Ezekiel Blog 2: Vision in the desert

promised myself that when writing on this blog, I would not wait ’til I had come to some great conclusion before I wrote something.  So this will sort be a work in progress.

I read through almost a dozen different books, Bible commentaries, Bible references, etc on the 1st chapter of Ezekiel. Almost everyone has a lot to say about dates, contemporaries, writing style, and personal history of Ezekiel.  I’m surprised no one trotted out his DMV record.  On the other hand, absolutely no one took a swing at looking at Ezekiel’s initial vision from a message standpoint. Lots of guessing about exact symbology and referencing to neighboring nations, but not much else. In the words of one commentary, “…to most of Christianity, Ezekiel remains a closed book….”  I found this statement astounding.

To me, this means its fair game to take a fresh look at the book, at the vision as Ezekiel recorded it and see what message is in there for me,…just like the rest of scripture. What is the message?

Where to start? Everyone else seems to look to Jeremiah and Daniel for reference.  To me Ezekiel’s vision speaks volumes from the desserts which Moses walked – the time in the wilderness of Isreal.  See, I think, ……no I believe that God finally found someone who might be able to digest the message – the same message delivered every single day to the Israelites in the wilderness day after day:   “I am with you”……or “I am” for short. God was on the move every step of the way with Israel, every battle fought, every time clarification was needed on points of the law.

And here we are, with Ezekiel, right back where Israel was way back in Egypt.  Lets see, Israelites in bondage?  Check.  Large dessert between the people and the land of Promise?  Check. Lots of unprincipled behavior going on amoung the people? Check.  Where was their faith?

So God comes to Ezekiel and uses symbols that Ezekiel would recognize since he was a functioning priest. Ezekiel new about the Ark of the Covenant with little statues of  cherubs on the lid with wings extending.  That same Ark had to be carried around by four authorized guys of some spiritual authority.  And the whole goal of Israel was to get that Ark into some kind of final resting place. And there it sat while the nation disolved over the centuries.

The thing about prophecy is that it is more than fortune telling, it is about bringing forth a greater truth to the situation at hand – and there is no greater situation than God on the move.  God’s version of truth and reality that Ezekiel needed to accept was that God was right here, here in this dessert of enemies – just like ancient Isreal.  God moved under his own power as shown by the four living creatures rather than statues. God goes where ever he wants, where ever he directs the spirit as shown by the motion of that miraculous chariot from the north. It’s up, it’s down, it goes here, it goes there. And above of this, it all is the throne of God, as marked by the same fires that Moses saw, and the same thunders and lightings that all of Israel saw at the Mount where the law was given.

And God’s hand rested on Ezekiel.  The message?   We’re back where we started, but this time we’re going to do things differently.  I need you Ezekiel to carry a harder image of me to the people, and they will resist you worse than they resisted Moses.  Moses worked through the plagues of Egypt to free my people. You will work through the plagues of Israel to free my people Israel from the bondage that they created.  In short, stop pining for the way things used to be back in Jerusalem and in the temple, because it wasn’t worth preserving. Better things are ahead,…if you let the seed of truth be planted. I am God, I am where the people are who worship me with faith.  There is a new kingdom worth creating and building.

And this, this is all the authority you need to carry My Word.

Ezekiel Blog 1: Wow.

So, in my reading of Ezekiel, I got all the way to Chapter 8 before I realized that I needed to go back and read the very first sentence again. You know, it’s that sentence that almost never gets read when you’re scanning through a book of the Bible looking for that certain verse…and it absolutely never gets read during a sermon. So after plumbing through chapter 4 several times and then reading on to chapter 8, I went back and read verse 1.

Wow.

So, Ezekiel is an experienced minister after the manner of the traditional professional priesthood. He’s dealing with life as an exile in Babylon. But the first verse shows me how the rest of the book is Ezekiel’s way of dealing with something that shattered his organized world. He packs 4 important things in the very first sentence for us, and at least for me, lets me know that I’m reading about a real person.

What four things? Hmmm?
1) Exactly what date – to the day. None of this “…oh it was in the spring time” or “ten years ago, I think I had a dream….” No it was in such ‘n such year, this month, that day. What ever happened made a specific impression on him.

2) Where was he? He was with his people in exile. Not fasting away on some mountain (been there, done that). He was among the captive outcasts of Israel. He shared their distress – he was hip deep in it.

3) And then? Ezekiel says that ‘….the heavens opened” Again, not “I heard a voice”, or “my impression” or “my feeling”. No. God knew he needed to blow this guy’s socks off to get his attention. From Ezekiel’s reaction I see that this was way off the scale of normal, nothing he would expect being of your average priestly family. Witnessing the heavens open is as unthinkable as going behind the veil in the Holy of Holies in the former Jerusalem temple. Your average Priest just didn’t do something like that.

4) “…and I saw visions of God.” Simple. To the point. Cuts right through it all and rings of sincerity because it is so simple. It is also the very core of witness – I saw, so now I tell.

That’s authenticity folks, and it’s all in one sentence.

Ezekiel Blog: BTW

I’m reading through a commentary on Ezekiel while I am reading Ezekiel for the umpteenth time.  I just wanted some fresh perspective – see it through different eyes.  The book is called “The Prophet Ezekiel”  by Arno C. Gaebelein.   I was able to pull this down from the Gutenburg.org project.

So far it is a very good background source.  I find that I’m focusing a little less on minutia, but some new impressions are popping out at me.   I like the way the commentary is written in that it makes an effort to show the relationship of Ezekiel with other prophetic books. It also tries to provide details concerning the person of Ezekiel and his day to day environment.  It’s all very good information, but I’m trying to get more out of this than just an academic review.  I think this Commentary volume provides a very good balance so far.