If you’ve followed this blog, you might have noticed that my normal pattern is to blog through a book in one testament, and then move to a book in the other testament. (The blog actually follows along with what I’m preaching in my role of pastor of Faith Church in Lancaster, PA. I preach the sermon on Sunday, and then I break it up into five pieces and release it on the blog as a kind of daily devotional.) Since we just finished Colossians in the New Testament, I started thinking and praying about which Old Testament book would be a good fit.
I talked it over with my wife, Michelle, and she suggested Ezekiel. Immediately I thought, “Ezekiel? Really? I don’t know about that…”
Why was I hesitant?
First of all, Ezekiel is loooooong. Very long. Take a guess at where Ezekiel ranks if you list the books longest to shortest. 4th longest! In fact, it is only 229 words shorter than Psalms, which is 3rd longest. Ezekiel has 29,918 words. (Trivia question: What are the two longest books of the Bible? Find the answer in the PS below.)
Second, Ezekiel is fairly unfamiliar to me. I looked in my files and I had only preached one sermon on it previously. If I selected Ezekiel, I’d have some learning to do. Who was this guy, Ezekiel, anyway?
Third, I feel intimidated by prophecy, and Ezekiel is one of the Old Testament prophets. The 12 short books at the end of the Old Testament are a bit more manageable because they are so small. I had preached overview sermons on them long ago, but Ezekiel is a whole different ballgame, as it is a big long prophetic tome. Could I handle it? Furthermore, prophecy can get really odd. How will people receive it? Does it relate to Faith Church in 2021?
But, I had to admit that I was intrigued. When I considered all the books of the Bible I have preached since I became pastor 13 years ago, I had to admit that other than that 12-part overview series on the Minor Prophets, I have rarely preached from the prophets. That means preaching through Ezekiel, given its genre and length, would be like nothing I’d preached before. I found that uniqueness appealing.
So I opened up the book of Ezekiel to see what I would find. As I mentioned above, if you would have asked me last week to describe Ezekiel, before I started reading it this week, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much. How about you? Without reading it, what do you know about Ezekiel?
I was familiar with his mysterious vision of God in chapter 1, with his theme of Israel needing a new heart, with his prophecy about a foreign king that sounds like it might have a double-meaning describing Satan, and finally with his famous vision of the valley of dry bones. That’s it. And that’s not much. So one night last week as I started reading Ezekiel, I outlined it to see how it might work as a sermon series. It didn’t take me long to confirm that I did not know much about Ezekiel. I’m sure I must have read it sometime, but if I did, it was long gone from my memory.
What I was reading was mostly new to me, and what’s more, it is WILD! I kid you not, Ezekiel is unique, and it is wonderfully weird. But all the way through the bizarro stuff we’re going to discover in the book, Ezekiel’s prophetic message is powerful, and I think very applicable to us. Even though I was reading for a while, I couldn’t put it down, partly because of the strangeness of it all, but more because it is so fitting to our world. I worked through the whole book that night, and I came away from it excited about this sermon series.
On the blog next week I’m going to introduce the book, and then the following week we’ll start with chapter 1. Then we’ll continue working our way through the book in a series that will finish sometime in 2022. The introduction will set the context and help us understand the scope and themes. My prayer is that our study through Ezekiel will be life-changing for all of us. From what I read and studied so far, if we take heart to Ezekiel’s prophecy, I don’t think we can help but be changed by the Spirit of God.
PS – Answer to the Trivia question: the 2nd longest book of the Bible is Genesis (32,046 words) and the longest is Jeremiah (33,002 words).