Sunday School Lessons

A Different Kind of Mark

In the previous article, we considered the importance of not only grieving over sin around us, but also in taking action.  However, I’d like to ask you to re-read the same passage again and look at another thing that – at least to me – jumps out from these verses:

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”
Ezekiel 9:3‭-‬4 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/ezk.9.3-4.NIV

Did you see that he scribe is supposed to “put a mark on the foreheads” of these people who are sorrowful about evil that is happening around them?  While I’m not sure what was in an ancient “writing kit”, I envision him taking a quill or other writing instrument, dipping it in an inkwell, and drawing a mark (perhaps a letter, number, or name) on the foreheads of those who lament over Jerusalem.  (The 18th-century commentator Matthew Henry cites Revelation 7:3, as well, showing us that this isn’t the only place in the Bible where righteous people are identified.)

If we only had the Jewish Holy Scriptures available to us, more like the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day, we might compare this to the first Passover, when Hebrew homes that were marked with the blood of a sacrificed lamb were spared from the angel of death.  This seems like a similar pattern to what Ezekiel’s vision contained here: a mark that identifies someone as saved or protected by God.

However, with more revelation from God at our disposal, we might think about another mark: the “mark of the beast”, described in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 13:11-18, Revelation 14:9-12, and Revelation 20:4-6.)  Compared to the vision given to Ezekiel here, that mark is for a different purpose entirely, but each of these marks identifies a group of people, and each identification comes with a consequence.

Coming back to Ezekiel’s vision, note that the mark isn’t specified for those who are “doing good things”, or who “look righteous to others”.  In fact, within this passage, those who are called out to be saved (as we find later in this chapter) aren’t even described in the way that we would traditionally think of it: showing love to others, keeping oneself away from sins, etc.  In fact, the identification of those who are different from the rest of a sinful city is based on their sorrow over the sins around them.  I suspect that we don’t always consider this grief and lament over sins to be a big deal, but maybe we’ve missed something when we become complacent about that.

So, let us pause and consider what is going on around us.  The world has been inhabited with fallen people since the time of Genesis 3, but does sin and evil still bother us?  Does it still break our hearts, or has it become background noise?  Worse yet, have we shut it out from our sanctuaries, to the point where we can’t hear the cries of those caught in evil’s grasp?  (Or, worse yet, as the Lookout – cited below – suggests, is there sin and evil within our own Christian congregations, which needs to be mourned and rooted out.)  I hope not, but it is good to ask ourselves questions like that from time to time.

I think that – as uncomfortable as it is – we should spend some time considering the lostness of others around us.  However, as we grieve over sin and evil, let us not merely leave with a sense of blaming others.  Rather, let us seek to make things better: for the righteous, for the victims of sin, and for the sinners themselves; not so that our actions will be better in turn (through some kind of “self-help” solution), but because we want to help those whom we love enough to grieve over sin’s effect on them.  Perhaps then could we expect God’s glory to return to us, if it has left.


From Sunday School lesson prepared for August 28, 2022

References:

  • The Lookout, August 28, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.

2 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Mark”

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