Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ezekiel 1: The Word of the LORD Came to Ezekiel

December 25, 2010
The word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.
Ezekiel 1:3

My thoughts often turn to wondering about the people who wrote down these words in God's Book. Perhaps it is an exercise in empathy, which I could certainly use. I have a few questions for Ezekiel. How soon after this vision did he write it all down? How much did it mean that he was the son of a priest in Babylonia? How much social standing would he have as a 30-year-old priest? What was he doing by the river when God chose to show him this awesomely indescribably vision?
The preliminary introduction is short here. I suppose it often is but somehow it struck me that it feels like there is a sense of urgency, a need to get on to the fantastic part. It begins with a quick telling of who, when, and where, and then moves on to descriptions that somehow defy imagining. There is a sense of urgency there too, and repetition. As if he were in a hurry to put down all he saw lest he forget any part of it, but struggles to find words that can express it. And no wonder!
The verse above stood out to me on the first read through and made me wonder about his social status and personal background. The introduction is humble. I realize now he says he was among the exiles by the Kebar River. But there still seems like a note of defiance in how he says that God gave him a vision, as if to say, "even in Babylonia," or "even to me." The reason it stood out to me in the first place is how he switches from first person to third and back again. I can understand telling it all in first person. He is the one who saw it; I'm glad he did. But when he says, "There the hand of the LORD was upon him," in third, I imagine it comes with a humbling sense of amazement o realize God chose to give Ezekiel His words, visions of His glory, even as an exile in the land of the enemy. There is urgency and a sense of responsibility, ownership of his experience, if I can say that. But there is also a great sense of wonder, and this is why he is emphatic. This is why he must assert to whoever will read the book and perhaps to himself in third person, as another speaking to reassure him, that the word of the LORD did indeed come to him; that the hand of the LORD came upon him.
I wonder if that verse in third is God speaking to reassure Ezekiel as he is about to attempt to relate the glorious and fantastic things he saw.
I imagine this young priest who never lived in a God-serving Israel at peace, now in exile (were they travelling? Just arrived? Had he gone to the river to be alone with some shame or to cry out to God when the vision came?) Was he still shaking when he sat down to write? In awe of God, but doubting himself perhaps? Did he pause when he wrote that verse? Maybe he sat back and sighed, a release of his doubts and fears. Maybe he dropped his pen, fell to his knees, and wept, overcome by God's love. Maybe the humbling wonder of such a thing prompted him to write it and later, looking back, it would send a shiver down his spine to read it.
It also stuck me a moment ago (Thank You, God) that the way we are as Christians in the world today is something like what Ezekiel experienced. We are the remnant living in enemy territory. And in spite of all that was our shame, to us have been revealed the secret things of God. In spite of what we were, where we were and when, God has given His Spirit to those who call on the Name of Jesus and believe in His power to save.
The word of the LORD came to Marissa, His maidservant, the daughter of the LORD's servants, living in the world. There the hand of the LORD was upon her.
May I say this, God? Thank You for these words. Thank You for Ezekiel, thank You for being the Good Teacher and teaching me. I pray my heart stay open to learn. Please let me be filled with this humbling sense of awe and wonder at what You have revealed to Your children, to me. I will remember that You are with me, though I am not yet home. Thank You for revelation and the precious knowledge of who You are and all Your wonderful promises. Thank You for entrusting this knowledge to me. Make me worthy of it, that I might please You. I love You, LORD. Jesus, I love You. Lead me to know You and love You more.

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