For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord GOD, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land; there I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred things. As a pleasing odour I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. You shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your ancestors.
These verses in Ezekiel were written in the midst of a heavy rebuke, but they represent a promise of hope that is almost too large to fully hold and accept. The closer we come to God in His holiness, the more we surrender our hearts into desiring this for our world. We still feel the jolting reality of so many people’s experience, often left with questions bigger than the parables that try to answer them. The vision of Qohelet seems simpler, closer to the world we walk in:
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in the ages before us. The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.
The biblical writers so often remind their listeners to remember the reality of redemption in the past, or recognise the reality that God is king over every facet of creation. Where we stand here and now, these things are impossible to see with our eyes and seem cosmic compared to the materiality of the world around us. That everything was brought into being from nothing, and it was good? A nation walked out of slavery through plagues, a sea was held open, and they experienced God together in the wilderness; they passed the memory on. Individuals were given a clear promise of blessing that would come through them; the prophets and writers of a nation saw intense visions of holiness and kingship; there remains a hope (and a fear) that everything will be opened and made right here in the world we are living upon. How do the brightness and cacophony of these immense stories connect with the places and times that we really see our lives in?
Something still speaks clearly in the quiet, constant choices to live with kindness, honesty, diligence, worship, selflessness, and the joy that comes with these. Even while we are part of a collective much larger than ourselves and a history much longer than our lives, the reminder from the Hebrew prophets is that we already have a close connection with the blessing and righteousness of our God. If the story is too overwhelming to see as a whole, we can still live in the intricacy of today. The clearest feeling of this in our time may be the simplest: search for the people who are hurting; take care of foreigners; respect and listen, give generously; offer the best in our hand to our creator, listen for His heart, and wait with trust. There is a clear and solid path for us to choose and to walk, which is right amidst the promise.