Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Vision of the Temple, Ezekiel XL (engraving). Illustration for Cassells Illustrated Family Bible Superior Edition, c.1880
In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south.
— Ezekiel 40:2
When God wants his chosen prophets to imagine a new beginning, he brings them to a mountain.1 From the top of a mountain we get the widest possible view, the vast, stretching landscape being a metaphor for future possibility.
"The mountain is thought to contain divine inspiration, and it is the focus of pilgrimages of transcendence and spiritual elevation. It is a universal symbol of the nearness of God, as it surpasses ordinary humanity and extends toward the sky and the heavens. It symbolises constancy, permanence, motionlessness, and its peak spiritually signifies the state of absolute consciousness."2
We spend a lot of our time seeing only what is right in front of us. Our view is small and narrow; there are very few possibilities. Our view becomes even smaller when we spend all day staring at a screen—and many of us did little else during the Covid19 pandemic lockdown period/s, and the habit lingers on. Leaving the house, climbing a hill will remind us that we must rise to possibility, lift ourselves above the mundane. If it's good for God's prophets, it must be good for us too.
The sad thing about Ezekiel's mountain moment is he uses it to specify in the minutest detail what God's new temple should be like. Rather than creating a wide, glorious view of a peaceful, harmonious world, he sees only the punishment and death of Israel's enemies, and an entire nation dedicated to building a temple according to his precise instructions, so God's law can be obeyed to the exact letter.3 Ezekiel may be known as a prophet, but he can hardly be considered a man of vision and daring. He comes across more as a local government bureaucrat, with a passion for exactness that would probably see him placed on the autistic spectrum today. I prefer to read Ezekiel selectively, jumping over the detail and focussing on the moments when God's imagination bursts forth in him—and before he subjects it to his project-management exactness.