by Pastor Mark Hudson
If any parent named their child the right name, it was Ezekiel’s. In 622, they named their son “May God strengthen him” but Buzi and his wife had no idea how much strength he would need. Ezekiel was trained and raised to be a priest. While we do not know how extensive that training was, the book of Ezekiel shows his priestly background. Ezekiel was destined to be a priest . . . until he wasn’t. He couldn’t be a priest in Babylon. So before he could be a priest, Ezekiel was called to be a prophet by a world-shattering vision from God. This vision was so staggering, Ezekiel sat overwhelmed for 7 days (3:15). No longer would he be doing God’s work as a priest which might have been various tasks like butchering animals, teaching the law, taking care of the temple, and following in his father’s footsteps. Now he was called to speak for God which might include speaking against the temple!
Ezekiel had a model in the person of Jeremiah who came from a priestly family (Jer. 1:1) but was called to be prophet who spoke mightily against the wrong-headed thinking about the temple. Ezekiel was 17 years old when Jeremiah preached the famous temple sermon saying, “Do not trust in these deceptive words, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’” Ezekiel certainly heard of this sermon and could have even heard the sermon. One wonders what his father, Buzi, thought of Jeremiah’s words.
In Ezekiel 1 we find Ezekiel in Tel-Abib on the bank of the Chebar River, probably SE of Babylon. As a young man of 25, Ezekiel and 10,000 other Jews in 597 B.C were removed from the land of Israel. Like Jeremiah and Zechariah, both priests turned prophet, Ezekiel would have a rough time of it. He was hated, reviled, and called every name in the book. Many of these Jews were simply unbelievers in the true God.
Ezekiel sees this amazing vision in chapter 1. So overwhelmed is Ezekiel that he either passes out or voluntarily falls on his face. After seeing only, Ezekiel then hears; he hears God’s voice. He is told to stand up or get ready. Stand at attention because this is not a boss speaking to you, a parent, but the living God. God does not speak casually or words of nonsense. Ezekiel is to pay attention. The Spirit enters him so he can stand up.
In verse three he is told who is to speak to. The nation of Israel is a “nation of rebels, who have rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me . . .” God is not done. The next verse says their children are “imprudent and stubborn: I send you to them.” We should be shocked that God’s people are described in this way but as a Bible reader, sadly you read it like any other verses. This is how low God’s people have fallen in their sin. And how apt a description. Ironically God’s prophet is sent to God’s people, but they are anything but holy, reverent, humble, or striving to do good. Many of the act, think, and believe like unbelievers.
The content of his message was the Word of God. It was and still is straightforward if you want to speak for God. Your message as a Christian, teacher, preacher, or author is God’s Word. “You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear” God says in v. 7. This word was to be internalized and accepted by Ezekiel almost like eating something (3:1-3). He has to be mastered by the Word before he ministers the Word. No one can truly profess with conviction what they do not possess. First Ezekiel was to “hear what I say to you” v. 8. I remember a prof in seminary told us before you want to stand up (to preach) you have to first sit down (to study). We find prophets reading other prophets (Dan 9:2). Ezekiel thought about this initial vision for 7 days but never again? I doubt that. He thought about that vision for the rest of his life.
These words were written down. God does give visions but so the prophet will write the vision down on paper. Don’t seek a vision or a word from God. That is not just vain but close to blasphemy. You have the word written down. This has manifold consequences for our faith and how we reason. God speaks in words. We study words on a page. We do not walk in the garden or monastery hoping for revelation. We communicate in words that we understand and can be understood by our listeners. There is not some secret knowledge you need. And Greek and Hebrew do not give those who have the privilege of education secret knowledge. Since God has spoken in words, Judaism and Christianity will always promote reading, education, and reason. Now at times, Christians are not reasonable, but if they are not using or respecting reason, they are challenging the word of God and possibly God Himself.
These words are complete or “writing on the front and on the back” (2:10) and some of those words, but not all, were words of lamentation and mourning and woe” (2:10). We don’t look for the positive word, the good word, or the encouraging word at the expense of the rest of the words. We look for all of God’s Word and we share, teach, and preach all of God’s Word as faithfully as we can. How we long to see God’s Word read, prayed, sang, preached, studied, loved, and obeyed in every church. We need to pray that all churches use the Word and recognize the Bible as God’s Word.
Thinking of this text today, I was thinking and praying for revival. But what if revival comes gradually? What if in 2 years you find yourself in love with Christ and loving His Word? What if you can’t point to one event, day, or sermon but in 2 years you find yourself as a soul on fire? Renewal, revival, a genuine Godward movement always includes His Word. Because the Bible is HIS word. We do not worship the Bible. The Bible points to the One we do. The Bible, and it always has, uses words on a page to draw us to worship the true and living God.
Our loving, holy, and righteous Father, how we love You and love the Word You have preserved for us. Thank you for people who are called to teach, preach, and write about Your word. Thank You for difficult callings that many of Your servants around the world find themselves in. We pray for the ministers and faithful church leaders who volunteer their time and effort. Grant us a hungry to understand Ezekiel’s book and the glory of God.
In the name of the true Son of Man. Amen.