Ezekiel Blog 4: on overload here

Just more blogging from me on Ezekiel.

There is a small section at the very end of Ezekiel Chapter 3 that doesn’t seem to attract much notice.  In all the commentaries I’ve read, there is only brief mention of Ezekiel’s reaction to the first vision.  The one commentary I’m focusing on by  Arno C Gaebelein looks at the seven days of silence by Ezekiel to show Ezekiel’s horror, remorse, guilt over the impending doom of the Lord’s coming judgments.  Very dark.

I see it differently. Yes the text in verse 14 says that Ezekiel went away in bitterness and anger.  Very strong emotions indeed.  For my part, that is something that I can relate to, and it’s what makes Ezekiel stay human in our eyes.  I digress though,…

Stepping back,  we see Ezekiel staggering from the impact of the vision as a whole. Remember – it was sweet as honey on his tongue as Ezekiel read (ate) the scroll – the message from God.  It’s an interesting metaphor because whenever you eat something then you have to take time to digest.  Ezekiel needs to process – and don’t we all.  He says that the Spirit lifted him up.  So here we begin to see identification of that Spirit of God as being an active agent in the same way that Jesus promised the same Spirit to his disciples. That Spirit lifted him up.

Ezekiel has enough where-with-all to still make note of some interesting things to him.  All of this first vision took place in the presence of that incredible chariot which carried the Lord’s presence here into this strange desert place – far indeed from the temple in Jerusalem.  And to Ezekiel’s astonishment, he heard a voice that said,” May the glory of the Lord be praised in his dwelling place.”   Imagine Ezekiels confusion – but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple ruined.  What holy place??!!!

This action by God is driving home the concept that the Holy place of God is not some specific section of rock in a certain place in Judea.  In this case, the Holy place was the humbled and broken heart of Ezekiel willing to accept the pure Word of God in, take it in, and have faith enough to face the implications of an encounter with God’s Spirit.  That is the Holy Place, that is the Kingdom about which Jesus said, “…the Kingdom is at hand.”  It is a place of faith and prayer.

Ezekiel says again that the Spirit lifted him up.  He returns to his people, his fallen and defeated people – those of his tribes who have lost their faith and believe that the Lord only dwells in the ruined temple in Jerusalem and will not hear them in this new place.  He is angry and he is bitter because he sees the vast distance between the people and God, not because of geography, but because of the condition of their heart and their dry arid faith.

Ezekiel falls silent for seven days because of all this. Wouldn’t you?  It’s an interesting silence too.  Seven days to consider how everything had changed.  Ezekiel’s whole concept of the Temple, of priesthood, of religion as a whole, …..the idea of “God, with us”.  It’s a lot to take in.  And Seven days was the Jewish number of perfection. It was out of respect that Ezekiel was silent, it was out of awe.

And God, knowing what humans were capable of, knowing when we need to digest, gives Ezekiel those Seven days to come to grips with the fact that the story that Moses began is still yet unfolding. God was with his people, even in judgment. And his kingdom?   The most valuable place of all,  a willing and humble heart.

Ezekiel Blog 3: Yes, but how??what?huh!

This is my Blog – and right now I’m just commenting on Ezekiel.

I’ve been going through Ezekiel chapters 2-4,…actually several times now. To me there are some fascinating things going on here. As always, I find myself engaged at a human level. My point in writing this is not to repreat the verses, but instead to highlight points where Ezekiel’s experience and message resonate.

For instance, looking at the beginning of Chapter 2, there is a line where God tells Ezekiel, “…I am sending you…” I am very certain that Ezekiel felt the weight of the message he had to carry and knew very well the less than popular reception he was going to get. But going back to Exodus, the I AM is actually speaking here and sending Ezekiel – the same words as spoken to Moses. Ezekiel must have been thinking, “….well at least I’m in good company”. That sense of commission here is very strong. Ezekiel is literally knocked off his feet and God tells him to first stand up back on your feet, and then, I will talk with you.

Any normal human being should be thinking of how he/she would react to similar circumstances. Mostly, it could be summed up as, “AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…….!!!??????” panic, panic, panic. Fight or Flight instincts just begging to kick in.

To this, God says to Ezekiel, “Fear not…” Wow (I know, I say that a lot.) But isn’t that the exact same message that the angels said to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus to announce the beginning of the Gospel story? Fear not. I love this message because it is authentic and true to the nature of God’s message, the same message Jesus preached. It’s amazing to me how often that message gets lost in the noise and confusion of modern theological battles between groups hollering at each other over Christian values. Is there really need to fear so much that we must exclude people who don’t conform to our concept of a Godly existence? God’s voice is the voice of peace, therefore, the voice of fear belongs to someone else.

Moving on in this portion of Ezekiel, our hero is standing there wondering how on earth he’s going to carry this message. I’m not equipped for this, he must be thinking. I don’t have the staff for this, my software is out of date, where will I find an online carrier……-what if someone gets confrontational with me because of all this???! These are the questions of man.

First the message.  To Ezekiel’s surprise, this bitter message of judgement on Israel is actually sweet on his tongue, as sweet as honey.  The Word of God is challenging to us, it does take us to new places that are sometimes scary. But the prophets consistently report to us that when they embrace the revealed nature of God, and cast off bagage and preconcieved notions, the message becomes clear, attractive, tasty and good.

Next God tells Ezekiel not to worry about the people to whom he’s tasked with delivering the message.  “I will transform you” is the message to Ezekiel, I will make you just as hard as they are, just as tough.  They are an unpliant people, so I will show them that I can be unpliant too.  I will demand that they open their ears….but don’t be surprised if they don’t listen anyway.

I don’t know if this brought relief to Ezekiel, exactly, but he must have felt bolder and more inclined to risk what God was expecting.

As a side thought, I’ve heard it said that Christianity has nothing to do with the Old Testament.  Here in these chapters we see that, in fact, the opposite is true.  Christianity was ushered in with the words “Fear Not”.  Christ himself often finished his parables with the statement: he that has ears, let him hear – which is a direct reference from the visions of Ezekiel. The message of Christ that the kingdom is here,  is captured in this 3-D Imax vision of Ezekiel where the Spirit if God takes Ezekiel away to the desert and says I will speak with you here….eg. not in Israel, not in the temple, Here where you are.  Jesus told his disciples that even as He was sent, they were now sent, just like Ezekiel.

I see in these chapters the great compassion of God towards humans – those that try hard to embrace God’s nature and message. He preps, He explains, He gives warning, He pleads, He gives words of encouragement, He seems to have a very high opinion of human beings and seems to have undaunted confidence and optimism in us even in the face of His own impending judgements

I’m really meditating on the end of this sequence, but that’s all I have for now….