“God turned up” Meditations: 25 : To Ezekiel
Ezek 1:2,3 On the fifth of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin– the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.
I think sometimes we should give special credit to filmmakers. Their work is sometimes amazing. I’m thinking here of the film Independence Day. The arrival of the alien space machines in the thick billowing clouds made me think of Ezekiel’s revelation. It is absolutely amazing! The location of Ezekiel at this time is also something to be noted and amazed at. The fact of the matter is that he is one of the exiles who has been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar and is now having to live in a foreign land – but he’s still God’s man. Simple lesson in passing: if we’re Christians in a land under God’s judgment we may suffer some of the things the nation suffers – but we’re still to be witnesses in it.
So there he is in the land of the Babylonians, an exile – and God turns up in a most dramatic way; in fact one of the most dramatic ways in the Old Testament: “I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north–an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings.” (v.4-6) Well, we won’t go into the detail of all of it, you can read it yourself, but even here we start to catch a sense of the incredible: storm, clouds, flashing lightning (ordinary so far) brilliant light, a central fire like glowing metal, strange creatures. As I said, Independence Day did it well. Perhaps they had read Ezekiel!
Later we read, “Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (v.26-28) There, in the midst of the incredible vision (see 1:1), there is a figure. When God revealed Himself in the most perfect way on earth, it was in the form of a man, His Son, Jesus Christ. There in the centre of the vision He reveals Himself to Ezekiel in an understandable way, and yet He is still an incredible, glorious being with incredible surroundings.
Now why, we may ask ourselves, did the Lord reveal Himself in such an incredible way to Ezekiel? We aren’t told and so we are left to speculate. Was it to counter all that Ezekiel might have been feeling? He is a Jew who has been snatched from his country which appears at the end of its life. It appears that God is about to give up Israel. It is the end; they are no longer His chosen people – or so it might appear, especially when you are an exile in a foreign land.
So the Lord comes with this incredible vision which leaves Ezekiel in no doubt as to who it is – and he is shattered. Then the Lord speaks and we see some more why it may be that He is coming to him in this way: “And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (Ezek 3:10,11) Previously He had warned, “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn,” (Ezek 2:4) so Ezekiel’s calling was to go to his own countrymen in exile and challenge them about the Lord – but they are going to be obstinate and will not take kindly to what he says. Put this together with Ezekiel’s own negative feelings about being an Israelite in exile, and you begin to see why the Lord revealed Himself to Ezekiel in such a dramatic way.
So why doesn’t the Lord reveal Himself to us in such ways? Two reasons! First you aren’t in the crisis situation that Ezekiel was in and, second, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the word of God, and the support, encouragement and direction of the church to help, guide and direct us. There are times when God does turn up in dramatic fashion but if that happens it is almost certainly because you are in big trouble and the Lord knows you need big encouragement! The rare occasions in the Bible (here, with Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and in Revelation to John) that the Lord does reveal something of heaven breaking through on earth, remind us that we are dealing with an awesome God who, in His graciousness, mostly keeps Himself hidden so that we aren’t destroyed by the immensity of His presence. One day we will see Him face to face but now, for most of the time, He hides Himself to preserve us! For that we should be thankful. When we do see these times they should evoke awe and worship in us. May it be so!