Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Ezekiel 45:9
Resolutions, it seems, are made to be broken. Some folks poke fun at this reality by proposing New Year’s vows that are—shall we say—attainable. Here are a few from social media:
Wave to fellow motorists at stoplights.
Sign up for a marathon. Don’t run it.
Get lost without any help from Siri.
Unfriend everyone who posts their workout regimen.
The concept of a fresh start can be serious business, however. The exiled people of Judah desperately needed one. Just over two decades into their seventy-year captivity, God brought encouragement to them through the prophet Ezekiel, promising, “I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Ezekiel 39:25).
But the nation first needed to return to the basics—the instructions God had given to Moses eight hundred years earlier. This included observing a feast at the new year. For the ancient Jewish people, that began in early spring (45:18). A major purpose of their festivals was to remind them of God’s character and His expectations. He told their leaders, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (v. 9), and he insisted on honesty (v. 10).
The lesson applies to us too. Our faith must be put into practice or it’s worthless (James 2:17). In this new year, as God provides what we need, may we live out our faith by returning to the basics: “Love the Lord your God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
In what ways do you sense you need to get back to the basics? How will you put this into practice in the new year?
Father, may Your Spirit show me the places where I need to put others before myself. Help me love You with all my heart.
The prophet Ezekiel (whose name means “God will strengthen”) was one of the major prophets of the Old Testament, and his season of service was during one of the most turbulent times in the nation’s history. He was of the priestly line (the son of Buzi, Ezekiel 1:3), which may contribute to his clear knowledge of the temple. As a human being, Ezekiel wasn’t immune to tragedy, as he was one of the Jewish exiles carried away to Babylon (probably with Jehoiachin in 597 bc), and he also endured the sudden death of his wife (24:18). Filled with symbolism and apocalyptic expectation, Ezekiel’s message forms a good parallel to his contemporary Daniel—whose message contained those same elements (Daniel 7–12). He was also a contemporary of Jeremiah. Aside from the vivid imagery he employed, Ezekiel’s writings are characterized by a significant use of the Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy).