not true. Finally, marginalized watchmen have the double weight of both staying safe and then the added responsibility of keeping others safe, which is a really heavy burden to bear alone. So I hope that as we move throughout this week, we might consider doing two things. One, switch shifts with one of your fellow watchmen to let others sleep and rest. Let them know that you have their back and that you will keep them and their communities safe. Secondly, we can practice being vigilant in our watching efforts and not shirk away from calling out oppression and warning others. So those are some of the takeaways that we had for chapter 33, which we really, really loved.

Channing: [00:12:53] Yeah, those are really, really beautiful. Moving on to chapter 34—which just, you know, is right next to it, the next chapter—we also find a parable that's really similar to that of the watchmen. In this chapter, Ezekiel shares another parable about a group of shepherds who do not feed the flock. In other words, they have not kept watch and they have not cared for their community, you know? Metaphorically, their sheep, which is Israel or the people that they live with. And what we really love about this chapter is that instead of being passive and simply mourning the lost sheep and the sheep who have been killed, God steps in and says, “Fine, if you aren't gonna do it, then I guess I'm gonna have to do it myself.” And I think that for those who are really needing a reminder and reassurance that God will show up in history and care for you, this can be a really comforting and powerful story.  

Elise: [00:13:50] Yeah. So just to give a bit of a summary of what God says to these sheep/these people, because, really, God is incredibly active here. I think it would be one thing if God simply killed off all of the wicked shepherds and then said, “Boom, there you go sheep, I took away your enemy. So now you're totally free. Good luck.” And while it is important to get rid of the air quotes “wicked” shepherds, this actually doesn't help the sheep long term. They need to be back with their community. They need steady food. They need support and healthcare. They need shelter and resources for success. So when God shows up in chapter 34 with plans and promises to see these plans through, I think this is perhaps one of the most loving acts and interactions with God that I've seen especially recently. In this chapter, God says things like, “I will deliver my flock from your mouth, that you will not eat them as meat. I will both search and seek for my sheep. I will gather them out of the cloudy and dark places and bring them to their own land. I will feed them in a good pasture and I will let them rest. I will bind up the broken ones and strengthen the sick ones. I will save my flock and they shall no more be prey. I will make a covenant of peace with them and remove all of the evil beasts from the land so that they're able to dwell safely in the wilderness and that they're able to safely sleep in the woods.” God says, “I will shower them with blessings. I will raise them plants so that they will never be hungry.” And the last promise that God makes to the sheep or to the people, God says, “thus they will know that I the Lord their God and with them and that they are my people.” 

Channing: [00:15:36] Yeah, that's a promise that we actually see kind of continued, especially throughout the second half of Ezekiel. And I think it's just it's so poetic and every time I hear that phrase, you know what it reminds me of? It totally reminds me of the Ruth and Naomi moment: where you go, I'll go, and your God is my God. Every time I hear that, that's what I think of. I think it's just such a beautiful way. It's a beautiful sentence, right? It's very poetically written, but it also rings a bell in me for like another really powerful story of connection and commitment and devotion and love and care for others. And yeah, I think so, this is a really good mirror too, right? We see God in this chapter really planning to seek out, to gather and restore the sheep, and then God provides things like mutual aid and structural support for these sheep by caring for their physical and material needs with things like food, housing, and healthcare. Then we see God blessing these people with safety and security and promises that all of their needs will be met. And finally, our favorite sentence, just like we said, God promises to never abandon them with that iconic lover's line of “I am yours and you are mine.” So good. 

Elise: [00:16:52] I love this chapter. I think it's so wonderful and I'm gonna return to it whenever I need a reminder that my God is willing to do that for me. And I think maybe if people have listened to the podcast for a while, you'll know that we understand God to be a verb. God is love made manifest through other people. So when I say that I feel loved because God is going to take care of me, that's me saying that I know I will be taking care of because I have good, loving people in my life. And I also want to do that for other people, not in a white savior way, but in a way that positively impacts people's material lived experiences and provides them with safety and resources and promises that I will see through. 

Channing: [00:17:33] Yeah, absolutely. Chapter 34 I really feel like it's kind of a turning point in the text to like imagining and restoring and building something really new and promising. And so from there I think I feel really excited about moving to chapter 36. Actually kind of wanna talk about chapter 36, 37 and 47 together as a whole because we see a couple of themes that are interwoven with each other. For me, as I go through and read the text, one of the things that feels very present and very prominent in these three chapters is the concept of newness and rebirth and recreation. So I'm gonna go through and kind of give each chapter like a little theme but in the back of our mind, remembering that the umbrella is recreation. Okay, so if you move to chapter 36, in this chapter we get some imagery that is reminiscent of a garden, but we also see God nurturing and caring for, and even tending to the hearts of the people. And to me, this really speaks to the experience of our soul. This is the part of our body or the part of our earthly experience that includes the spiritual or what we would normally call the sacred. So this is the soul experience. In chapter 36 verse nine, we get a little bit of that gardening imagery where God says, “For behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown.” So that imagery of tilling the garden, of digging the old things up and tilling them back into the earth so that they can decompose and also planting new seeds, we get that imagery there. Then if we move to verses 26-28, we hear a little bit more about this soul restoration. We hear God say, “A new heart also, will I give you and a new spirit I will put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your ancestors, and you shall be my people and I will be your God.” And then and then as the culmination of this chapter, once God has replaced this stony heart, after tilling it and planting something new there, we hear God saying, “And the desolate land shall be tilled. And all the people who walk by…”—this isn't a quote but all the people who walk by are gonna say like, “Wow, remember when this land was totally barren? And then the only thing here was like desert and sand?” The text says that these people shall say “this land was desolate and has become like the Garden of Eden.” Okay, Garden of Eden. Everyone knows that I am like, “ooh, ding, ding, ding. Talking about Genesis chapters one and two? Big, big nerd.” So we're gonna see some more Garden of Eden creation story threads here as well as we talk about chapter 37. Will you read this? 

