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The First Cycle—Chapters 1-7
THE first cycle of the predictions of the prophet embraces ch. Ezekiel 1:1 to Ezekiel 7:27. A sublime vision forms the introduction. To this prophetic discourses are appended which serve to explain the vision. At the close in ch. Ezekiel 7 a song.
Ezekiel 2:8 to Ezekiel 3:3. The prophet swallows a book, the archetype, as it were, of the book which is here presented, the seed from which it springs,—related to it as the heavenly archetype of the tabernacle, which Moses is shown upon the mount, to the tabernacle itself. Jeremiah 15:16 forms the groundwork: “I found Thy words, and ate them; and Thy words were unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for Thy name was called upon me, O Lord God of hosts.” The idea there only hinted at is here amplified into a symbolic act, in which we are not indeed to think of any outward process of nature, and which in this respect serves as a finger-post to the later symbolic actions of the prophet. The fundamental thought is, that Ezekiel is no prophet out of his own heart. He only publishes what he has received from above. Is the burden peculiarly sorrowful? That is not to be ascribed to the son of man, but it comes from Him who stands behind him. Instead of murmuring against the poor instrument that has received so stern a commission, let them repent. We have here an important passage concerning the relation which the believer has to sustain to holy Scripture—a warning against all capricious treatment of it—an injunction that everything be received as it is given, because what is despised descends on the head of the despiser. As our passage rests upon Jeremiah, so the “book” in Revelation 5:1, and the “little book” in Revelation 10:2, point back to the book before us.
Ch. 2:8. And thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee: Be not thou rebellious like the house of rebellion: open thy mouth, and eat what I give thee. 9. And I looked, and, behold, a hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;  10. And he spread it out before me: and it was written before and behind: and therein were written lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Ch. 3:1. And he said unto me. Son of man, eat what thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2. And I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3. And he said unto me, Son of man, thou shalt cause thy belly to eat this roll which I give thee, and fill thy bowels with it. And I ate; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
 Luther, “which had a letter folded up.” The suff. in בו stands for the neut. “therein.” יד is always femin.
The exhortation, “Be not rebellious,” in ch. Ezekiel 2:8 presupposes that the contents of the book have something revolting to the prophet. This finds place in a twofold way. In the first place, he is one of his own people; and the lamentations, and mourning, and woe, in Ezekiel 2:10, strike his own flesh, so that on this account he has “great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart” ( Romans 9:9). Ah, how sorely he wished that the bitter cup might pass away from his people, that the Lord might promise peace to his people! Then, again, he must be prepared for persecution, on account of the mournful burden of his prophecy. The people desire such as cry. Peace, peace, when there is no peace, and prophesy to them of wine and strong drink. Just now they are lulled into fond dreams, and will rise exasperated against him who frightens them out of these, and places the naked reality before their eyes, more especially as he has an inner ally in their conscience hardly hushed to rest. The book is unfolded before the prophet, according to Ezekiel 2:10, before it is handed to him to swallow: he must undertake his mission with a clear consciousness of its difficulty. The roll of the book is written upon before and behind. The fulness of the contents, which are immediately afterwards described as very sorrowful, is so great, that the front side, which was usually alone written upon, does not suffice. “Eat what thou findest”  (ch. Ezekiel 3:1): what the Lord says to His disciples with regard to their ordinary food, “Eat what is set before you,” holds good also with regard to the divine revelation. This arbitrary disposition of mind, which instead of the word “what I find” puts “what I may,” is of evil.
 According to the fundamental passage in Jeremiah, we must not interpret “attainest.”
