Have you ever been with your kids or grandkids and played the Silent Game? It’s a contest to see who can be quiet the longest. No talking, no laughing, no noise of any kind.
We parents and grandparents bring up the idea of the Silent Game usually because the kids are being noisy, and we want some peace and quiet. Car rides are a great time for the Silent Game. I thought of it the other day when my daughter had friends over for her 16th birthday party, and dinner was getting a bit raucous. I kept silent about the Silent Game that night, because it would probably have led to a lot of teenage eye-rolling.
The reality is that the Silent Game usually doesn’t last long, as kids burst into giggles at the slightest sound. Frankly, even adults are not often totally silent are we? I recently heard the story of a sportscaster who doesn’t like to fly in airplanes, so he drove himself 17 hours from one city to another to get to his next assignment. His fellow sportscasters were dumbfounded (Ha!) when they learned that he was silent the entire trip. No radio, no music, no podcasts, no phone calls. Silence is a lost art, a needed practice we would do well to recover, especially from a Christian perspective.
For that reason, at Faith Church yesterday we had another Silent Sunday. It’s been several years since our last Silent Sunday (and you can read about what they are like here and here). Because we’re out of practice, I thought it would be wise to have silence only during the sermon. So actually, it was a Silent Sermon.
For the sermon, we returned to our study of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel. Remember Ezekiel? He saw wild visions of God’s flaming lightning throne chariot, performed prophetic skits, used the Prophetic Stare, and once even traveled to Jerusalem in a vision. Near the end of Israel’s monarchy, right around the year 595 BCE, Ezekiel was one of 10,000 Jerusalemites who were exiled to Babylon, and his entire prophetic ministry took place there. The messages God gave him called the Jews, and a few times foreigners as well, to repent of their rebellious ways and return to following God’s way. Do you remember his most-repeated phrase? “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” God, through Ezekiel, says that because the people rebelled, he will allow calamity to crash upon them in the form of the Babylonian military, and then they would know that he is God. Of course God didn’t want that destruction to happen. He wanted his people to return to him, to know him, to be in relationship with him. So we see God’s heart for his people in this prophetic compilation.
This week on the blog we jump back into our study where we left off, Ezekiel chapter 33. Chapter 33 begins, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, speak to your countrymen…” and the remainder of the book of Ezekiel will focus on Israel (with the possible exception of chapters 38 and 39 about the mysterious Gog and Magog). So there is Ezekiel, living in exile in Babylon, 900 miles away from the land of Israel. With him are 10,000 other Jews from Jerusalem, and it is those 10,000 whom he lives among and prophesies to. What will God say to these Jews? We’ll find out this week.
I want to remind you of one unique aspect of Ezekiel’s ministry that you might have forgotten, and, frankly, one that we didn’t talk about all that much in the previous 32 chapters. Ezekiel was a mostly silent prophet. Review chapter 3 verses 24-27, which I wrote about here. Those verses conclude Ezekiel’s second encounter with God’s breathtaking throne chariot, during which time God commissions Ezekiel to be his prophet. In Ezekiel 3:24-27 God says Ezekiel will now start his ministry by returning to his house in his village in Babylon, where God will shut his mouth, and he will not be able to speak…with one exception. When God gives Ezekiel a prophecy, then Ezekiel will be able to speak the words of that prophecy only. Think about that. Chapter 33 takes places at least 7 years after God shut Ezekiel’s mouth. That means for nearly all of 7+ years, Ezekiel has been silent, except for the few prophecies we read about in chapters 4 through 32. That’s partly why he acted out so many skits and used the Prophetic Stare.
Ezekiel’s silence is nearly done. This week as we study Ezekiel 33:1-20, it will be the last section in which we can call Ezekiel the Silent Prophet. Tomorrow I will invite you to read the blog post, and then silently consider Ezekiel’s last moments as the Silent Prophet. In the silence, I pray that God will speak! Read Ezekiel 33:1-20, and then tomorrow we’ll learn more!