Tag Archives: Ezekiel

Psalm 22: Weariness and the Wind

Many of us go through spiritually depressed periods that feel like near-death experiences. On advice, we read the rich biblical texts that have helped so many others, yet our hearts remain as cheerless and lifeless as a cold fireplace. Our depression deepens, and despair begins to knock on the doors of our hearts.

All those cures are supposed to work! They appear to have worked for other people and churches, why not us? That they haven’t worked for us is a matter of real concern if we are serious about having a relationship with God that pleases rather than grieves Him, one that involves our giving as well as receiving. Despair or near despair sets in.

The words of the sufferer become ours, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1).

They aren’t words snarled in bitterness – they’re weary and disappointed rather than angry. Still – we were hoping that God in His mercy would take sides with us against ourselves and deliver us for His own name’s sake.

“Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One;
You are the praise of Israel.
In You our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and You delivered them.
They cried to You and were saved;
in You they trusted and were not disappointed”
(Psalm 22:4-5).

Wonderful stories. Salvation stories. True stories. But all the more distressing because they are true. Others called and were saved. We call and, instead of rescue, continue to see ourselves as worms, and our “enemies” mock us even though we throw ourselves on God for deliverance. (Psalm 22:6)

As a nation Israel had tried everything to stave off the death they richly deserved. They paid tribute until they were broke, made treaties with foreign powers, and sent ambassadors north, south, east, and west. They fortified cities and studied the ways of war. They even tried religion – they built altars and prayed. But there was no salvation in any of their efforts. They were all just new ways of speeding the death process, and they ended up in a national grave. (Ezekiel 37.1-14)

Their bones were more than dry; they were “very dry.” And there weren’t only a few of them – the valley, like one giant coffin, was choked with them. The prophet spoke, and bone came together with bone; but there was no life – only a huge ravine full of skeletons. Sinews and flesh wound themselves around the bones, but there was no life – only a mighty gorge filled with corpses, an eerie, silent valley of corpses!

Well, not absolutely silent. There was the wind. The man was told to speak the word of God to the wind, and the wind became the Spirit of God entering those lifeless figures – just as on the day of creation – and they were filled with life and stood on their feet, a mighty army. A nation alive from the dead!

Hearing their story, we’re persuaded to trust again. God, and may it please Him to be soon, will give us reason to rejoice as life courses through us, delivering us from one enemy after another. In the strength and joy of the Spirit of God, we’ll dismiss depression’s view of sadder days and say with the psalmist:

He has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden His face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
(Psalm 22:24)

And we, as our forefathers did, will enthrone God as the Holy One and the praise of our hearts. From Him will come the theme of our praise in the great assembly, (v.25) and our story will be told as one of deliverance to children not born, and people will trust because we were delivered (Psalm 22:30-31).

And what is true of individuals can be true of whole congregations, and what is true of congregations can be true of cities and nations! What is true for others can be true for you. What is true for you can be true for me. Weep if you must, and tell Him your poor heart’s breaking – but trust, wait, and listen for the wind!

 – Jim McGuiggan

 

The Technicolor Throne

Monarchs attempt to display their majesty and power by the thrones they occupy – like the “Golden Throne” of Tutankhamun, the “Ivory Throne” of Ivan the Terrible, the “Dragon Throne” of China, or the “Chrysanthemum Throne” of Japan. All pale in comparison with the “Technicolor Throne” of Ezekiel 1. Tell me if this doesn’t take your breath away:

I looked, and lo, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north – a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by radiance; and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber.

In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures. And this was their appearance: They had the figures of human beings. However, each had four faces, and each of them had four wings; the legs of each were fused into a single rigid leg, and the feet of each were like a single calf’s hoof; and their sparkle was like the luster of burnished bronze.

They had human hands below their wings. The four of them had their faces and their wings on their four sides. Each one’s wings touched those of the other. They did not turn when they moved; each could move in the direction of any of its faces…Above the heads of the creatures was a form: an expanse, with an awe-inspiring gleam as of crystal, was spread out above their heads.

Under the expanse, each had one pair of wings extended toward those of the others; and each had another pair covering its body. When they moved, I could hear the sound of their wings like the sound of mighty waters, like the sound of Shaddai, a tumult like the din of an army. When they stood still, they would let their wings droop. From above the expanse over their heads came a sound: When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.

Above the expanse over their heads was the semblance of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and on top, upon this semblance of a throne, there was the semblance of a human form.

From what appeared as his loins up, I saw a gleam as of amber – what looked like a fire encased in a frame; and from what appeared as his loins down, I saw what looked like fire.

There was radiance all about him. Like the appearance of the bow which shines in the clouds on a day of rain, such was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. That was the appearance of the semblance of the Presence of the LORD. When I beheld it, I flung myself down on my face.

