Uniform 11.23.2014: A Step in a New Direction

Ezekiel 47:13-23

On April 15, 2013, thousands of runners participated in the annual Boston Marathon. Most of them had trained for weeks, building up their bodies for the strenuous race. They had persisted, getting up early to run each morning, improving their pace and hoping for a personal record. But on that day, something horrible waited for them at the finish line. Bombings by terrorists critically injured dozens of people—both runners and onlookers. Since that time, at least sixteen people have had their limbs amputated. On November 10 this year, survivor Rebekah DiMartino joined that group.

Seventeen surgeries couldn’t repair her damaged left leg enough for her to use it, so she told the leg good-bye. In a Facebook post, she thanked her supporters and explained what this surgery meant to her: “I want more than anything for people to know that while tears may fall, this is NOT a sad day. This is my new beginning. So instead of concentrating all your prayers on me, save most of them for my family so that they may have peace. God and I made this deal a long time ago. So I’m good.”

Her doctor, William McGarvey, couldn’t agree more. “She’s a symbol of overcoming not just adversity, but tragedy,” he said.

There are times when we all could use a new beginning. In our lesson text, Ezekiel speaks to a people who are desperate for one. Exiled far away from the comfort and security of their homeland, they long for a time when they can begin again. Through Ezekiel, God promises them that they will soon return to a land that they can call their own.

This gift of a new beginning is not only for God’s people, though. It’s also for the immigrants who live among them. In some ways, that was probably tough for the exiles to hear. They had lived as foreigners for a long time, and the natives hadn’t always treated them well. But God insists that the best way to show gratitude for the gift of a new beginning is to offer that gift to someone else, whether or not we think they’ve earned it.

Rebekah DiMartino is now a motivational speaker who helps others by sharing her story of pain and triumph. She is taking her new beginning and spreading its gift to those around her. When God gives us the gift of a new beginning, may we do the same.

Source: Joe Dwinell, “For Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor, Amputation a ‘New Beginning,’” Boston Herald, 11 November 2014, http://www.bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/11/for_boston_marathon_bombing_survivor_amputation_a_new_beginning (accessed 13 November 2014).

Discussion

1. Have you faced a personal trial that was turned around by the gift of a new beginning? If so, what happened, and how did you react to the chance to start over?
2. What do you think life has been like for Rebekah DiMartino since she was injured in the bombing? How do you think she was able to accept the loss of her leg and view the amputation as a “new beginning”?
3. How do you think it felt to be the exiles in Babylon, hearing Ezekiel talk about a new allotment of land in the place they called home? Do you think it was easy to believe in a new beginning at home when they were still so far away?
4. Do you believe that God frequently offers the chance for a new beginning? Has anyone you know received this gift? If so, how did it affect them?
5. Can you live as if every day were a new beginning? How would that attitude affect your interactions with other people? How would it keep you in communication with God?

Reference Shelf

The oracle attached to the vision report is introduced with a messenger formula and is addressed directly to the house of Israel. NRSV follows the Septuagint reading, “These are the boundaries,” The statement is structurally parallel to the introduction to 43:13–46:24: “this is the law of the temple” (43:12). In the present unit, boundaries are defined, instructions are given for the equal apportionment of the land among the tribes, and all of it is designated an “inheritance” (nåhlåh). In 45:1-9, the priestly allotments had been designated as both an “inheritance” and a “holding” by divine decree. The emphasis in this section on inheritance without reference to “holding” implies a patrimonial right and v. 14 grounds that right in the oath Yahweh swore to the ancestors. In his revisionist history of Israel (20:5, 28), Ezekiel contended that Israel’s long record of rebellions had forced Yahweh to swear other oaths superseding but not canceling out this promise. In Ezekiel’s view, then, the oath had never been fulfilled. The explicit reference to the oath here in 47:14 suggests that the restoration will be the occasion for the fulfillment of that ancient promise.

The one abuse remaining to be corrected is the dispute between the exiles and the Jerusalemites regarding the possession of the land (cf. 11:14-15; 33:24). That dispute is resolved by distributing the land in exactly equal portions to the tribes of Jacob. Defining the population in terms of tribal divisions and not along the nationalistic lines of Israel and Judah or, for that, matter, in terms of exiles and Jerusalemites, is not insignificant: by doing so, Ezekiel envisions a fresh start for the new kingdom.

The boundaries are delineated by moving clockwise, naming territories first along the northern limits, then east, then south, with the Mediterranean Sea forming the western boundary. The northern boundary extends well north of Damascus. The eastern boundary runs along the Dead Sea and thus excludes Transjordanian lands. There are parallel boundary reports in the wilderness and conquest narratives (cf. Num 34; Josh 15), but it remains difficult to interpret the precise significance of these boundaries. To take one example: the boundary on the east does not reflect the ancient claim of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh to the Transjordan (Num 34:14-15), and it is difficult to explain why the boundary should be drawn at the Jordan, and not farther east. The boundary may reflect Ezekiel’s condemnation of Judah for encroaching on Ammonite territory (cf. 21:28-32).

The unit closes with a brief discussion of the inheritance rights of resident aliens. Aliens who settle down and bear children in Israel are to receive an allotment of land in whatever tribal land they have settled. This provision can be taken as further evidence of the theme of royal magnanimity running throughout Ezekiel 40–48. Not only the formerly rebellious Israelites, but also the hapless alien in the land receives a share of the divine generosity. The provision may be a poignant testimony to the exiles’ own sense of alienation; one is reminded of the command in Exodus that prohibits the oppression of resident aliens: “you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exod 23:9).

Resource

Margaret S. Odell, Ezekiel, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2005) 521-522.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum since 2001. She is a member of West Highland Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading and writing fiction, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and watching British television shows. Her goal for 2014 is to learn to play the piano.

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