The hand of the Lord was on me there, and he said to me, ‘Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.’ So I got up and went out to the plain. And the glory of the Lord was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the River Kebar, and I fell face down.
Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: ‘Go, shut yourself inside your house. And you son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people. I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.’
Ezekiel 3: 22-27
I find some of the ideas in this passage of scripture very interesting. One thing we know about our Lord God is that he is omnipresent. It is impossible for us to be anywhere or to go anywhere without him being there. And it is not only because we, as Christians, carry the Holy Spirit with us and that our bodies are his temples. It simply is that God exists everywhere all the time. As it says in one of the epistles, in Him we live and move and have our being.
This even puts the lie to those who say that sin in your life separates between you and God. It is a traditional view that is even preached from the pulpit in certain Protestant circles. Yet actually there is little in scripture to support this, and it would deny this aspect of our God – that he is omnipresent. If you feel separated from him because of sin, this is personal to your own feelings and is not the truth in reality. However, Satan would want you to believe this lie, because this can be a tool towards making you enter into the sin of legalism – the process of making yourself bound by chains to the law in the hope of pleasing God and so calming his anger, bringing fellowship back with him.
But, as the apostle Paul pointed out, this work of legalism is to clothe ourselves in the filthy rags of our own works (the original here really means ‘soiled menstrual cloths’ and so has the added meaning of religious uncleanness). What we actually need to be acceptable before the Father is to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, the only one who fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets.
So, knowing that God is omnipresent, we can speak with him wherever we are. We know that he is with us wherever we are. We know that he sees us and hears us wherever we are. The relationship is even closer than this, because he knows our thoughts even before we can express them as words. So it is possible to have fellowship with God wherever we are and no matter what we are doing.
Yet, is it not also true that we have all been to certain places, or have a habit of being in one particular place in our own home, and there we have felt the presence of God more strongly? There we find it easier to meditate, to speak with Him, and to hear His voice.
And sometimes, I think the Lord wants us to move to some place new, and to seek Him there and to find Him there. I don’t want to guess too much at the reason why, simply because it would only be guesses. But maybe He simply wants us to get out of old habits and to move on with out lives a bit. We can be too comfortable in some ways, and so get stuck in a rut sometimes. Yet we can read in Ecclesiastes that some things in our lives are only for a season, then it is time for something new. I think it is easy to try to ignore the end of the season, because we have become comfortable with what we have been doing and with where we are. But then the Lord wants us to do something new, and are we ready to hear him?
I have certainly personally known something like the word that came to Ezekiel at the start of this reading – to feel strongly in my heart that the Lord wanted me to go out to a certain place and there to spend time with Him. I don’t think this is particularly unusual, and I have known that others have experienced similar things. I also know that sometimes I am being encouraged by the Spirit to get out of my bed, or to get up from my chair, and to go somewhere, but I then dismiss it as only being ‘thoughts’ because I am so comfortable with where I am. And so, sometimes, I even wonder if I have missed out on some blessings and excitement in my life because of this.
I even once felt such an urging when I was quite ill. I thought this surely could not be the Lord, and surely it is the devil playing tricks on me. So I stayed in my bed. But when I look back on that, I wonder if this was going to be something good and for the Lord’s glory, and that I may have missed out on the best. Maybe obedience would have brought me into healing more quickly, and that there would be some form of reward for overcoming my situation to follow the Lord to where he wanted me to be.
But of course, this is all guesswork and conjecture. I don’t think that it is too helpful to look back, but to make sure that you are where you are meant to be right now. As Jesus said, not to even worry too much about the future, because today has enough problems of its own. So many of us live in the past, with regrets or memories of happier times. Or we live in the future, either always making plans to make things better, or worrying about what might happen. And so we do not actually live. I mean, there is nothing at all that we can do to change the past, and we certainly can’t return there. And the future is really in God’s hands whether we like it or not, and we really do not know what even the next minute will bring or if we will still be alive then. So we can only live in the now.
It is possible to be so involved in the past or the future, that we forget to live. Now is the time, says the Lord – I am sure that you will have found these words in several places in the scriptures. Now is the time to do what you should do. Now is the time to open your eyes and to see what is there for you to do. And if you do not have anything else to do right now, then now is the time to spend some time with the Lord and to let Him speak with you and show you what he has chosen for you.
So, in our reading, there is absolutely no doubt that the things that were told to Ezekiel could have been told to him right where he was at the start of the reading. But the Lord asked him to get up and to go out and to go to the plain. There he did more than to hear the voice of the Lord, but he saw Him again, the same as with the vision before.
Here, of course, there is a slight ambiguity with the meaning and interpretation. This could mean that he saw the vault with the blue throne on top and the Lord, appearing like a man as though made of fire, seated there in glory. The four living creatures and the four wheels beneath this all.
On the other hand, it could also mean that he saw the Lord in human form, as though made of fire, and that is all. We do not know for sure either way. I like to think that it was the whole thing, with the four living creatures, but that is only a personal view.
Either way, to see this human form, as if made from fire, was something that filled Ezekiel with holy fear and so he fell on his face before him. I wonder how I would react. Would I simply watch in awe, as Moses did before the burning bush? Moses needed to be informed about the holiness and to remove the sandals from his feet. But I think Ezekiel understood the holiness and the terrible power right from the start. How can any of us stand before the Lord?
And yet, repeatedly in scripture, we find that the Lord does not want us grovelling about in the dirt, but to stand before Him without fear. And so it is that, as before, the Spirit entered Ezekiel and raised him to his feet.
I have found that Christians fall into three main groups. By far the largest is that group that does not think too much about their everyday relationship with God. They may have a personal testimony about when they gave their lives to Jesus. But they attend church, go to work or not, live their lives, and do not think much further about their relationship with or friendship with the Lord.
Then there are those who like to quote verses like ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ They talk about hell for the majority of people, they talk about separation from the Lord if there is any sin in your life. For these people, God is an angry and jealous God who is waiting for the slightest reason to destroy you.
And then there is a third group who know the Lord as their Father, Jesus as their older brother, and who are attracted to the Lord by his love rather than the fear of his judgement. These enjoy the feeling of being part of a family, even though (as with any family I suppose) the kids squabble among themselves.
I feel that part of the ministry of the prophet is to wake up the first of these three groups – they are asleep in the Spirit and nothing will be done for the Kingdom in that state.
I also feel that Ezekiel may have been in the second group as concerns his feelings about God. And in some respects there was good reason for this, because he was living at a time when the judgement of God was being displayed and carried out on his people.
But I feel that, even for Ezekiel in a time and place like this, God wanted the man to move to a better relationship, not only one of craven fear. And so we see him again entering the man and placing him on his feet before him, so that they could communicate face to face.
It may surprise some, but God actually treats us with respect and honour! Praise His Name!