Week 35 Devotion
Ezekiel was a priest who had been living in Jerusalem during Babylon’s first attack on the city, which you can read about in 2 Kings 24:8-17. This attack resulted in king Jehoiachin and his family being hauled off to Babylon as slaves. But they weren’t the only ones forced into exile. The chief men of the city along with soldiers and craftsmen were carried away from the city and into Babylon. Ezekiel was one of those people carried off into exile.
The city of Jerusalem wasn’t fully destroyed for another 9 years, but 5 years into this first exile, Ezekiel sees a vision. He is living in the city of Babylon and one day he goes out to the river and all of a sudden he has a vision from God and this kicks off his ministry as a prophet of God. Many believe that Ezekiel had just turned 30, some even suggest that this happened on his birthday, and they say this because according to the book of Numbers chapter 4 the span of a priest’s service ran from the time he turned 30 to the time he turned 50. It just so happens that the final vision of Ezekiel takes place 25 years after the exile which means this book covers the 20-year span of his public ministry.
Anyway, Ezekiel has the difficult task of prophesying to the people of God who are in exile in Babylon and his main message is to accuse the rebellious nation of rebels who have rebelled against God.
Eze 2:3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.
Essentially the message of Ezekiel is going to be bringing accusations against the people of God as evidence of why they are currently in exile and as to why the rest of the city will be destroyed in the next 4 years. Oh, and by the way the people aren’t going to listen to what Ezekiel has to say. But that doesn’t seem to matter because God has something to show and tell his rebellious people.
Something to meditate on…
The first thing that Ezekiel sees as he is sitting on the bank of the Chebar canal is a storm cloud. But this is no ordinary cloud. Within the cloud, there are four living creatures who have a human appearance but they each have four faces and four wings. Beneath each of these creatures is a wheel and wherever the creatures go the wheels follow. Then Ezekiel’s gaze shifted up and he saw that the creature’s wings were outstretched and overlapping and then on top of their wings was a platform.
On top of the platform, there was a throne and the One who sat on the throne was another being that had a human-like figure, only his appearance was like fire. And Ezekiel realized that what he was seeing was the “appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” riding on his royal throne in the form of a royal chariot. And when the prophet realized this he fell on his face.
The image that Ezekiel saw reminds us of the image used to describe the glorious presence of God. This image was represented within the temple, inside the holiest place. This was a picture of the mercy seat of God that rested above the ark of the covenant where God’s presence dwelt among His people. But there is a problem. What is the presence of God’s glory doing in Babylon? Should that be back in Jerusalem?
This would have been puzzling for Ezekiel. What is the glory of God doing outside of the temple? And this is something that we might want to consider as well. Is The glory of God confined to a location? Is the presence of God sealed up in a room, even a glorious room like the holy of holies? And now that the temple is no more, where does the presence of God dwell?
Here’s a hint, it’s not the place that makes God holy but God’s presence that makes the place holy. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, preached a sermon to try and explain this in Acts 7 and the Jews stoned him for what he said. But for Ezekiel, this was a big mystery and it is one that God would make clear to him in the next series of visions.
Something to discuss…
In chapters 8-11, Ezekiel has a vision of the temple in Jerusalem but what he sees doesn’t fit. Instead of Yahweh, the people are worshipping the false gods of the Babylonians. The elders of Israel are worshipping other gods, both inside the temple and outside the temple. Even the women are worshipping foreign gods and then Ezekiel sees the royal throne chariot again, only this time he sees that it is leaving Jerusalem and traveling east toward Babylon.
So now the visions are coming together and beginning to make sense. The reason God’s glory is in Babylon is that He has left Jerusalem. He has turned away from His people who have rebelled against Him, broken the covenant and who are bowing down to false gods rather than their creator and redeemer. In a sense, the sin of Israel has driven God away and in His absence, the city is completely given over to destruction.
But even now there is hope for the people of God, the true people of God. God tells Ezekiel that even though He has scattered the people He has still provided a safe place for them. And God has a plan to gather them back in and give them a new, united heart and a new spirit. God promises to,
“Remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them and they shall be my people and I will be their God (Eze 11:19-20).”
This promise is the rumblings of a New Covenant that God will make with His people. This is something that is worth a discussion around the table or with your Community Group. God will remove His hand of protection and give an entire wicked nation over to their sins and enemies, but He will at the same time care for His people and draw them in.
This is the kind of hope that can and should sustain us in the midst of our own national strife. This should give us confidence that even as war is prolonged and new enemies are knocking on our doors we can put our full hope and trust in the Lord. This should help us to find refuge in Christ even as our nation runs headlong into rebellion and sin.
Something to pray about…
In all that we read from Ezekiel there hangs over it the disheartening truth that no one is going to listen and heed his accusations against them. He will preach God’s message but no one will repent. He will act out God’s judgment but no one will turn from their sin. He will subject himself to degrading practices to make a point about the people’s own degradation but no one is going to turn from their wickedness.
But that is not up to Ezekiel, his job is to be a watchman on the wall. He is charged by God to speak the truth, to warn the people whether they listen or not. He is called to preach God’s message no matter what.
We find ourselves in a very similar place today with the charge to preach the gospel whether it is in season or not. We are not to tickle ears but to share the message of God’s coming judgment and His provided rescue which is faith in Christ. Let’s pray that God would keep us faithful. Let’s pray that God wouldn’t let us experience the lack of response in our audience like Ezekiel experienced. Let’s pray for God to use our witness and His Word to turn back our nation from sin.