‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 33
E Z E K I E L
Ezekiel 11:1 to 14:23
The LORD had shown Ezekiel, in visions, the wickedness and rebellion of the people. It continued further by revelation of 25 people, leaders no less, who were stirring the people up to fight against the insurmountable might of the armies of Babylon. They described the people as “meat in a cauldron”, from which there was no escape. By engaging in battle, many would unnecessarily lose their lives. In contrast, the prophet Jeremiah, also a priest, had counselled the people to go quietly, to avoid losing their lives in battle, and trust the LORD to bring them back (Jer 27:9-17). Ezekiel cried out to the LORD. “Ah, LORD God! Will You make a complete end of the remnant of Israel?” The LORD replied with words which are of immense comfort. They form part of a major theme of the prophetic message of Ezekiel, which is the faithfulness of God in keeping covenant with His people. That does not in any way diminish His anger at their disobedience, or reflect change in His attitude to their idolatry. “Although I have cast them far off among the gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone”.
The hostility was from Babylon, and that is where the vast majority were exiled. But it would appear that many others did not wait for that invasion, but took opportunity to escape to other neighbouring lands, even some very far away. The promise of the LORD to “be a little sanctuary” speaks of those who remain faithful in their observances and remembrances of the love, grace, and mercy of Him throughout their generations, even in foreign places. (It is notable that, with no temple available to them, the ‘synagogue’ as a place of worship and praise arose from that exile in Babylon. It is a characteristic of Jewish people to this very day. Readily identified in any community.) And in unambiguous language, the LORD continued “I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel”. The covenant promise of the land, previously made with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is hereby verified yet again, to the people who are about to be exiled from the land. That’s the good news. But the LORD also said “None of My words will be postponed any more, but the word which I speak will be done”.
There is damning evidence of the deception which some “prophets” in the community had sought to elevate themselves in the eyes of the people. Claiming to speak in the name of the LORD. “You say, ‘The LORD says,’ but I have not spoken”. There is a huge lesson for us today right here. When anyone uses the words “The LORD told me” or similar, it is almost invariably used as a conversation stopper. The exact opposite is a better response. “How did the LORD speak to you?” would be better. As believers we have a responsibility to ‘test the spirits’. Do not be deceived, as were these people of Judah, by words spoken in the name of the LORD, when He has not spoken such words. The test? God will not speak anything which is contrary to His written word. “My hand will be against the prophets who vision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the LORD God”. God used the example of a wall plastered with untempered mortar. When the rains came, the facade was washed away and the foundations exposed. Falsity. Ambitions of the fakes. Exposed for all to see.
Ezekiel then related an incident which the LORD used to speak directly into my heart several years ago. I was lying in a hospital bed at the time, immobilised. Trust me when I say that I was praying long and often for the LORD to heal me. It is quite personal to me, and it changed my life. YES, I am SURE it was the LORD who spoke. Some elders of Israel had come to enquire, to seek some counsel, from Ezekiel the priest. Read the story very carefully yourself (Ezekiel 14). The LORD revealed to Ezekiel that these ‘elders’ had “set up idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity”. Then the body blow. “Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?” Was the LORD saying that there are some (me specifically) that He was questioning if their requests should be heard? That my prayers were blocked from Him? That He was not even willing to hear about my pain? My inability to move? The good news for me was that God used that to change me, and to bring about my recovery. But MORE than that, I learned that God speaks through His word TODAY. All it takes is a desire to listen. “For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to enquire of him concerning Me, I the LORD will answer him by Myself”. Everyone of us is answerable directly to the LORD. Selah!
Finally, for this ‘reflection’, Ezekiel was told “When a land sins against me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it”. Nations are to receive the judgment of the LORD according to their faithfulness to the LORD whose land it is. All the world is His. But there is hope for individuals living in such faithless lands. “Even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it (Jeremiah adds Moses and Samuel to that short list (Jer 15:1)) they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness”.
There is always a remnant. People who remain faithful. God grant that we may be numbered among them.