On July31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River, in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1
I’ve been reading through the book of Ezekiel. It is quite a book filled with unique visions, harsh judgments and unusual acts the Lord asked Ezekiel to perform. I will freely admit this is not a book I look forward to reading every year, but it is one that is good for me. Ezekiel was a trained priest and his name means “God Strengthens”, I assume he really needed that reminder as he followed the Lord! I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. Ezekiel 2:3
I can’t help but admire him for his faithfulness to the Lord during such difficult times. He prophesied to the remnant of Judah exiled in Babylon, while in Babylon himself. He endured the consequences of the sins of the Israelites, even though we see him as a righteous man.These were troublesome times, brought on by the immorality of the people. He laid on his left side for 390 days, and his right side for 40 days tied up with ropes so he couldn’t turn. He shaved his head and beard and then weighed and measured it and then scattered, chopped and burned it. The Lord told him his wife was going to die, and she did-but he was forbidden to mourn her passing. None of these were simple things to do, yet we see Ezekiel obeying them all.
One effect of reading this book is being reminded of how wicked and sinful the culture had become. Idolatry had replaced true worship. God’s protection was lifted from them and the Lord used Ezekiel to make it very clear he was going to use the Babylonians to punish His people. It is hard to read. Then he said to me, ‘the sins of the people of Israel and Judah are very, very great. The entire land is full of murder; the city filled with injustice. They are saying, “The Lord doesn’t see it! The Lord has abandoned the land!” So I will not spare them or have any pity on them. I will fully repay them for all they have done.” Ezekiel 9:9-11.
Of course, I can’t help but reflect on our own country and the sin that fills our own land. It is sobering to read and know the same things are happening today, here. We see judgments pronounced on Tyre, Edom, and Egypt and know our country could just as well be added. I can’t help but wonder if we are under some of those same judgements. I found myself crying out to the Lord to be merciful to us.
Having read this book before, I know hope is coming. God’s love and faithfulness and commitment to His people is revealed. Judgment is real, the consequences of sin is real, but so is God’s promise of change and restoration. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 16:25-27,
This good news is for us as well! No matter how hard my heart may seem at times, I just have to call out to Him and ask for a tender, responsive one. Wonder of wonders, we have the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit working with in each believer. He is always working to keep us soft and tender, even when the ways of the world would cause us to harden them. Chapter 37 brings us to the valley of dry bones, and God’s great question to Ezekiel. “Can these dry bones live?” Ezekiel’s response: “You alone know the answer to that”. And then we find God telling Ezekiel to prophesy to these bones, and they lived. I look at the areas in my life and wonder “can these dry bones live”? Can our country experience revival? I ask, why not? I choose to trust God’s love, mercy and wise judgement. My responsibility is to walk in His ways, pray and intercede for our nation and its leaders. Ezekiel’s calling was hard, and so may ours be, but it is doable as we rely on Him.
Father,I thank you for your sobering words found in the book of Ezekiel. I thank you for a man who served you well. Help us do the same. We may not understand everything about what he wrote, but we can understand the need to walk uprightly with our God. We understand we need to speak the words He gives to us, and to obey. Father, help us keep a soft heart toward you and your ways, no matter what. In Jesus’ Name, amen.