My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'Daily Christian discipleship' section.
In Ezekiel 1:1-3 we are introduced to a man who was a long way from his home. He was brought up in a priestly family. As a youngster he had witnessed some of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. His people around him were “exiles”, displaced, and most were treated as slave labour by the dominant Babylonians.
It appears to have been Ezekiel’s 30th birthday, the day he would have expected to have been ordained into the Jerusalem priesthood for which he had been prepared. Instead all he could see around him was hopelessness, ruined dreams, and many people depressed in their circumstances, disillusioned with their God, and puzzled – if not downright angry – about God’s ‘unfulfilled’ promises. Not a very promising ‘congregation’!
When we find ourselves away from where we feel we should be, either geographically, socially or spiritually, we do well to learn from four phrases in Ezekiel 1:1-3, see the bold type below. Verses 2-3 are written by the scribe and describe two things that happened to Ezekiel. The remainder of chapters 1-3 are the testimony of the priest himself, describing his dramatic call from God to become a prophet, 2:3-7 and watchman, 3:16-17 for the nation.
1. “The heavens were opened” 1:2
This phrase points us towards listening and seeing. A radio,TV, ‘phone or I-pad can be always there with us, but it is only when the devices are switched on and tuned in that we can hear and watch what is being sent to us.
Even in the middle of tough times it is our Christian responsibility (and especially that of Christian leaders) to be alert for whatever God is revealing from heaven. More often than not this comes through private Bible reading and personal prayer, but sometimes by God’s grace we may have a special window into the future God wants us to minister towards.
2. “I saw visions of God” 1:2
These initial verses from 1:4 onwards describe an awesome Person, sovereign overall 1:26, able to move anywhere quickly 1:14, 20-21, to see everything everywhere 1:18, with the ability to do anything He wants 1:8. Ezekiel describes this being as, “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord”, see the end of 1:28. This is the “anthropomorphic reversal” of Genesis 1:26-27.
The use of the words, “of God” is capable of two meanings in English. It may mean the visions were of God Himself, like a photograph shot of our family today, or, that the visions came from God. Reading on in the chapters we see both are true. Before the next stage of our ministries, to make us spiritually effective and practically fruitful, we must let the attributes of God Himself burn into our hearts, and His calling drive everything we seek to achieve.
3. “The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel” 1:3
Two particulars are in this phrase. It is God’s word that must be received and it is His message, especially to Ezekiel, that is vitally important.
In our time there are many voices competing for our attention. Different Christian voices may seek to persuade us to go this way or do the other thing – ‘good ideas’ perhaps, but not ‘God’s idea’. It must be His voice we discern from all the rest. God’s voice is not only the best voice we must hear, it is the only voice to give us right purpose and full provision for the jobs He gives us. Ezekiel absorbed God’s word into and throughout his very being, 2:9-3:3. Ezekiel was prepared by God for the calling God created him for. It was only for Ezekiel. Yes he did have contemporary colleagues, but what he was challenged to do by God, Ezekiel alone had to do. It is the same for you and for me. Be what God made you for. Accomplish His plan for your life.
4. “The hand of the Lord was upon him there” 1:3
This phrase carries with it the twin ideas of placement and protection. It may not have been Ezekiel’s own idea of a career but it was definitely what God wanted for him. Because of this God would keep him alive until his required task was done. Over 42 years I have been in some dangerous places for Christian ministry – in South Vietnam, North & South Ireland, Indonesia and Sudan – and I have always been strengthened and known peace by the knowledge I was completely safe until God wants me with Him in heaven’s glory. This is true for you too.
Finally look at the last word in this phrase. “There” describes the place of exile, the burden of slave labour, the disillusionment with God and the despair bred by hopelessness. It was in this terrible circumstance that Ezekiel met with his God in a life-changing and special way. Ezekiel did not have to make things improve before he had this encounter. When God chose to open His window, He offered Ezekiel the chance to look in. Ezekiel took it.
I ask you to think about your position in life today. Where are you? Why are you? What are you? How are you? Next, deliberately choose to look away from yourself and focus the sight of your heart on your Father in heaven. Look and worship. Then listen. Clearly pick God’s voice from the rest. Enjoy the comfort of knowing your Shepherd’s voice even when His challenge to you is costly, John 10:11,14-15. Remember the Calvary price He paid for you.