(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)
Ezekiel 2:1-3:21 is a continuation of what happened in chapter 1. This is probably one of the craziest parts of the Bible. There Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord, probably some angels, some other creatures, a little smoke, some lightening and fire, and wheels with rims. I don’t even know how to go about making sense of that, but Ezekiel responded like others in the Bible when they see God or an angel: they collapse on the ground. I probably would too if I saw all of that. Its nothing like anything we see on earth. If anything we should know that there is a whole lot going on beyond what we can see with our eyes. Ezekiel’s call to be a prophet in chapters 2-3 is very similar to the themes that are seen in Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet in the first chapter of Jeremiah. Both were sent to a people who were hard-hearted and would therefore oppose the message spoken to them by each of these prophets. Both had an encounter with the Lord which empowered them and foretold the hardships that they would face. Jeremiah’s mission was to announce the coming judgment of Israel by way of exile into Babylon. Ezekiel’s mission was to speak to those who were currently in Babylon after the exile.
I like what God says in 3:7-9: “But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” He is saying that He will give Ezekiel a relentless stubbornness against Israel’s stubbornness. The idea of having a hard forehead is very similar to our use of the phrase “hard headed” to describe a stubborn person. God is saying that He is going to give Ezekiel a relentless persistence to speak the prophetic message that God want Israel to hear. This relentlessness will match the stubborn hard-headedness of Israel. God has not given up on Israel, which is why He is sending a prophet to her.
So far Ezekiel’s call seems pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Nothing too crazy going on. And then we get to 3:12 and everything gets crazy again. The difference between this section and chapter one is that the image of these creatures here suggests action, as in Jeremiah is being sent out to his mission and the angels are reflecting the behind the scenes actions that will accompany his mission. The prophet Isaiah’s call is seen in Isaiah 6. Here the actions of the angels are tied in with the actions of Isaiah’s call and subsequent mission. I think a similar thing is happening here. We are getting a glimpse into the supernatural behind the scenes action that is involved in the mission of these prophets.
The funny part about this section of Ezekiel is that in 3:11 God tells Ezekiel to go to the exiles (Israel). In verse 15 he does that, after his crazy experience with these creatures, and “sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.” I picture Ezekiel just sitting there wide eyed staring into space like a crazy person who just saw, well, he just saw (and heard) Heaven, and it left him a little dumbfounded. Giving a crazy start to what would be a very crazy ministry, God seems to be setting the tone for what would come later in the mission of Ezekiel.
Much significance comes in 3:16, where the Lord tells Ezekiel that he is a watchman. The idea of a watchman in the Old Testament is based on the city guards who would keep watch on the walls of a city, most notably in this case the city of Jerusalem. Their job entailed a number of things, especially keeping watch over the city, specifically outside the walls for the threat of enemy invasion or attack. Many prophets were referred to as watchmen. A watchman was charged with the safety of a city in the event of invasion. If the watchman failed to do his job and warn the people of the eminent threat, and the people die from that invasion, then their blood would be on the hands of the watchmen who failed to do their job.
Knowing this, the significance of 3:16-21 comes to light. Ezekiel is charged with warning the “house of Israel” of the imminent threat that is on them. This threat is not a military invasion, but rather a moral one. Through Ezekiel God is trying to warn His people of the threat of their disobedience. If the people of a city were stubborn and refused to hear a watchman’s warnings, then imagine the tenacity that would be required to get them to listen. This is Ezekiel’s mission. He is sent to a people who have already had Jeremiah tirelessly speak judgment to them, and yet here in Ezekiel, now that the judgment that Jeremiah spoke of has taken place, the people are still stubborn and refuse to give up their sins. In this we get a picture of God relentlessly pursuing His people, despite their rebellion.
I believe that in this day and age God has called some of His people to be watchmen who are called to speak truth and warning to His church. Many have come and gone, but the message is still the same: repent and fear God. As the church in the west approaches, and I believe in some areas already has gone into, exile into the oppression of the world, God is speaking to His people to repent and follow Him wholeheartedly. A storm is without a doubt coming and the church will either face it head on and be persecuted, or fade away into nothingness.
I think I echo a lot of what the church is sensing right now in that the world around us is becoming very dark. Things are rapidly changing and the church is increasingly finding itself more and more on the outskirts of that darkness. We have two choices: assimilate, or stand up and live for Christ. I say we stand up and face what is coming. I pray for the same stubborn tenacity that God gave Ezekiel when He called Him. Israel found itself under the reign of a foreign nation that oppressed it. This came because of her own stubborn refusal to follow the Lord. However, in the midst of this God still pursued her, and even rose up bold prophets to speak to her. No matter how dark the world around us gets, and it will get dark very soon, God is still the same. He will always call us out of darkness into His light. But as the world around us reflects darkness rather than light, we must persist and maintain our love and fear of the God who calls us to live above the world who hates us. Just as Ezekiel was sent to a hard-hearted people living under oppression, so is the church today. Ultimately my prayer is that God would raise up men who will lead the church through the coming darkness and therefore certain persecution.