Here God proclaims his love. God proclaims the bias of his heart. God proclaims the direction of movement of his heart.
Above all, he is for the weak. Above all, he is for the vulnerable, the wounded, the broken, the lost. (Does this sound familiar? “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10. “Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” Mark 2:17.)
The “fat”, the strong, the rich, the powerful—these God turns away from. And this – God’s preference for the ones who need him over those who do not—this is what God calls “justice”; this is what God calls “righteousness.” The goodness of God’s heart is skewed in favor of the weak, the wounded, the vulnerable, the broken.
After God asserts this bias in Ezekiel 34:16, he goes on in an enigmatic sort of way that seems to pit “my flock” against “my flock” and “my sheep” against “my sheep”. He addresses “my flock” in verse 17 and asks them why, after eating their fill of the good grass and drinking their fill of the good water, they must trample the remaining grass and muddy the remaining water, leaving the trampled grass and the muddied water for “my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:19). What does this mean?
It seems there is a reckoning to come, a judging between the sheep. God will judge his sheep, will decide between the strong and the weak. I keep looking for a distinction between the strong who use their power for selfish gain and those who use their strength to help. But here God does not seem to make such a distinction, not at least in an overt way.
The simple assumption here seems to be that to be rich and powerful is to be abusive. The simple assertion is that the strong, the sleek, the fat have gotten that way by abusing the weak and wounded—“because you push with your side and your shoulder and thrust your horns at all the weak sheep until you scatter them abroad” (Ezekiel 34:21).
The weak and the wounded are disadvantaged from the start, and if the strong and the whole do not voluntarily step back to give the weak and the wounded access to the resources of life, the disparity between the strong and the weak will simply increase.
Justice is the stepping back of the powerful to give place to the weak and vulnerable.
And lest you say, that I’m just spreading a biblical veneer over a political ideology, let me point out in clear terms that this bias of God toward the weak is the very heart and essence of the gospel of salvation through Christ. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5:6. The gospel of God’s grace through Christ is a blatant assertion of God’s bias for the weak and the helpless. Without that bias in God’s heart, there is no salvation for sinners.
What Ezekiel and all the scriptures make clear is that God is not just interested in saving disembodied souls out of the world. It is his unstoppable intent to redeem the entirety of his fallen, thorn-infested creation—souls, yes, but also bodies, societies, the land, the earth and all that is in it. “And the one seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:5. Hallelujah! Praise be to our good and merciful God!
Scripture quotes are from the New English Translation.
©2021 Gary A. Chorpenning. All rights reserved.