What does it say?
In 596/7 B.C. king Jehoiachin surrenders to the Babylonians and about 10,000 leaders, soldiers and tradesmen go into captivity in Babylon. Contemporary with Jeremiah, Ezekiel is much younger, in his mid-twenties, and from the priestly line of Levi. At age 30, when he would have begun service in the temple, God calls him in Babylon to be his prophet to his captive people. Just as in the case of Isaiah, Ezekiel’s ministry begins with a spectacular vision filled with glory and awe.
Immediately Ezekiel sees the inevitability of judgment brought about by the people’s sin and this is his emphasis for the first six years of ministry. After that, in 586/7, the temple is finally destroyed and only then does Ezekiel begin to speak about future restoration. Ezekiel’s prophecies, as opposed to Isaiah, Jeremiah and others, is characteristically in direct, first person prose (Eze 1:2-3 is the exception to first person). Even still, Ezekiel’s visions are flamboyant, apocalyptic and very similar in spirit to those of the Revelation that borrows many of Ezekiel’s symbols.
Chapters 1-3 describe the prophet’s calling and vision of God. Chapter 4 is a living parable (like those common to Jeremiah) to visualize the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. These living parables are common in Ezekiel. As you read these four chapters resist the temptation to try and understand all the images and details. Just keep reading. It will make more sense the more you read the Bible. I promise!
What does it mean?
We live in a materialistic, man-centered world today. For this reason many followers of Jesus Christ today have difficulty understanding a dramatic vision of Almighty God that refuses to be tied to what we can dissect, physically touch and measure. Reading through Ezekiel we should be asking ourselves how our relationship with God can go beyond mere logic and reason and enter into a visionary view of God that swallows up in awe and wonder.
Another emphasis that begins here and follows through all of Ezekiel is a vision of sin as God sees it. In the West we often think of sin only in legal terms of guilt and rarely see the shame that our sin brings not only to us, but also to God.
How will I respond?
Today, I will spend five minutes (it will seem like an eternity) just sitting quietly in God’s presence and being in awe of him.