The words point to this, that the prophet has arrived at his prediction without his own motion, and that those who on this account rebel against him, who must accept what is presented to him, are on a false track. “And it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” ( Ezekiel 3:3); as the word of the living God, which as such is sweet as honey and the honeycomb Psalms 19:10), even when it is of the most painful import. That this is mainly the ground of the sweetness, appears from the fundamental passage, Jeremiah 15:16: “ for Thy name is called upon me, Jehovah, God of hosts.” It is infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and the spokesman of the Most High. The nature of the words themselves, however, comes next into consideration. Even the most grievous divine truths have to the spiritually-minded man a joyous and refreshing aspect. The proclamation of judgment, even when it falls upon ourselves, carries us into the depths of the divine righteousness, and thus provides nourishment for our soul. Then also grace is hidden behind judgment; athwart the cloud the rainbow gleams. Better to be condemned by God than comforted by the world. For He who smites can also heal, and will heal, if His proclamation of judgment, and the judgment itself, be met by penitence; while, on the other hand, the comfort of the world is vain.
Ezekiel 3:4-9. God will endow His servant with unconquerable courage in the face of the people’s stubbornness. This is a great comfort for one who had to stand alone against a rebellious people, not once only, but through a whole long life. He who has to contend against public opinion is lost, if he have not a fast hold upon Omnipotence; and he is a fool who, without such support, undertakes this warfare, the costs of which will certainly be required. He who has not God decidedly upon his side, must of necessity make terms with the majority.
Ezekiel 3:4. And He said to me. Son of man, go, get thee to the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. 5. For thou art sent not to a people of deep speech, and heavy tongue, unto the house of Israel. 6. Not to many peoples of deep speech, and heavy tongue, whose words thou understandest not: surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. 7. And the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are stiff of neck and hard of heart. 8. Behold, I make thy face strong against their face, and thy forehead strong against their forehead. 9. As diamond, harder than flint, I make thy forehead: thou shalt not fear them, nor be dismayed before them, because they are a house of rebellion.
The ground for accepting the commission given in Ezekiel 3:4 is not probably concluded in Ezekiel 3:5, but goes on to the end of the section: “ for I will be with thee,” although thy mission is a very difficult one, far harder than if it were directed to the heathen. “Unto the house of Israel,” for “if thou art sent to the house of Israel.” The contrast is between the outer hindrance which diversity of speech presents, and the inner hindrance which arises from the opposition of the heart—from this, that “they would not” ( Matthew 23:37). The outer difficulties are overcome when the cordial desire for mutual understanding exists on both sides. “Deep,” in relation to the lip or speech (the expression is derived from Isaiah 33:19), and “heavy,” or difficult in relation to the tongue, are those whose speech is hard to be understood. Along with difference of speech goes difference in the circle of ideas, which among the Jews presented the most manifold points of connection with the activity of God’s servants, while these were entirely wanting among the Gentiles. What Hävernick adduces, however, is not to the purpose: “dulness of sense, want of spiritual susceptibility for what is higher and divine.” This lies on the side of the Jews. When it is said in Ezekiel 3:6, that the spiritual susceptibility of the Gentiles would break through the outward difficulties, in case the mission of the prophet were directed to them,  this is in harmony with the history of Naaman the Syrian, and of Jonah, in the Old Testament; in the New Testament, with the history of the Canaanitish woman, whom Jesus seeks out, while He must conceal Himself from the Jews, and of the Gentile centurion ( Matthew 8:10-12). It certainly follows from the susceptibility of the Gentiles here made prominent, that salvation shall be yet one day offered to them in an effectual way, since God wills not the death of the sinner, but that he should repent and live. Just so, we expect, after what is here said of the hard-heartedness of the Jews, that in the lapse of time a great sifting and separating will take place among them. “They will not hearken unto thee, for they will not hearken unto me” ( Ezekiel 3:7): we have here not merely an as, but a because. Disobedience to the prophet springs from disobedience to God. The New Testament parallels are. Matthew 10:24-25, John 15:20-21. In Ezekiel 3:8-9 follows the peculiar thought of the passage, the promise of God’s sure support against the anticipated opposition. It is not said, “Fear not, and be not dismayed,” but, “Thou shalt not fear.” It is not an admonition, but a promise. The strength of the Almighty passes over to the poor son of man.
