Ezekiel was the son of a preacher man, and as such, he was groomed to serve God and God’s people in and around the sacred temple. However, formal temple liturgy was not foreordained for this priest. Due to the persistent of rebellion of Judah, God sent Babylon to ravage his covenant nation. Many priests were killed, and the ones who were spared found themselves ministering in less than desirable locations. Ezekiel was one such priest, his ministerial call involved pastoring the exiles who lived near the Chebar Canal in modern-day Iraq.
Not only was Ezekiel called to minister in a bizarre place, he was called to minister in a bizarre manner. By God’s decree, his was a ministry of word and drama. God instructed him to lay on his side, build model kingdoms, eat food cooked over dung, shave odd portions of his body, and refrain from displaying sorrow at the passing of his wife. In all of this Ezekiel was obedient; he was an exemplary model of a minister doing God’s work in God’s way.
However, as unusual as Ezekiel’s location and methodology were, this is not what I found to be most startling. What I found to be most strange and unsettling was this: His message was no different than that of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk. Like his former friends, Ezekiel’s prophetic utterances and sermons were filled with indictments of sin and warnings of judgment. Sadly, the Hebrew people had heard prophet after prophet after prophet; they had suffered through famine, pestilence, and natural disasters; they had been invaded, violated, and taxed into poverty; their men had been killed, wives molested, daughters abused, and sons deported; their temple had been ransacked; and the magnificent City of David demolished; and still they remained resolute in their sin. As one reviews Ezekiel’s historical context and message, one is left asking, “How hard and dull must be the heart and head of sinful man?”
Then I think of myself. How many times have I seen the tragic consequences of sin? How many times have i counseled those who have tasted of Satan’s delight and found themselves in a broken condition? How many sermons and Bible studies have I led on the Law and man’s duty to fear God and keep his commandments? How many studies have I led on how God’s ways are always best, and there is no way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey? And then I look at my conduct. I am sinful. I am weak. I am hypocritical. I am so hard. So dull am I. Like the dog returns to his vomit, so do I return to my sin. Oh wretched man, who will save me from my wicked self?
Thanks be to Jesus Christ who sends his Holy Spirit to aerate my hard soul. Thanks be to God who will not leave my foolish and dull mind alone. But for the grace of God, I would be unmoved and unconcerned — just like the congregation of Ezekiel. However, today, God’s grace has been so sweet and rich. May I not tread on his kindness any longer. May I learn from his discipline. May I listen with fresh ears to the counselors he sends my way. May the Word of God be powerful and alive in my soul.
And my prayer for tomorrow is, “Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me … again … and on my friends.”