Summary: Ezekiel was a man whose message was one that combined judgment and hope. On the one hand, he was a man gripped by a profound sense of God's holiness, brought about by his visionary experience with God.
"THE VISION OF THE WHEELS"
EZEKIEL 1:1 24
Intro The most neglected and difficult prophetic book (subject matter, imagery, symbol system) READ v. 1 14
Before we go any further I'd like to take a look at this man and what brought about his extraordinary life and message. Ezekiel grew up in Jerusalem where his father served as a priest in the temple.
As the priesthood was a traditional office, passed from one generation to the next, it is likely that Ezekiel, in his early life, was educated for service as a priest.
He was born in very troublesome times in Judah's history. At the time he was born, Josiah's great reformation was being undertaken in Jerusalem, but by the time he was a young man the survival of Jerusalem and Judah was in grave doubt.
When Ezekiel was about 26 years old Jerusalem was attacked and defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian emperor. The city itself survived, but many of it's leading families and citizens were deported to Babylon...including Ezekiel.
This young man who was trained for service as a priest found himself in an alien land where there was no temple of his faith. He lived with other exiles in a settlement called Tel Abib not far from the great city of Babylon.
It was there, just a few years later, that he was called to serve in the role of prophet. He was about 30 yrs. old when he received his call and his ministry continued for at least 20 years.
Ezekiel's call and commissioning as a prophet are set in the context of a visionary experience, and vision was to play an important part of his ministry.
This was a man of many talents...he could preach a conventional sermon but could also tell a story or parable to illustrate his message. He was a rational man yet he didn't hesitate to tell in glorious detail the fantastic substance of his visions.
The prophet is very exact in recording what he saw in his visions, and unless we are able to be sensitive to the symbols and imagery in our reading of this account we will miss much of the power of this fantastic book.
He lived and ministered during critical years and the crises of the time raised for many people the most fundamental questions of life and religion.
For example, did God's punishment of evil mean that there was no hope for the future? For those in exile, there seemed to be little foundation on which to build hope. It seemed like the end of all they had believed.
Ezekiel was a man whose message was one that combined judgment and hope. On the one hand, he was a man gripped by a profound sense of God's holiness, brought about by his visionary experience with God.
Such a holy God could not ignore man's evil...and the abandonment of responsibility...and refusal to love. As Ezekiel saw it God had to act in judgment.
But Ezekiel's vision of God's holiness is balanced by his perception of divine mercy and love. The loving kindness of God and the capacity for forgiveness could never be exhausted...so there must be hope ... regardless of the situation that surrounds.
To those who held on to a hollow and false hope in tough times, the prophet felt compelled to announce judgment and to completely annihilate every hope and aspiration they had.
But to those who eventually reached the point of despair brought on by the things that were happening all around them, Ezekiel had a message of hope.
It was not a message that could be established for them strictly by an experience alone, but one which required of his people faith in the ultimate purpose of God, not only for them but for the world.
Just what was the promise that Ezekiel had for the people? It was the most quoted promise in the Bible...that of God's presence. Presence is the most important thing in time of need...more than words of advice or even well intentioned thoughts.
When I went through the most trying time in my life, it was the presence of a friend that made the difference. That friend said very little, but from their presence I drew strength and encouragement and in the end victory.
But so many times when someone is going through a tough situation we stay away because we don't know what to say...when the best thing we could do is just be there and !not„Ç say anything.
(i.e. not attending funeral because of not knowing what to say...but just being there is what counts most...[Job] )
Most of us know from personal experience just how hard it is to recognize God's presence when really tough, trying times hit...moments when you feel so alone...even though there are many people around you. "Where are you God?"