Will You Still Believe?

By Nestor Ravilas

As I live, says the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out, I will be king over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out; 35 and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face.

Ezekiel 20:33-35
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it: Isaiah 42:5

Sacred history features God and Her relationship with Her people. Revelation then is understood through the ways this transcendental God enters history and participates in human experience. By design, revelation is limited though human perception. And more to that, it might be conditioned within specific human context where our knowledge of God would be skewed on certain biased direction.

Not all scholars, however, agree on this. Revelation is one and complete, they argue. Yahweh is a warrior, a king, a creator and a universal deity. All these come at one point in archaic past and went down to succeeding progeny undisturbed.

Biblical records say otherwise. It comports more on the progressive perception heavily dependent on the condition of human perceiver. Thus, in ancient time where tribal wars are rampant, all gods, including Yahweh, are known to be warrior-gods. On records, this actually is the oldest role of gods, to fight for their people. It comes not surprising therefore that Yahweh was first known among her people as their warrior and national god who will fight for them, or along with them.

There was an observable big shift, however, on the character of Israel’s national God in the writings of Ezekiel and Second Isaiah. Like the texts from the two books quoted above, Yahweh’s identity was obviously accelerated. From mere warrior-god, She was presented in the two books as creator, redeemer and universal God. Titles that are absent in pre-exilic writings. At this point of history, Yahweh was not only perceived as mere warrior and local god, but promoted into a powerful creator and universal God.

What is most interesting here is not the elevation of Israel’s consciousness about their God. Rather, they raised their concept of their god from mere warrior to a creator, from mere national god to universal one, when Judah was in exile to Babylon. It was the time of national embarrassment. The temple was destroyed, the monarch was taken captives, and the land was left desolated.

We all know that both Ezekiel and Second Isaiah were exilic prophets. They were brought along with Juhadite elites to captivity, to Babylon. And it was in this lowest part of their history that they see their God as mighty creator and universally reigning. Complete irony, isn’t it? With such agony and travail, they should start giving up their faith. They should have demoted Yahweh from warrior and local god to a mere lesser deity of a small family circle. But in the time of extreme trial, both Ezekiel and Second Isaiah sees Yahweh greater than Marduk, the god of their captors.

How did the two prophets able to do that, to surpass national shame and severe trial? I don’t know. It might be this sacred history, the history of dynamic relationship between Yahweh and his people. Majority of Israelites might have failed to obey the Torah, but there were few who remained looking at Yahweh as the creator and the sovereign of all cosmos that will save them from their misery.

Only the present is in need of history. And we badly need this portion of Israel’s history as we go through this big trial that we have never experienced before. We hope that through the model of Ezekiel and Second Isaiah, we will learn how to fare with this medical crisis we are currently struggling with. May the Lord save as soon!

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