Ezekiel laid the biblical groundwork for truth speaking, totally accountability, and restorative justice. For him, the cement that holds the whole thing together is Yahweh being true to Yahweh’s Self, and not merely reacting to human failure (or God would not be free, said Fransiscan scholar John Duns Scotus). For Ezekiel, God always acts with total freedom, from divine integrity, and unilateral faithfulness to the covenant with Israel, whether they keep their side or not. The becomes the foundational them of radical grace, without which “grace would not be grace at all” (Romans 11:6).
Speaking for Yahweh, Ezekiel says “I treat you as respect for my own name requires and not as your own wicked behavior and corrupt actions deserve” (20:44). When Israel sins, and lies exposed like a naked whore, Yahweh only loves Israel more and at ever deeper levels (16:1-63). Yahweh uses the word “restore” six times here to describe how he will “punish” both Israel, their enemy Samaria, and their hated inferior Sodom. Here we have Yahweh beautifully loving and liberating all parties involved. Yahweh’s “punishment” comes precisely by loving and forgiving them and keeping his side of the covenant forever, which reduces them to “shame, silence, and confusion” (16:63). (This morphed into the medieval notion of purgatory, by the way!)
I always felt Paul was making the very same point when he quoted Proverbs to say that you should give food and drink to those who are enemies, and “heap red hot coals on their head” (Romans 12:20). He is leading up to “resist evil and conquer it with good,” which is the next line (12:21). Have you ever experienced the embarassed and red-faced look of shame and self-recognition on the face of anyone who has been loved gratuitously after they clearly done wrong? This is the way that God seduces us all into the economy of grace– by loving us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot or will not or dare not love ourselves. God resists our evil and conquers it with good, or how could God ask the same of us? Think about that. God shocks and stuns us into love. God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change. Only love effects true inner transformation, not duress, guilt, shunning, or social pressure. Love is not love unless it is totally free. Grace is not grace unless it is totally free. You would think Christian people would know that by now, but it is still a secret of the soul.
The usual and expected ego pattern is this:
This is totally recalibrated by Ezekiel, after experiencing the perfection of Yahweh’s love for Israel, which is always the purifying touchstone. For him the pattern is radically changed and becomes instead:
—with our now “embarrassed and humiliated face” being our ongoing punishment and conversion! Grace is always a punishment for us.
Ezekiel the prophet, through mounting and outrageous metaphors, first disqualifies Israel as worthy of any love by reason of their complete unfaithfulness, and then he completely requalifies them by reason of the totally one-sided “covenant love” of God!
– Richard Rohr (Breathing Under Water)