Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Prophet Like Ezekiel

The Old Testament is full of prophets and the testimony of prophets, men and women called by God to deliver His message of truth to the people of Israel amidst their unfaithfulness. Although their messages are usually grim, with lots of fire and brimstone, this sounds to a lot of God's faithful like exactly what these people need. Someone needs to tell them the hard truth and set them free!

For a long time - a tragically long time - these are the pages from which modern Christianity has taken its cue. Rather than sharing an emphasis with the early church in Acts on meeting together, breaking bread, instruction, and prayer, the modern church has had more in common with the prophets of Israel's most wicked days, thumping their Bibles and declaring judgment over the fallen world.

And then, there's Ezekiel.

Ezekiel kind of gets pushed to the side a little bit because, well, Ezekiel's book is weird. Ezekiel sees weird visions, he does weird things.

Ezekiel is the one who tells us what the angels look like, which is far different than the image we get when, say, Gabriel comes bearing a message to Mary. The angels have four faces and more than one set of wings. They each come with their own wheel, which is a whirling sort of wheel trapped within another wheel. And everything about them is covered in eyes. Eyes, eyes, and more eyes - eyes as far as the eyes can...well...see. 

Ezekiel is the one who tells us about the valley of dry bones, where before his very eyes, all these bones rose up out of this makeshift graveyard on the edge of town and started piecing themselves back together. Bone came upon bone, ligament and tendon appeared, then muscle and flesh, from only-God-knows-where, and these dead bones lived. 

Ezekiel is the one who eats the words God's given him. He doesn't just write them down and stick them in a jar the way Jeremiah does. He doesn't wrap them up in a scroll and tuck it in his pocket. No, he painstakingly records all that God has given him to say...and then he eats it, paper and all.

Ezekiel is the one that God called to lie on his side for a number of days, one day for each year of punishment that God intended to bring upon His people. And when he's finished that - more than a solid year of lying on his side - God has him flip over and lie on his other side for another number of days, one day for each year of punishment that God intended to bring upon His other people. Right out there in public, right in front of everybody. Ezekiel just lying on his side. 

Ezekiel is the one who God told not to mourn, not to cry, not to change anything about his life when the unthinkable happened, and then God took Ezekiel's wife from him. 

The whole thing is just weird, and the more you read it, the weirder it gets. And when we start to think about what kind of prophets we want to be in the world, what we want to do with God's truth, our easy answer is: not this. This is not the kind of prophet we want to be.

But it's exactly the kind of prophet the world needs. Particularly, I think, today's world. And for a lot of reasons.

Stay tuned.

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