Meditations from Ezekiel: 8. Feeling with God
Ezek 2:8-10 Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
The down side of Ezekiel’s ministry: There is a danger as we read these chapters to get caught up with the awfulness of Ezekiel’s mission. In chapters 2 and 3 he is told eight times that Israel are a rebellious people and twice the Lord speaks of them as obstinate and the reason for that is that they have become hardened. And he is told to go to speak to this people. It is a pretty bleak future! Four times he is told not to be afraid of the people and three times he is told to speak to them regardless of whether they listen or fail to listen.
Take in the Word: But at the end of 2:8 the command comes, “open your mouth and eat what I give you.” We then see what God is referring to: “Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” (2:9,10) The command to eat is reiterated: “And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.” (3:1,2) Then a third time, “Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” (3:3)
Remember, this is still all within the vision but what have we seen? A scroll written on both sides (a substantial message) with “words of lament and mourning and woe.” If this is the message Ezekiel is going to have to bring – and we must assume it is – then he is to be the bringer of bad news. Now in the bigger view of the book there are ‘good news’ sections about Israel’s future but the main emphasis – in calling for repentance – is going to be on bad news, the awful things that will happen to Israel and to Jerusalem IF they do not repent. Why will there be this emphasis? Because the Lord know Israel will NOT repent and so His disciplinary and terminal judgment will fall on Israel and upon Jerusalem, and for the inhabitants, that will be very bad news!
Taken to his people: The Lord reassures him that he is only going to his own people, the people of his language who will understand his words (v.4-6) but they will not listen because they are hardened by sin (v.7) but He will make Ezekiel as hard as they are in the bringing of his ministry to them (v.8,9). He reiterates His call for Ezekiel to go and speak to them (v.10,11) and he then hears sounds of the movement of the creatures (v.12,13) – they are obviously moving on in the will of God – and he found, “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River.” (v.14,15) It is now time for Ezekiel to settle with his people and the Holy Spirit empowers him and directs him (no doubt to walk) from his present location near this irrigation canal to a more populated site where his people were.
Feeling with God: Notice he goes “in bitterness and in the anger” of his spirit. When he had eaten the scroll of mourning it had tasted sweet – God’s word always does initially – but as he absorbs it and takes in all the Lord has been saying, it leaves him feeling bitter and angry. Bitter simply means distressed by all he has heard. He is angry because of the folly of his people and in this he identifies with the feelings of the Lord. The word of God that he has eaten, taken in and digested, devastates him: “And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days–overwhelmed.” (3:15b) The whole experience and particularly what he has seen and heard, overwhelms him and he sits in silence for a week.
Personal Testimony: Now as I have prayed over this passage this morning, I have been reminded of something that happened many years ago. I was feeling anxious about someone my wife and I knew and I commented to my wife, “I think I am feeling as the Lord feels for her.” My wife initially suggested we couldn’t feel as God feels and over the next three days we discussed this until the evening of the church’s prayer meeting. There, half way through, one of the ladies in the group brought what I believe to have been the most amazing revelation that was, I suppose, a combination of word of knowledge and prophecy. In it the Lord used the literal words my wife and I had been using in our conversations over the previous three days, and concluded, “And you can feel my heart.” A number of months later, a national prophet visited our church and prophesied over me, “And you shall know my heart and convey it to my people.” Do I believe we can feel as God feel? Yes, I do!
Bringing Personal Prophecy: Now Ezekiel’s word was a word of doom. Our word, unless we are moving at a very significant ministry level is, in this period of grace, a word of love and acceptance that is available to people. I have summed it up for the last twenty-five years as “God loves you exactly as you are, but He loves you so much that He has something better for you than you have at present.” There have been times when I have encountered people whose lives I felt left much to be desired and although I wanted to bring words that demanded repentance, the Lord would only allow me to bring words of acceptance and, to my surprise, they brought tears and repentance! God is much better at convicting people than we are and our role is to hold open the door of the kingdom of heaven and if people reject it, that is down to them and they will be answerable to God. But they may just go through the door.
Ezekiel & Jeremiah’s ‘Partnership’: Ezekiel has a unique ministry. In Jerusalem Jeremiah is prophesying and demanding repentance. He has been doing it for a number of years and will continue up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel is his support ministry from Babylon. Jeremiah is more concerned with getting the people to repent before Jerusalem is destroyed, but the people reject his words and it is destroyed. Ezekiel is one of the exiles in Babylon and for the time being he will join in the calls to repent and bring warnings of destruction, but after the destruction has taken place, we will see, he becomes a messenger of hope for Israel in exile.
Prophesying for the long-term: The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of 99% of Israel is not the end of the people, but there will still be a work to do in getting their hearts changed to be prepared to be able to go back decades later to rebuild the city, rebuild the temple and rebuild the people. Hard they may be now, but how much will Ezekiel’s words be used to change their hearts in the long-term, so that in decades to come they will be in a fit state to return to the Land? This is a long-term calling.