Every five to seven years, I read the Bible from beginning to end as if it is one book. The first time I did so, I was about five. Each evening, my foster father would gather all the kids & his wife into the living room to read Scripture, listen to a very long, convoluted sermon (having mostly to do with himself) & pray long, convoluted prayers (having mostly to do with himself). When a child learned to read, he was given a Bible. I had learned to read before my parents sent me away & couldn't wait for my turn to read aloud & get my very own Bible. It took some insistence on my part, they were most reluctant to accept that I could read, but I finally convinced them & very soon had the Bible I so desired. No one taught me the right way to read it so I just treated it like any other book. And I hadn't been taught that I ought to be able to understand everything I read so I was unfazed with & just waded my way through begats & how the many pomegranates were to be embroidered on the meeting tent & similar texts that made no sense at the time. Once in a while, I'd ask my foster mother questions (occasionally, she'd even let me read the big family Bible w/ pictures & gold edges & the wonderful leather binding fragrance). Rarely, I'd save a question for my foster father. But mostly, I just read & decided I could always read it again when I knew more.
This is my eighth 'beginning to end' reading, I think. Of course, I've studied particular books & read the Bible or heard it read nearly everyday. But there's something different reading it this way. The God of the old testament is clearly the God of the new testament. He has put up with His straying people for many, many years & they just won't follow His laws - Israel insists they must be like the surrounding nations. Then God sends prophets to warn of impending exile. None is so compelling, so dramatic, so graphic as Ezekiel as He acts out the prophecies according to God's instructions - if they won't listen, and they won't - God will send the message in dramatic form. That's from my perspective of course. I think the ruling class of Israel saw Ezekiel as a comic buffoon, but that's just my guess; they didn't believe him.
In Ezekiel 12, according to the usual formula, "[t]he word of the LORD came to me:
'Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not; for they are a rebellious house. Therefore, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile's baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight; you shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house. You shall bring out your baggage by day in their sight, as baggage for exile; and you shall go forth yourself at evening in their sight, as men do who must go into exile. Dig through the wall in their sight, and go out through it. In their sight you shall lift the baggage upon your shoulder, and carry it out in the dark; you shall cover your face, that you may not see the land; for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.' And I did as I was commanded. I brought out my baggage by day, as baggage for exile, and in the evening I dug through the wall with my own hands; I went forth in the dark, carrying my outfit upon my shoulder in their sight.
In the morning the word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, has not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said to you, `What are you doing?' Say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD: This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel who are in it.' Say, `I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.' And the prince who is among them shall lift his baggage upon his shoulder in the dark, and shall go forth; he shall dig through the wall and go out through it; he shall cover his face, that he may not see the land with his eyes. And I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare; and I will bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chalde'ans, yet he shall not see it; and he shall die there. And I will scatter toward every wind all who are round about him, his helpers and all his troops; and I will unsheathe the sword after them. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries. But I will let a few of them escape from the sword, from famine and pestilence, that they may confess all their abominations among the nations where they go, and may know that I am the LORD."
These verses resonate within me. I feel as if their story of exile is mine. The more I think of it, the more it seems that my homeland got it wrong, woefully wrong and I am part of the scattered remnant left alive that I may confess the abomination of the leaders of countries that focus on power & ideologies rather than teaching their citizens to be virtuous & to love & follow God.
Most Brazilians who escaped during the time of oppression were like my family, well educated & comfortably well off. And, as my family did, they went to England. But somehow things were different for me. What that difference was is shrouded in the past & I doubt I'll understand it this side of heaven. But the madness that destroyed part of my family in Brazil reached out in some way caught my parents about two years later. Except, and there is always an except because God has been made man & all things are new, before they were killed, my parents sent me to the United States of America which was constituted, as John Adams said, "only for a moral and religious people" and is "wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
So now I continue to ponder, "[b]ut I will let a few of them escape from the sword, from famine and pestilence, that they may confess all their abominations among the nations where they go, and may know that I am the LORD." I was sent here that I may know God is the Lord & I'm pretty sure the 'except' is, if I will know Him as Lord, in encountering me others will know that He is the Lord too. He is the Lord & we must be willing to become a moral & religious people. Not because we might be exiled, though that ought to be reason enough, but because He is the Lord. To be anything else is to be a "rebellious house who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not" who reject God's gifts to us simply because we are a "rebellious house."