Monday, November 13, 2017

"This Incredible Prophet"

Ezekiel 2.1 NIV

“Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.”

Over the next three weeks I will read the book of Ezekiel and, Lord willing, post 15 journal entries from its 48 chapters. I hope to discover the personality of the man behind the book, who at about the age of 25, was forcibly uprooted from his home in Palestine and exiled to Babylon along with 10,000 other Jewish captives approximately 600 years before the birth of Christ. His prophetic calling began five years later and was characterized by apocalyptic visions and powerful images of God’s glory.

Here’s what we know about Ezekiel from the written record…
  • He offered hope to his fellow captives for their eventual return to the Jewish homeland.[1]
  • Ezekiel was a man of fearless conviction and strong emotions.[2]
  • The Lord used a personal tragedy in Ezekiel’s life to develop true and lasting empathy for the plight of God’s people.[3]
Ezekiel was the lesser known contemporary of two other major prophets, Jeremiah (primarily a prophet to the Jews in Jerusalem prior to its fall to Babylon) and Daniel (a prophet in the court of Babylon’s kings Nebuchadnezzar and successors). Daniel is referred to three times in the writings of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14.14, 20; 28.3) while Ezekiel is never mentioned in the books of Jeremiah, Daniel, or any Hebrew scripture, other than the book bearing his name.

Ezekiel related well to the common man. He found himself in the exactly same circumstance as his Hebrew brothers and sisters. He may be called the ‘blue collar’ prophet or even the prophet of the Babylonian captivity. It could be said that Ezekiel became his message in his willingness to suffer for its cause.

There are glaring similarities between the book of Ezekiel and key portions of the New Testament including the allegorical teachings of Jesus’ parables and the fantastic imagery of John’s Revelation. I am most intrigued by the symbolic title “son of man” used in the Hebrew Scriptures almost exclusively by Ezekiel (over 90 times). “Son of Man” became Jesus’ favorite title for Himself, also appearing nearly 90 times in the four Gospels.

The name Ezekiel means “God will strengthen”. I hope God will strengthen me like Ezekiel to “stand up on [my] feet” and better hear God “speak to [me]” about the things I must learn from this incredible prophet.

Note: The sculpture above is entitled “The Prophet” by sculptor and medical historian, Doris Leavitt Appel (1904-1995). This work of art was inspired her grandfather.

[1] “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again,” 

(Ezekiel 11.17 NIV).

[2] “I'll make your face as hard as rock, harder than granite. Don't let them intimidate you. Don't be afraid of them, even though they're a bunch of rebels.” “The Spirit lifted me and took me away. I went bitterly and angrily. I didn't want to go. But God had me in his grip,” (Ezekiel 3:9, 14 The Message).

[3] “Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow...
” So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died.” “Thus Ezekiel will be a sign to you,” (Ezekiel 24.18, 24 NASB). Two years ago, I lost the “desire of [my] eyesafter twenty years of wedded happiness. While I cannot claim to know what the prophet felt, I can certainly testify to a depth of pain that I must believe, as in the case of Ezekiel, contains a redemptive purpose for the benefit of others who share my suffering. 

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