 Text: אם לא asseverates. “Had I sent thee to them” corresponds to “does he reproach that panteth after me” ( Psalms 57:3). The interpretation, “But to them (namely, to Israel) I send thee, they will understand thee, but the house of Israel will not want to understand thee,” fails in this respect, that to “hearken to “any one can never be said of the mere outward understanding. It rather indicates assent. Against Hitzig’s interpretation, “But I send thee to those, those should hearken unto thee,” it is decisive that the words those and should are not precisely indicated in the text. המה is most naturally referred to those who have been described in what goes immediately before.
Vers 10-15. The raising up is followed by the letting down. The prophet has been in the spirit, and in this condition has seen visions of God. He now returns out of the ecstasy into the condition of ordinary consciousness, and remains therein seven days: so long did the relaxation last which followed the extreme strain. It is said of Daniel 8:27, after he had seen a high vision: “And I Daniel was sick several days: afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business.” The same holds good of Ezekiel also, according to Ezekiel 3:16; only with this difference, that Ezekiel the prophet, after recovering strength, has to execute the business of the heavenly King, while Daniel the statesman attends to the service of the earthly king. The local change took place only in the region of the subjective. It was thus that the prophet had been at the river Chebar (ch. Ezekiel 1:1, and especially Ezekiel 3:23, Ezekiel 10:22), as Daniel in ch. Daniel 8:2 was by the river of Ulai; and in another vision, according to ch. Daniel 10:4, at the great river Hiddekel, the Tigris. The prophet is removed to the Chebar, because there he is far from the mass of men, and is invited to great thoughts by the rushing of the water. That he was there only in a vision, is manifest from” this, that “the Spirit took me away” ( Ezekiel 3:12, Ezekiel 3:14). If it was the Spirit that bore him away, it must have been the Spirit also that had borne him thither. Compare ch. Ezekiel 8:3, where the Spirit carries the prophet to Jerusalem “in the visions of God;” ch. Ezekiel 11:1, where the Spirit brings him to the east gate of the temple; ch. Ezekiel 11:24, where the Spirit takes him up and brings him back from Jerusalem to the land of the Chaldeans, and where it is expressly added that this took place “in the vision, in the Spirit of God.” We must accustom ourselves to measure the prophets, who are not for nothing called seers and spectators, by their own rule.
Ezekiel 3:10. And he said to me, Son of man, all my words which I shall speak to thee receive in thine heart, and hear them with thine ears. 11. And go, get thee to the exiles, to the children of thy people, and speak to them, and say. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Let them now hear, or let them forbear. 12. And the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great rushing: Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place. 13. And the voice  of the wings of the living creatures which beat upon one another, and the voice of the wheels beside them, and the noise of a great rushing. 14. And the Spirit lifted me up, and took me, and I went bitterly, in the glow of my spirit; and the hand of the Lord was strong upon me. 15. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib,  who sit there by the river Chebar, and there where they sit,  and I sat there astonished among them seven days.
 Text: Luther, “And there was a rushing,” forgetting the dependence upon “I heard” in Ezekiel 3:12.
 Luther, “where the sheaves stood in the month Abib.” Tel-abib, hill of corn-ears, was the dwelling-place of the prophet.
 Luther, “and seated myself by them that sat there.” He follows the marginal reading, or Masoretic conjecture, ואשב , “and I sat,” which arises from misapprehension. The authentic reading is אֲ ֽ שׁ ֶ ר , with אל to be supplied from the foregoing, “and there where they sat.” The words signify more exactly, that he came into the midst of them; comp. “in their midst,” in contrast with the solitude of his cell, where he had seen the vision.
