Before I started pastoral ministry at Faith Church I worked for eight months at my denomination’s seminary in Myerstown. I was the Director of the Annual Fund, meaning that my job was to raise money for the school. On one of my first days on the job, my boss walked me around campus introducing me to the faculty and staff. I’ll never forget one encounter. He took me door to door visiting offices, and we got to the theology professor. When my boss introduced me to the prof, my boss said, “This is Joel, and he wants your job.” I wonder what the look on my face was at that moment! Probably surprise. Why? Because the theology professor could have rationally concluded that the reason my boss said that I wanted his job was because I had previously said that very thing to my boss. Had I said that? No!
So why did my boss said that I wanted the theology professor’s job? It was because in previous conversation I mentioned to my boss that my grandfather was a Bible and theology professor, my dad is a Bible professor, and that I hoped some day to follow in their footsteps. Never did I say that I wanted that specific theology professor’s job! Also, I certainly did not think that my boss was going to blurt that out to the theology professor. I stood there super-embarrassed. Why? Because there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The theology prof could easily have thought of me as a young arrogant kid. I was starting to wonder if maybe my boss thought that too.
It was a very awkward moment because people don’t take too kindly to arrogance. We generally don’t want to even appear as arrogant. And for good reason. This week we’re going to study four chapters of Ezekiel, and I think you’ll see why we’re not only going to study four chapters, but also what God will teach us about arrogance. Turn to Ezekiel chapter 25, and let’s get started.
Right before Ezekiel 25, your Bibles likely include a subtitle that says something like “A Prophecy Against Ammon.” Then scan down to verse 8, and you’ll see another subtitle, “A prophecy against Moab.” At verse 12, “A Prophecy against Edom,” and at verse 15, “A Prophecy Against Philistia.” With those four subtitles, we have an outline of chapter 25. Chapter 25 is comprised of four mini-prophecies that God gives Ezekiel to declare to nations located right around Israel. If you look at a map of the ancient near east, all four of those nations bordered Israel. Skim over the prophecies, you’ll also notice that the content of all four prophecies is very similar. Each mini-prophecy includes the following three points: (1) God calls out the nations for mistreating Israel, (2) he is going to allow Babylon to attack that nation, and (3) then they will know that he is the Lord.
Fairly typical prophetic fare, isn’t it? But here’s a question. Did these prophecies ever get delivered to these four nations? Remember that Ezekiel is living in Babylon, far away from any of these nations. He was not like Jonah who traveled to Nineveh to preach. Ezekiel stayed in Babylon. Therefore, it could seem as though these four mini-prophecies are pointless, because the prophecies would not get delivered in time to make a difference to these four countries that bordered Israel.
Why, then, would God give Ezekiel prophecies about other nations who would never hear the prophecies in time to be affected by the prophecies? To answer that question, first think about what we know to be true of God. Does God do pointless stuff? Is he random? I know it can seem that way sometimes. But when we don’t understand God, it means that the limitation is on our part, not his. God is not random. He doesn’t do pointless things. So what gives here?
Let’s try to figure out why God would give Ezekiel prophecies about nations that share borders with Israel, prophecies those nations will never hear in time to make any changes and avoid being obliterated by the Babylonian army. In Ezekiel 25 verse 2 we read something that should be very familiar by now. God tells Ezekiel to perform the Prophetic Stare: “Set your face against the Ammonites.” The Prophetic Stare is a unique form of prophetic skit. There in his neighborhood in his village in Babylon, where he lived with the 10,000 fellow Jews who had been exiled from Jerusalem almost ten years before, Ezekiel would likely walk out of his house and just start staring. His neighbors would see him, thinking, “There goes Ezekiel staring again.” As we have seen through our study thus far, God has asked Ezekiel to stare many times. But this stare is different. How is it different? We’ll find out in the next post.