What comes to mind when you think of a prophet? I think of guys like Elijah and John the Baptist, and they are wearing clothing made out of animal skins, holding staffs of wood, and their hair is out of control. They have a personality to match. Bold. Courageous. They make loud and authoritative proclamations. They sometimes do miracles and confront hypocritical leaders and oppressive kings.
Imagine if someone like that showed up in our day and age. Would we listen to them? We would likely say they are out of their minds. In my city’s center square, there’s often a guy shouting into a megaphone that everyone is going to hell. I admire his boldness, but I disagree with his method. But I have to ask, is he a prophet? Then there are doomsday preachers. These so-called Christian prophets predict the end of the world, and they never get it right. Are they prophets?
When I think about prophets, what I don’t think about is you, the reader. You might think, “Why would you think of any of us????” But let me ask a question: “Is it possible that there is a prophet among us?” Don’t think so?
I think there are. I actually think it is highly likely that there are more than one prophets among us! What we will learn today from Ezekiel just might help us find out. Open a Bible and turn to Ezekiel 2.
As you turn there, let’s review Chapter 1. Five years prior to the events of Ezekiel 1 and 2, Ezekiel was part of a group of 10,000 Jews that the powerful nation of Babylon exiled from Jerusalem, forcing them to walk 900 miles and live in Babylon. Ezekiel was the son of a priest, so there in Babylon, in the year of his 30th birthday, the year that sons of priests become priests themselves, God appeared to Ezekiel in an amazing vision. Ezekiel was very familiar with the idea that God’s presence was located in the temple in Jerusalem, so it would have been a major shock to encounter God in Babylon. At the end of chapter 1, while seated on his throne which was riding on this majestic lightning fire table chariot, God speaks to Ezekiel, and Ezekiel falls flat on his face.
That’s where we pick up with chapter 2, verse 1. Pause reading this post and read Ezekiel 2:1-2.
God calls Ezekiel, “Son of man.” This is the first of 93 times that title will be used for Ezekiel. Jesus also used this title of himself sometimes, but it doesn’t seem there is any intended connection between Jesus and Ezekiel. Instead this term refers to Ezekiel’s humanity. In a scene the like this one, it is very appropriate. With the unparalleled glory of God there before him, Ezekiel’s humanity is obvious. There is a vast difference between ourselves and God. This is the difference between divinity and humanity. In the presence of divinity, humans cannot stand, and Ezekiel is laid out flat on his face.
The difference is so stark that Ezekiel cannot even move in God’s presence. What God tells Ezekiel next is “stand up and let’s talk.” I find that amazing. God could easily just talk with Ezekiel while Ezekiel is face down on the ground. God would have no problem communicating to Ezekiel in that state. But God doesn’t want to do that. Instead God wants to talk with Ezekiel face to face. Think about that. This is just one of the many ways God shows us in the stories of the Bible that he values us and a relationship with us.
You might have heard the verse, “No one can see God’s face and live.” (Ex. 33:20) That describes the intensity and purity of the presence of God. We simply cannot survive if we were to face God’s holiness. So why does God want Ezekiel to stand up to talk? Is this a death sentence for Ezekiel?
No, because Ezekiel can’t stand up! It seems he is physically unable to move, the presence of God is so overpowering. But God has a solution. God’s Spirit enters Ezekiel and raises Ezekiel to his feet! We’ve already talked about how the Holy Spirit is a major player in the book Ezekiel. We already saw in Ezekiel chapter 1 how the Spirit guides the lightning chariot/table of God. Now the Spirit empowers Ezekiel to stand in God’s presence. This is important for us to take note of because we Christians know that we are temple of the Holy Spirit. Hold that thought. There’s more of the Spirit to come. The Spirit’s raising of Ezekiel to his feet indicates God’s desire for relationship, even face to face. So why didn’t Ezekiel die? It could be that this was just a vision of the presence of God and not the actual thing. Or perhaps God preserved Ezekiel’s life because of the mission he had for Ezekiel. Maybe there is another reason. No matter, what we see in this encounter is the relationality of our God.
Now with Ezekiel on his feet, God talks again. What does he say next? We’ll find out in the next post.