Ezekiel 3:10-11 close the intercourse with the prophet, and draw the conclusion; in short. It is said, “which I shall speak,” not “which I speak,” for the prophet had not till now received any special message for the people. “Receive them in thine heart, and hear them with thine ears:” all fruitful discourse must be first preceded by hearing. The ear is the spiritual ear, by which alone God’s words can be understood, and thus not different from the heart—the hysteron proteron only apparent: comp. the “uncircumcised in heart and ears” ( Acts 7:5); and, “The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing” ( Acts 28:27). There also the ear is the spiritual ear. That this is wanting to many who have bodily ears, is indicated by the words, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The Spirit  lifts the prophet up, in order to restore him to his usual circumstances. We learn this from Ezekiel 3:14, where “the Spirit lifted me up” is repeated, after mention has been made of a hearing which is imparted to the prophet at the moment of his departure. The appearance of God ensues solely on the prophet’s account, to communicate to him the mission which is shadowed forth by the character of the appearance. It is therefore natural that, simultaneously with the return of the prophet to his usual circumstances, the “glory of God,” the symbol of the divine presence, is withdrawn. Genesis 18:33 is typical of the present proceeding: “And the Lord went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.” The prophet hears the voice of a great rushing behind him: the face of the departing prophet is turned in the direction of his journey. The “great rushing,” the loud cry, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place,” proceeds from the living creatures, the cherubim, to whom elsewhere also such laudations of God are attributed, because their presence is a real praise of God ( Revelation 4:9). Correspondingly in Psalms 19 the declaration of God’s glory is ascribed to the heavens, as it has made itself known in them. “From His place” is equivalent to “who now leaves his place.”  The praise which is presented to the Lord on His departure from the place points to this, that the glory of the Lord is made known by His presence in the place—that the appearance serves great and holy purposes, important to the world of man. The wings of the cherubim, in Ezekiel 3:13, struck one another in flying. The pair of wings is meant, which are described in ch. Ezekiel 1 as standing upright and connected, in distinction from the two wings covering the body. The prophet betakes himself to his place, bitter, and in the glow of his spirit. “Bitter” is used here not in the sense of grief (“in the glow of my spirit” shows that sympathy with the people is not to be thought of), but in the sense of holy irritation,  called forth as it was by that which the Lord had said about the hardness and rebelliousness of the people, and no less also by the punishment of them represented in the vision, which presupposes the revolting magnitude of their offence. This holy irritation is quite characteristic of Ezekiel, in contrast with the prevailing elegiac turn of Jeremiah. Compare, for example, the prophecy of the sword in ch. Ezekiel 21:8 f., which some expositors have represented as a “battle song.” “In the glow of my spirit,” that is, inflamed with wrath. The wrath is directed against the sins of the covenant people. The inner glow has been kindled at the fire in which the whole appearance of God is bathed. Comp. Jeremiah 6:11: “And I am so full of the glow of the Lord, that I cannot endure it; I pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of the young men: man and also woman shall be fallen upon, the aged and he that is full of days.” Further ( Jeremiah 15:17): “And I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced: because of Thy hand I sat alone; for Thou hadst filled me with indignation.” The indignation there, corresponding to the glow of spirit here, is directed against the apostasy of the people. This indignation is not regarded as human weakness, but rather is represented as the work of God’s hand, derived from His influence. The servant of God who does not feel it, must suffer on that account. It is in harmony with Jeremiah that the prophet here is indignant, and full of that glow of the spirit which springs from this, that the hand of the Lord was strong upon him, the divine influence mighty in him. Were this not so, he would live and let live; he would occupy a friendly attitude towards the sin and the apostasy of his people. The prophet, according to Ezekiel 3:15, sits seven days astonished in the midst of his companions. The subject of his astonishment is the threatening future of his people. The demeanour of the prophet was a mute sermon. All marked that something extraordinary must have occurred with him. Probably also he permitted them to see him, while otherwise remaining in deep silence. Ezra 9:3-4 may serve as commentary to the “astonished:” “And when I heard this word I rent my clothes, and tore the hair from my head and beard, and sat down astonished. Then were assembled to me all that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, and the transgression of the captives; and I sat astonished till the evening sacrifice.”
 That רוח is spirit, appears from the parallel passage 11:24, for it is there explained by רוח אלהים ; also from ch. 8:3, where “hand” and “wind” would not harmonize; and 2:2.
