In recent weeks, the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice debate has once again made national news in the USA. The state of Texas recently passed laws restricting abortion, and the US Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about a case, leading some pundits to suggest that the court could topple Roe v Wade. The country has long been divided over this important issue. The church is also divided. Does the Bible give us any guidance in this matter? Are Christians supposed to be pro-choice or pro-life? Can we choose to be either one?
As we continue our study of Ezekiel 24 this week, God has another allegorical parable he wants Ezekiel to relate to the people, and it seems to relate to the issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice. Read Ezekiel chapter 24, verses 3-5, as we learn about the Parable of the Cooking Pot.
I wonder if Ezekiel acted this out while he told the parable to the people. In verses 3-5 he is describing standard cooking procedures. Nothing out of the ordinary. This is an allegorical parable, though, so one thing in the story stands for another thing in real life. What does the cooking pot represent? There is a major clue in the next verse. Read verse 6 to see if you can find the clue and interpret it.
Did you see the clue? The clue is when Ezekiel calls the pot, “The City of Bloodshed!” Where have we heard that before? Back in chapter 22, verse 3, which we studied last week. Remember how I talked about when Philadelphia Eagles fans really booed Tom Brady at a recent NFL game in Philly? Eagles fans are known to be some of the most brutal in all of sports, and yet the word “Philadelphia” means “City of Brotherly Love”! If you evaluate the city by the behavior of Eagles fans, it really should be renamed to the “City of Hatred or Rudeness.” In the same way God is saying that his city Jerusalem which was to bear his heart and look like him has become something totally different. His people have been murderous and instead of being named the Holy City of God, Jerusalem should now be called the City of Bloodshed.
Now do you understand the clue. The cooking pot is the city of Jerusalem!
Identifying the cooking pot as the city of Jerusalem helps us understand the rest of the detail in verses 3-5. If Jerusalem is the cooking pot, then whatever is inside the pot is going to get cooked. What is inside the pot? What is inside the city? The people of Jerusalem.
There are still more details in the story. Notice that Ezekiel mentions the encrusted deposit on the pot, a deposit that will not go away. That is a reference to the army of Babylon that has surrounded the city, letting no one out. Therefore, through the parable, God is saying that the people inside the city are going to be like meat cooked in boiling water. That is very bad news.
Read verses 7-8 as God explains why this bad situation is happening to his people.
God says that with the same bloody ways the people of Jerusalem treated others, now the Babylonians are going to treat the people of Jerusalem. The people of the city of bloodshed are now going to have their own blood shed.
Now read verses 9-12 as the story of the cooking pot concludes.
The image of the cooking pot continues as you would expect. The meat inside gets cooked! But notice the surprise detail verse 11. The cooking pot is now empty, and is itself placed on the coals, where it heats up to the point where it glows. That’s not normal. When you are done with a cooking pot, you don’t keep it empty on a burner. So what is going on? Is God a bad cook? Or if Ezekiel is acting out this story, is he instructing Ezekiel to ruin his cooking pot? Ezekiel’s neighbors and friends watching him act out this parable, if he in fact acted it out, would immediately see that Ezekiel is destroying a perfectly good cooking pot. What for?
This part of the parable depicts the burning destruction of the city of Jerusalem. In this parable, God is giving the Jews living in Babylon a play-by-play of what the army of Babylon is doing to the Jews’ beloved city of Jerusalem 900 miles away.
God also explains that reason for this disaster is the Jews’ own choice to live a life of bloodshed. What bloodshed? As we have seen in previous chapters of Ezekiel, it was probably a combination of awful behavior that took human life for granted. Just scan back to chapter 23, verse 39 and we read that the Jews had been mimicking the pagan worship practices of neighboring nations, including child sacrifice. They were also, God revealed previously, committing senseless acts of human endangerment, mistreating orphans, widows and foreigners, and allow such behavior to go unchecked. That is why they were now the City of Bloodshed.
God is a God who values all human life. Not just the life of the unborn. Being pro-life is such much more. I love this quote by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun: “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
So let us be a people of whom it could be said, we are from the City of Life!