Ezekiel was not only a prophet. He also served as priest of the Jerusalem Temple during the time when Judean captives were taken to Babylon. During this time, Jerusalem was in ruins, and it was all Ezekiel could do to try to make the captive people aware of why these terrible things happened to them, that it was their repeated refusal to hear and obey God’s teachings through a long line of prophets. The chosen, covenant people repeatedly ignored the warnings of the past prophets. They repeatedly failed to make God known to other people and nations by their worship and way of life, and for their complacency and sin, they were punished with catastrophe.
Today’s reading is a double-edged sword towards the captives. They are addressed twice as “my people”, which is a reminder of both their failure to act as God’s chosen, and the Lord’s promise to eventually recreate them as such. Despite their current suffering and punishment, even the people’s repeated sin and incompetence cannot frustrate the divine plan, which always seeks the fullness of life. When God restores the Israelites as a people and returns them to the Promised Land, not only foreign nations but the Lord’s own people will know once again the one, true source of life, the God who fulfills promises.