 ממקומו occurs nineteen times, and always stands for one who leaves his place. The יצר , going forth ( Isaiah 26:21; Micah 1:3), is here left out in poetic brevity; comp. the ממלאה , ch. 12:19.
 Text: Habakkuk 1:6; Judges 18:25; 2 Samuel 17:8.
Ezekiel 3:16-21. At the end of the seven days the divine revelations begin again. First of all here Ezekiel is a watchnan appointed by God; he is not a prophet after his own heart, but he must speak; he has a high duty, and woe to him if he do not discharge it. Everything aims at this, that he place the dignity of his call before the people’s eyes. He is to rebuke the wicked, that they may repent, and so be delivered from the judgments of God; to warn the righteous, that they may not through apostasy incur the judgments of God. Let each one, then, take heed how he hears. He has to do not with the mere son of man, but in the son of man with God, who is omnipotent to destroy and to save.
Ezekiel 3:16. And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 17. Son of man, I gave thee as a watchman to the house of Israel: and thou shalt hear a word out of my mouth, and warn them from me. 18. When I say to the wicked, Thou shalt die; and thou warnest him not, and speakest not to warn the wicked of his wicked way, so as to save his life; then shall he, the wicked, die because of his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand. 19. But if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness and from his wicked way, he shall die because of his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. 20. And when the righteous turns from his righteousness, and does unrighteousness, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: if thou hast not warned him, because of his sin shall he die, and all his righteousness which ho hath done shall not be regarded; but his blood will I require at thy hand. 21. And if thou hast warned him, the righteous, that the righteous sin not, and he docs not sin, then he shall live, for he has been warned; and thou hast delivered thy soul.
Ezekiel is placed, according to Ezekiel 3:17, as a watchman over the people. Already in Isaiah 56:10 the leading personages appear under the figure of watchmen, who, stationed on a lofty tower, give the signal of alarm when danger approaches: “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant.” So in Jeremiah 6:17: “And I set watchmen over you, ‘Attend the sound of the trumpet;’ and they say, ‘We will not attend.’” The wicked in Ezekiel 3:18, as also the righteous in the following passage, is not a single individual, but an ideal person—the species personified. In those immoral times the extent of the wicked almost coincided with that of the people. The righteous formed only a little company, and they had also many interests in common with the wicked: through the prevalence of unrighteousness their love had grown cold. Public preaching is meant, not the particular cure of souls, with which the prophet was not entrusted, as his mission was to the whole of the people. The prophecies of Ezekiel have a national import throughout. He has never to do with individuals as such. If the prophet neglects his duty, that does not help the wicked; he dies because of his iniquity; he has Moses verily. Where the public ministry does not do its duty, holy Scripture is still at hand, and it is each one’s fault if he be not called to repentance by the voice of this. But in such a case Genesis 9:5 is fulfilled upon the unfaithful servant of God, according to which God will require the soul of the man from him who sheddeth blood. Who sheddeth blood: this is not merely restricted to ordinary murderers. It covers all those who in any way, by act or neglect, trifle with the life of their neighbours, especially those who are not faithful in the discharge of the divine office of the ministry appointed for life and salvation. Thou art every moment in danger of becoming a murderer, and undergoing the judgment of the murderer: this is an effectual spur to every one who is entrusted with the office of the public ministry. The righteous in Ezekiel 3:20 does not necessarily form a personal contrast to the wicked in Ezekiel 3:18. The same person may be described as wicked in regard to his present state, and as righteous in regard to his destiny and his better past. The people to whom the mission of the prophet was directed were at the same time wicked and righteous, as Isaiah comprehends both in the words, “How is the faithful city, full of right, become an harlot! righteousness dwelt in her, and now murderers.” It belongs, however, to the nature of the covenant people that the character of righteousness was never wholly lost to them, even regarded in their present state, so that they might be described by the name of the upright ( Numbers 23:21). There is always among them an election in which this character is prominently presented; and also the entire national life, as long as the covenant endures, is interwoven with elements which do not appear in the national life of the heathen. Even in the greatest decline there is always to be found in this case ( Matthew 23:38) a background of righteousness. To lay a stumbling-block before any one is equivalent to exposing him to danger, according to Jeremiah 6:21. The stumbling-block in the time of the prophet was the impending danger of destruction from the Chaldeans. “All his righteousness,” properly his acts of righteousness. These are the good works of pious forefathers, from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob down, and particularly those of the time of David, as being the proper golden age ( Psalms 132:1).
