Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 45.8-9
8 …and my princes will no longer oppress my people but will allow the people of Israel to possess the land according to their tribes.
9 “ ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: You have gone far enough, princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Reflection: Leaders Against Oppression
By John Tillman
Continuing his vision of the new city of God and its temple, Ezekiel describes an equitable division of the land among the tribes. Then he gives a special warning to the “princes” that they must not abuse their position or power.
So what are princes to do?
“Do justice, walk humbly, and love mercy” are easy to assent to but harder to live up to. Specific things Ezekiel mentions are giving up violence and oppression and to stop seizing people’s property unjustly.
Property, wealth, and debt are frequently addressed in scripture and frequently the implication is that debts should be forgiven and wealth should not be hoarded or go unused. God expects those with wealth to put it to use doing good, not pile it up for themselves for a life of ease.
The word translated “princes” could refer to kings or royal family members but is more often a general term for any leader. These “princes” were typically wealthy or powerful individuals, religious leaders, and governmental officials. The word more literally means “one lifted up” or “exalted one” and its root word can also be used to refer to a rising vapor or cloud (Psalm 135.7; Proverbs 25.14; Jeremiah 10.13; 51.16).
This root word creates an analogy that can be instructive to and a warning for leaders. Princes, or leaders, are like vapor, mist, or clouds. They are not raised up by their own power. Their time is short and their power is intended to be transitory, impermanent, and light. They are intended to bring refreshing dew in the morning, shade in the heat of the day, and rain in the afternoon. They should be sources of blessing and regeneration for the land and the people, not like dry, harsh, greedy winds, taking from the land every scrap of moisture that can be absorbed.
God says his princes will “no longer oppress.” May that day come soon. In whatever way we are lifted up, may we remember God’s charge to his leaders.
While we wait for this idyllic future city of God, may we work to ensure that the powerful are warned not to be abusive. May we live in such a way that others will not be dispossessed. May we grasp power fearfully and with humility, understanding that God’s first concern with power is that it must not be abused.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion, bless the Lord, O my soul.
— Psalm 103.20-22
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle
Ezekiel 45 (Listen – 5:32)
Psalm 99-101 (Listen – 2:48)
Read more about Lament the Fall of Leaders (Even Bad Ones)
Your life will always be in danger when you aren’t telling the powerful what they want to hear.
Read more about Seeking God’s Servant
God’s servant is different than would be expected of a king or worldly leader.