Today we return to 593 B.C., almost midway between the first massive exile to Babylon and the ultimate fall of Jerusalem. From the opening verses, it appears that Ezekiel was among that first group of exiles, or at least journeyed among them, for we find him by the Chebar canal in Babylon. Beyond the fact that Ezekiel is described as a priest, little else is known about him.
What matters is that the word of the LORD came to him there – well beyond the borders of Judah – and that Ezekiel was commanded to proclaim it. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for Israel…go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
That last line: “…whether they hear or refuse to hear” is an interesting diversion from what we’ve seen before. Ezekiel’s commissioning vision holds some elements you’ll recognize from Isaiah and Jeremiah, as though there is formulaic rhythm to be kept. But this acknowledgement of Israel’s stubbornness gets elaborate treatment here, and throughout this book you can try to discern whether this is saying something about the prophet, as well as the audience.
Now comes fair warning: many of the visions given to Ezekiel are abstract, symbolic, and shall we say, creative. Often, Ezekiel is given an elaborate exercise to perform as prophetic theater. Today you’ll hear of winged creatures and spinning wheels; of bricks and dirt mounds and barley cakes cooked over human dung; of razor-sharp swords and burning hair.
My encouragement to you is to simply read it through, accepting broad meanings that the author assigns without grinding out the details of every specific symbol. For example, in chapter 1 Ezekiel experiences a vision of winged creatures and spinning wheels, above which sat a throne surrounded by light and fire. At the end, without any reflection on the particular elements, Ezekiel simply relates: Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And When I saw it, I fell on my face…”
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Ezekiel 1 through 5. Now let’s read it!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.