In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, I was with the exiles at the Chebar River when the heavens opened and I saw visions of God. (It happened on the fifth day of the month, in the fifth year after King Jehoiachin’s deportation. The LORD’s word burst in on the priest Ezekiel, Buzi’s son, in the land of Babylon at the Chebar River. There the LORD’s power overcame him.) (CEB)
Today, we begin reflecting on the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. My pattern has been to alternate between the Old Testament and the New Testament. But, given the greater number of Old Testament books, (39 to 27), I will sometimes cover two Old Testament books in a row. We just finished Lamentations. Now we move on to Ezekiel.
The book of Ezekiel is often ignored by Christian readers for several reasons. First, much of the imagery in this book is peculiar and confusing. Those of us who like figuring out puzzles will find ourselves deeply engaged and often stumped by Ezekiel. Second, the prophecies of Ezekiel speak directly to the situation of the Ancient Near East in the early part of the 6th century B.C. Thus, they can seem irrelevant to us and our specific situation. Moreover, the bulk of Ezekiel’s prophecies are unsettlingly negative and quite repetitive. Time and again throughout two decades, Ezekiel communicated the painful truth of God’s judgment. Compacting his prophecies into a short span of time amplifies the discomfort for the contemporary reader.
Nevertheless, we will take the next two months or so to work our way through Ezekiel. We’re doing so not only “Because it’s there,” to quote famed mountaineer George Mallory. Ezekiel is a vital book in the whole canon of Scripture, an essential element of God’s inspired Word. Through this prophet, we encounter God’s justice, to be sure, but also his compassion.
In God’s providence, we will be studying Ezekiel during the Christian season of Lent, which begins next Wednesday. This season is a time for us to remember our fallibility, our mortality, our need for a Savior. Ezekiel underscores these themes page after page. Moreover, this prophetic book also contains a stirring picture of God’s resurrection power. So, the time is right for a prayerful study of Ezekiel.
I invite you to join me as we hear God’s Word in a strange, challenging, and ultimately hopeful way through the prophet Ezekiel.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever read the book of Ezekiel? If so, what do you remember about it? If not, you might want to quickly read through the first two or three chapters to get a feel for the book and its unusual message.
PRAYER: Almighty God, you speak to us in many ways. Sometimes your Word is clear. Sometimes we have a hard time figuring out what you are saying. At times, your Word offers deep reassurance. At other times, it makes us uncomfortable. Yet, no matter how we react to your Word, you have given it as a gift so that we might know you more truly and serve you more fully.
As we begin our study of Ezekiel, may we come with open minds and open hearts. May we be ready to hear what you want to say to us. Help us, dear Lord, to grow in our relationship with you, so that we might be your people more fully in every part of life. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: For my reflections based on Ezekiel, I will use the Common English Bible, as I did for Lamentations. I am getting to know this new translation, which is supposed to be both accurate and easy to read. You are, of course, welcome to read the daily biblical text in whatever translation you prefer.