 

“Come unto Me and Live!”

Ezekiel 16 addresses the wickedness of Jerusalem. Its intent was to remind the people of God’s goodness toward them in the past – a reminder told in the form of an allegory.

A little girl-baby, newly born, covered in blood, the umbilical cord still attached, was left lying and unwanted on the side of the road where she was delivered. People saw the infant as they passed but no one moved to do anything to help the dying baby. Someone finally thought it would be best to throw the thing into an open field – out of sight and out of mind.

And that’s where God found her, despised, in a pool of blood, kicking…and dying. And God said to that dying blood-covered infant, “Live!” And she did. God watched over her and with His blessing that little baby girl that no one wanted grew into a beautiful young woman, ready for marriage.

Then one day God came by and asked her to marry Him and she said “yes.” Oh, she was a beautiful bride and a beautiful wife – but then she turned treacherous and became a whore. She polluted herself, she corrupted her family, she killed her children and she set up brothels in every place she visited. With never a thought for the earlier days, never a thought for the only One that had cared for her, never a thought for the dangers from which He rescued her – that was all forgotten, all forsaken, all for naught!

I don’t think that gratitude is the foundation of all virtues, but there’s something awful about a thankless heart. God doesn’t need to be pitied because Israel treated Him so badly when He should have been thanked. Gratitude may not be the queen of virtues, but if she doesn’t abide in the heart of a man or woman or nation, then that man or woman or nation shrivels and dies.

And so Jerusalem had to pay the price, had to face the penalty for her ingratitude and her abominations. But God’s judgment against her was not vindictiveness neither was it a final rejection. He fully intended to redeem the whore whom He later called “the virgin.” His judgment, though terrible, was righteous; it possessed a redemptive purpose. That’s astonishing!

You see, Ezekiel’s word to Jerusalem is God’s word to humanity – for God’s history with Israel is a word to us all. The entire human race lay in an open field, out of sight, covered in blood, squirming in despair, having stabbed our world with deep atomic and social and moral wounds with no one to care for us or heal us. Then God came by and saw us as we lay in our blood and said, “Live!”

In Him as Emmanuel, “God with us,” as Christ Jesus He came near, cradling us in His arms and said, “Live!” And now, through His body, Christ’s church on earth, He moves throughout the whole earth calling us to abundant life in His Son and saying to us, one and all, “Come unto Me and Live!”

 

YHWH Shammah – The LORD is there

Ezekiel 48.30-35

Scripture gives us only the barest glimpses of what heaven will be like. But one thing we know for sure is that God will be there, and we will never be separated from Him again. It is with that bright vision of eternity that the book of Ezekiel ends.

This is a fitting climax, for it demonstrates that a reversal has occurred in the course of history. Whereas Ezekiel had seen the LORD withdrawing from His temple because of the people’s wickedness, now He has returned to a new temple to live among His people forever. Just as fellowship with God was cut off through sin in the Garden (Genesis 3.22-24), it has been regained in the New Jerusalem – the church (Revelation 21.3).

The assurance of Scripture is that someday we will no longer wonder where God is – we shall be with Him in that city whose name is YHWH Shammah.

Idolatry of the Heart – Ezekiel 14.4-8

Perhaps you tend to think of an idol as figure made from wood or stone to which primitive people worship. But the LORD defined idolatry to Ezekiel as anything a person puts before him that causes him to stumble into sin. Idols are not just the carved objects that sit in pagan temples; they are the godless cravings and commitments that rule our hearts.

The people of Ezekiel’s day set up these “idols of the heart,” even as they continued to practice their religious rituals. Having committed themselves to ungodly purposes, they turned to the prophets expecting to hear a word from the LORD. They heard otherwise. God promised to confound these hypocrites by telling them whatever they wanted to hear. Ultimately their idols would fail, and they would be held accountable.

Ezekiel – Prophet to the Prisoners

In 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar deported King Jehoiachin and ten thousand of Jerusalem’s elite citizens to Babylon. Probably included among this group was a young priest named Ezekiel. After the people had been settled in Bablyon, God called him to be His prophet to the Jews in exile. His message has three major parts:

  1. Their captivity was the result of their own doing, their unfaithfulness to God. More judgment was at hand;  Jerusalem was to be destroyed and their captivity was to last for at least another half century. (Chapters 4-24)
  2. The Gentile nations will be held accountable as well. God is going to judge Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt. (Chapters 25-32)
  3. Hope. God will restore His people to their land. His famous vision of the Valley of Dry Bones is the highlight of this section. Eventually the people would return to their homeland, rebuild Jerusalem, and restore the Temple. (Chapters 33-48)