Recently I was officiating a funeral here in our church sanctuary, and a woman arrived very late, long after the funeral service began, walked in and took a seat in the back. During my sermon, she raised her hand. The way she raised her hand was was like a student would raise their hand in a class, hoping the teacher will call on them to answer a question. Because I was preaching, that seemed odd, as sermons are almost always monologues, and especially so at a funeral. So even though it didn’t quite look like, I wondered if maybe she was worshiping with hands raised. I decided not to call on her to find out. After about 2-3 minutes of her holding her hand in place, she interrupted me and said that God told her to come here and tell us that Jesus is coming again. It was wild. I was uncertain about what I should do, not knowing how long she would talk, or how bizarre her message might become. Thankfully, she kept it short and not off-the-wall. Except for the interrupting part. I was really close to interrupting her, though! As you can imagine, she was the talk of the funeral meal!
I wonder if that’s how people felt about the prophet Ezekiel. After Ezekiel’s wife died, which we studied in this blog post, he must have been so lonely. That is assuming she believed him and supported him, even when she was alive. She, too, could have started to question whether this thing her husband had become was really of the Lord. It did not seem like Ezekiel’s prophecies were of the Lord, because they never came to pass. For Ezekiel, the prophetic life could not have been easy.
As we continue our study of Ezekiel 33, in the second half of verse 21, we read that a man from Jerusalem arrives to Ezekiel there in in his village in Babylon, and the man says, “The city has fallen!” Remember that it is a 900 mile journey from Jerusalem to Babylon, so it probably took the man a long time, months, to get there. But finally, this news of Jerusalem’s destruction is confirmation that Ezekiel’s prophecies were all true.
For seven years, through skits, through the Prophetic Stare, visions, and prophecies, God communicated through Ezekiel that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed. That means Ezekiel had not only seven years of being mostly silent, he also had to endure seven years of prophesying, “I’m telling you people that end of Jerusalem is coming.” Throughout those seven years of hearing Ezekiel’s prophecies of doom and gloom, the people get no confirmation of this news. Imagine how that would feel for Ezekiel. The people could easily have started to doubt him, considering him a lunatic, a fraud. I wonder how many of them believed him in year seven? Were there any of the 10,000 other Jews that still listened to him by that time? Not only was his prophetic method bizarre, but also his prophecies had yet to come true. At what point are you justified in deeming him a quack? Year two? Year three? Certainly by year three, right?
That is quite similar to the woman who interrupted my funeral sermon. She didn’t say anything that was offensive or unbiblical. I have to admit, though, that what she did was bold, and she demonstrated courage and commitment to what she believed God wanted her to do. Consider how difficult that was for her! I don’t know if she was a prophet from the Lord, but she certainly behaved in a prophetic way. That could not have been easy. If she shows up again, and again, and again, then what will do? Do we just let her interrupt worship whenever she wants? I don’t know, but I suspect I would ask her to discontinue, that perhaps we could set up a separate meeting. I also suspect we would tire of her interruptions and either ignore her, or call the authorities to remove her.
I suspect that’s what it might have been like for the people in Ezekiel’s village. Imagine you were living in Ezekiel’s village watching and listening to him. Would you think he is a prophet of the Lord? Yes, he says things that sound compatible with biblical theology, things like turning to the Lord, and of course his famous phrase, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” But why does Ezekiel have to be so weird, and so silent? My guess is that many of his fellow Jews, his neighbors there in Babylon, would have begun to ignore him. Definitely by year two or three. Especially when his prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem is not coming pass. Not in year four, not in year five. Year six, still nothing.
Now they are in year seven of Ezekiel’s ministry. And everything changes in an instant when the fugitive from Jerusalem arrives and gives them an update. Jerusalem has fallen, confirming Ezekiel’s seven years of prophecies. It is all true. What’s more, look at verse 22. God opens Ezekiel’s mouth, just as he promised, and Ezekiel is free to speak! Can you imagine the rush of adrenaline and joy, when those first words come out of Ezekiel’s mouth! What would you say if you hadn’t been able to talk for 7+ years?
Instead of telling us that he walked around the village saying whatever he wanted to say, we read that God has another prophetic word for Ezekiel to share. Check back in to the next post, and we’ll learn what God says.