Ezekiel 3:22-27. We have here the explanation of the word Nabi, prophet, which signifies one who has divine communications; also the explanation of the name Ezekiel, which indicates a man who is under the absolute influence of God. The prophet is not a prophet out of his own heart, nor after the will of the people; but speaks only when, and because, the Lord opens his mouth. Woe, then, to him (this is the practical point of view) who will not hear him when he speaks: he neglects it at his own peril.
Ezekiel 3:22. And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and he said to me. Arise, go forth into the valley, and I will there talk with thee. 23. And I arose, and went forth into the valley: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river Chebar: and I fell on my face. 24. And the Spirit came upon me, and set me on my feet; and he spoke to me, and said to me. Go, shut thyself within thy house. 25. And thou, son of man, behold, they lay bands upon thee, and bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them. 26. And I will make thy tongue cleave to thy mouth, and thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover; for they are a house of rebellion. 27. And when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say to them. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Whoso heareth, let him hear; and whoso forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a house of rebellion.
The valley in Ezekiel 3:22, in contrast with the hill of corn, the city set upon an hill, as the name Tel-abib already shows, is the plain beside the river Chebar. The reason why the prophet is to go thither is, as previously when he was at Chebar, the solitude which is better suited for the divine appearance and communication. But that here also it was in the spirit that he betook himself to the valley, we conclude from his previous presence at Chebar, which upon ascertained grounds can only have belonged to the region of the spirit, but especially from this, that we have here to do with a paroxysm which presupposes inwardness. The universal rule is, that isolation is the condition of the receipt of divine communications. God makes Himself known to the mind only when it has been entirely withdrawn from worldly influences. We must be in the valley; but we may be in the bustling town, and yet in the valley. In Ezekiel 3:23 the glory of the Lord is mentioned, to indicate that the Lord revealed Himself afresh to the prophet in the full majesty of His nature, accompanied with the cherubim, etc. This new appearance is to give to the prophet and to the people a new impression of the dignity of his mission. It served very well to form a counterpoise to the poor son of man, who presented so agreeable a pretext for ungodliness. The words, “And they were offended in Him” ( Matthew 13:57), passed over from the prophet to Christ the Son of man. How the ungodly loved to separate between God and the men whom He chose for His instruments, and to set aside the latter under the pretext that they, too, were men like all the rest, we learn from Isaiah 7:13, where the prophet upbraids the godless Ahaz, after he had declined the proffered sign, with having now insulted not merely man, but also God, who had just offered to show manifestly that He Himself stood behind the man.
The prophet is to shut himself within his house ( Ezekiel 3:24), in contrast with the in publicum prodire, the public appearance as preacher. The naked thought is in Ezekiel 3:25: Let them do what they will with thee; thou shalt not appear as preacher, unless thou hast received a special commission from me. The case, which is indeed merely supposititious, is brought forward in the form of one actually occurring, or in regard to the vision it is actual. The last words, “but thou shalt not go out to them,” show the object of the binding with bands. They break into the closed house, and bind the recusant, to bring him into their assembly, in the expectation that he will there speak; but he is to offer the utmost resistance, and God will not suffer him to speak. Those who think the binding is to hinder the prophet in speaking, do manifest violence to the words. The words, “for they are a house of rebellion,” in Ezekiel 3:26, point, in passing, and out of connection with the leading thought, to this, that the people are unworthy of any preacher of repentance, since they have already set at nought so many warnings.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Ezekiel 3". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26