In the previous study we reached the point in the scripture where the ‘grand entrance’ part of the vision of God had reached it’s climax. Ezekiel caught sight of a man-like being on a throne of lapis lazuli, his appearance as if made from fire. His response, to fall flat on his face in the dirt. I am not sure how I would react, but certainly much power was being displayed her, and the figure on the throne was scary in appearance to say the least…
However, the last words of yesterday’s text were,
‘…and I heard the voice of one speaking.’
So let’s move on to what he had to say. Reading from Ezekiel ch. 2:
He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.’ As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
He said: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious people – they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.’
Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
Do you notice what is really strange about the way God addresses Ezekiel here? Not that he gives Ezekiel the same title as Jesus used when he was in his ministry in Palestine (and for this reason some thought that he was the reincarnation of Ezekiel. Oh, and if you think that is weird, some of the most respected rabbis of history have left entries in the Mishnah that state a belief in reincarnation within Judaism. There is also some reference to how this works in something that Jesus said. But that is a different study for another time).
No, the thing that seems strange to me is that God addresses Ezekiel as though he is not one of the Israelites. He first calls him ‘son of man’ and then says that he is being sent to the Israelites. This is strange, because at the start of the book Ezekiel identifies himself with his people and with the feeling of being despised by God. He also declares that he is a priest, and therefore of the tribe of Levi. His name means ‘God will strengthen him.’ He has not ‘gone native’ in Babylon, as some did for the sake of a better standard of living for their family, but continued to follow his calling with his people.
Maybe that was the reason he was chosen… There is a clear clue in the scripture that we have today. God tells Ezekiel to give the messages of prophecy “whether they listen or fail to listen”, but of Ezekiel he says, “But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you.”
There are two challenges direct to us in these things. First is the principle of being in the world but not of the world. We were born as citizens of planet earth, but as a children of the Father, we have become citizens of another kingdom, of which we are now ambassadors on the earth.
So how do you deal with your daily walk and your interactions with other people? Do you identify yourself more with your neighbours and colleagues, or do you identify yourself as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven? Do you live according to the standards of the world, or do you live according to the freedom and holiness of the kingdom of heaven?
This kind of questioning has to be applied to the kinds of things that are preached and taught in your church also. When people want to improve themselves in the world, they do so by applying new rules and regimes to their lives and work hard to stick to them – and with the resulting feelings of defeat and failure. Yet it is this worldly standard that is often preached from the pulpit, and so bringing legalism into the lives of the congregation.
This results in times of failure, of course, and the resulting feelings of guilt and defeat. With it the feeling of distance from God, and of having to work your way back to Him. But of course, there is nothing we can do from our own strength that will make us right with God, and anything that we do from legalism will not clothe us in either holiness of righteousness, but rather – as the apostle Paul was at pains to point out – become clothed in filthy rags, unfit for the presence of the Lord.
People need to be taught about the freedom that has been won for us in Christ Jesus, about the infilling and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. About the fact that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and so God is with us wherever we are and no matter what we do. So He is present there when we sin. It is impossible to be separated from God – because otherwise you would be in denial of one of the features of his divinity – his omnipresence. This on its own will give you pause before entering into sin… Everything is in the light before God.
But there is another aspect to this. We are called ambassadors of the kingdom (2 Corinthians 5). So this means that we represent another kingdom to everyone else here on earth. How are you doing with this? Will people see the kingdom of God in a good light? Will they see that this is a place that is full of love, ruled in love, and that no-one is left needy and unloved? Will they see that even the enemies and the unloved are prayed for and cared for? Or will they see judgement, a returning of evil for evil? Will they see bigotry or hatred? These last things have no place in the kingdom of God!
The other thing that I want to focus on is that reason why Ezekiel was chosen – that he would listen to His God. I hope that the same thing can be said of me, that I listen to what God says. That I pass on the message if there is one. That I perform the challenge if I am given one. That I pray for the things he asks me to pray for, that I visit those he has placed in my heart to visit. That I give money, time, things, or whatever to those who have need and who my God has revealed to me. That I allow Him to give me dreams and visions, and then that I ask Him to help me to achieve those things. That I put revelation into action, and do not leave these things only as ‘nice thoughts’ or ‘good ideas.’
Yes, it is a ‘nice thought’ to want to have no-one in need in the congregation that I belong to, but what am I actually prepared to do about this? Am I prepared to sell my possessions to help those who have nothing? Am I prepared to open my home to place a roof over the head of someone homeless? Am I prepared to share a meal with someone hungry? Am I prepared to spend time with someone lonely (and not have the excuse of a TV program that I would be missing)?
In what ways does God speak to you? Or have you been so ‘busy’ that you have not heard his voice? And if you have heard his voice, do you know the scriptures well enough to be able to check that it is his voice and not that of the deceiver? And if you have knowledge of scripture, do you also have enough training to know how not to be deceived by scripture (and therefore become legalistic or literalistic like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day)?
Are you walking in a relationship with God that is based on fear and judgement? Or are you walking in a relationship with God that is based on love for God that overflows into love for everyone else?
As I read this account of the commissioning of Ezekiel, these are the challenges that speak to me most loudly. I pray that it will cause us all to stop for a while each day, spend some time with God, and to expect to hear him speak with us.