Elise: [00:20:53] In chapter 37, Ezekiel has another vision, this time where he is taken into a valley full of, again, something spooky: human bones, which he described as a very dry meaning, very, very long time dead bones. And God speaks over these dry bones saying in chapter 37 verse five, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and ye shall live: I will lay sinews [or organs] upon you, and will bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” So Ezekiel watched as the bones began to move and shake and come together and be formed back into a wholy-formed, living, breathing human body. And this chapter functions as a metaphorical resurrection of the Israelite people to a healthful wholeness and peace founded on a right and proper relationship with their covenant God.

Channing: [00:21:53] Yeah. So in this chapter, we see not only now the soul has been restored and the stony heart has been replaced with the heart of flesh, but we also see another aspect of our embodied experience: our bodies. These bodies are being recreated out of dry, very long dead bones. That dry bones imagery is intentional, it's meant to tell us these bones are super, super dead—like, archeology-dig-dead—to emphasize the great power and majesty of God; that God is able to restore these very long, dry, dead bones back to life. And then finally as we move into chapter 47, again, we get some more of that Garden of Eden imagery. So in this chapter Ezekiel, in his final vision, he sees a river that is flowing out from the restored temple in the new Israelite land, and this river is flowing toward the Dead Sea. In chapter 47 verses 8-12, the text says, “and [the Lord said] unto unto me [Ezekiel], These waters…go into the sea…and these waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, withersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these [healed] waters shall come thither… And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees… whose leaves shall not fade…and whose fruit shall be for meat and the leaf for medicine.”

So remember the Dead Sea is a giant lake full of salt. It's just like the Great Salt Lake where nothing lives in it except for brine shrimp and algae. There's nothing edible to go in there. So it would basically be an entirely different body of water because it wouldn't be so salinated. So, creatures that we recognize as creatures, animals and plants, would be able to thrive there, but it would require a complete recreation of the landscape and what it actually looks like. So, yeah, again, there's just so many echoes, especially over the first two chapters of Genesis and these final bits of Ezekiel. And I think now, what we're seeing and what I feel really excited about in this part of the book, this is something we shared on the podcast before, throughout the Hebrew Bible we think that we might be seeing God going through their own growth and learning process and we've seen God do a lot of creating in Genesis and we've seen God do a lot of destroying throughout the rest of the Hebrew Bible. But what's really exciting is especially those chapters about tilling and the garden, we get to see like God actually getting excited about the idea of destruction and decomposition and the necessity for things to die away so that something new can grow in its place. And then we also get to see in these chapters, not only is God now playing with the idea of creation and destruction, but God is also playing with the idea of recreating something new out of the pieces of the old ways or the old system, or the old ways of being, which I think is really promising. I'm excited to see what comes up next after Ezekiel and maybe watch this growth process. And finally the thing that really stuck out to me reading these three chapters kind of together thematically, is to recognize that the care of these three aspects of our embodied experience, our soul experience, our physical body experience, and then our interrelationship with the earth, that they are interconnected and that caring for the body and caring for the soul, and caring for the earth, they are all sacred and they all feed one another. They go together in the text so often and it's a pattern that we see happen over and over and over again. So it was really exciting to read that here in Ezekiel as well. 

Elise: [00:26:15] I think that's such a fantastic reading that you offered and it's a really, really nice way to end the book of Ezekiel, especially because it's a longer book. I think it's 48 chapters, but the Israelites go through some really, really rough destruction in those chapters. So to follow the story arc and see God at the end, really, really inviting new promises for hope and new relationships, I think is a glorious way to end the book. So thank you everyone for listening this week and for being with us as we work through the book of Ezekiel. We love you so, so much, and we'll talk to you next week. Bye!

[00:27:04] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminists Podcast. We know your time and space is sacred and we are so grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd be so happy if you left us a loving rating on iTunes and Spotify so other seekers can find us. 

Channing: [00:27:17] Financial donations support the many hours of research, work, and devotion to each episode, as well as the everyday cost of creating and publishing the podcast. You can support us on Patreon or through a simple Venmo donation and help us create a world where creators, artists, activists, and beauty makers are valued and paid for their labor. Find us on those platforms and on Instagram as TheFaithfulFeminists. We are deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon. Bye friends!
Powered by Blogger.