What does it mean to have a relationship with God? Is it just an intellectual concept that has little bearing on our real day-to-day lives? How do flesh and blood people have a meaningful relationship with invisible spirit? As a result, does God feel distant? Does it feel like God is something we read about in the Bible or hear about in stories, but God is maybe not a being that we can have a relationship with? Some people have said that having a relationship with God is like talking on the phone with no one on the other side of the line. You’ve had that experience before, probably. You’re talking, and then the call drops, but you don’t realize it, and you just keep chatting away. Some time goes by, maybe a few seconds, and you don’t hear any audible response from the person on the line. You look at the display and sure enough, the call dropped. For the last bit you have been talking to no one. Is that what your relationship with God feels like?
As we saw learned in the previous post, God said that he would strengthen Ezekiel to the difficult prophetic task he commissioned Ezekiel to. What happens next seems like the opposite, like talking on a phone line gone dead. Look at Ezekiel 3, verses 12-15.
Just like that the vision of God’s presence is gone. God’s presence is equally as amazing in its exit as it was in its entrance. Take notice that the Spirit is involved in Ezekiel’s life again, lifting him up. We will see that the Spirit is a major theme in this book, and in Ezekiel 2:1-3:15, the Spirit is vital to Ezekiel’s prophetic commissioning. When we read that the Spirit lifts Ezekiel up, I wondered, “Didn’t the Spirit already do that back in chapter 2:2? He did. In 2:2, the Spirit lifted Ezekiel from face-down position to standing position. Now the Spirit lifts him further, likely into the air!
After the Spirit lifts Ezekiel up, God’s lightning table/chariot leaves with an amazing sound. Notice the short exclamation of praise in verse 12. We can envision Ezekiel writing about this later, and he is still amazed, bursting forth with praise to God, simply in response to his memory of the vision of the glory of God. That alone tells me that the vision was amazing, something that Ezekiel would never forget.
God, though, is now gone. After giving Ezekiel a profoundly difficult mission, and after telling Ezekiel that he should not be afraid because he, God, was going to strengthen Ezekiel to the task, God leaves. Doesn’t that seem like the opposite of what God should do? Maybe you feel like that. Do you look around your world and wonder where God is? If so, you’re not alone. Read Psalm 13, for example, as David laments feeling abandoned by God.
But as we keep reading Ezekiel is not really abandoned by God. In verse 14, the Spirit lifts Ezekiel again! It seems that Ezekiel is flying now, and the Spirit takes him away. This is amazing supernatural stuff. It also shows that God is still with Ezekiel. He has not left him alone. His Spirit is with Ezekiel, empowering Ezekiel, and the same is true for us. While this experience would have been shocking for Ezekiel, it is commonplace for us. God has given us his Spirit to live with us. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Have you become jaded or bored with the idea that God’s Spirit is with you? Do you feel like it is an idea, but not really impacting your life? Next week we’ll talk about this further, as the Spirit continues to have a real manifestation in Ezekiel’s life.
Notice Ezekiel’s response. Is he thrilled and excited like the skydiving parasailers that whoop with joy as they fly over my backyard some weekends, on their way to a landing at nearby Smoketown Airport? If the Spirit was truly transporting Ezekiel through the air, like the text suggests, you’d think he would be wide-eyed and loving life. He is flying! But nope. Ezekiel is bitter and angry, with the strong hand of the Lord upon him.
What? Why is he bitter and angry? Especially as the strong hand of the Lord is on him, shouldn’t he be full of love? Instead the strong hand of the Lord is on him, and Ezekiel is really upset. He doesn’t tell us why. But that phrase, “the hand of the Lord was on him,” gives us a clue, which we’ll talk about in the next post.
For now, let’s take a moment to think about our relationship with the Spirit of God. Be amazed by the reality that God is with us. You and I are temples of the Spirit! We should dwell on that truth and be just as astounded as Ezekiel likely was as the Spirit flew him from the Kebar River back to Tel Abib where he lived. We should be filled with joy and hope and excitement that we get to have such a close relationship with God the Spirit!