In the second wave of deportees from Judea to Babylon around 597 B.C. (the first circa 605, the third in 587), Ezekiel went with them. In chapter one of the book which bears his name, we learn that Ezekiel was likely a priest and of some standing because he had been deported with Jehoiachin, who had been king of Judah but dethroned by Babylonia’s King Nebuchadnezzar II. Ezekiel describes a theophany (a visible manifestation of God), beginning with “a stormy wind…out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and a fire flashing forth continually…” (Chapter 1) Biblical scholars recognize God’s use of natural weather circumstances to introduce God’s presence, signifying His power. Visible only to Ezekiel but not originating in his own mind, he notices strange “living creatures” humanoid and standing upright, with four faces, looking to the four points of the compass: four wings with human hands under them, and soles of their feet like a calf’s hoof. However, the four creatures do not fly but solely support nothing less than the throne of God.
After this external vision given to Ezekiel, displaying the glory of God, the Lord called Ezekiel to be His prophet, referring to him as “Son of Man”, a moniker which God Incarnate—Jesus the Christ—gave Himself. But for each of them, the meaning is the same, pointing to each of their humanities. Christ stressed His humanity to His disciples and hearers, letting them know that God was truly among them, that the prophecies told of Him had come to fruition. God calling attention to Ezekiel’s humanity may have been reminding him that no miracles were expected of the priest/prophet. “…whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” God encourages Ezekiel by telling him not to fear their words against him. The people were hoping for an early release and return to Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. They had listened to ear-tickling false prophets who told them they would return with God’s blessing, but Ezekiel told them that they would return only after they were restored to the Lord through repentance and faith. That would not happen until after Jerusalem and the much beloved temple would lay in ruins. From chapters 33 to 48, Ezekiel offered comfort to God’s penitent people.
This is a lesson so often found in human history, as when things appear safe and people live together with at least an acceptance of God and within and under His divine providence, sons (and daughters) of Man become complacent, then prideful, thinking themselves wise, capable of moving humanity forward on their own terms. The outcome is oppression, fear, murder, etc. The unbelievers attempt to silence God’s Word, but they eventually are destroyed—first temporally and then eternally. But God’s people are encouraged to suffer with patience by that verily, verily, we read from God’s Word recording foolish kingdoms rising and falling, but His reign triumphs. This maxim is true: the less one has to lose, the likely less fear one will face. The Gospel of salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ is sweetest to those who expect what we do not deserve: God’s eternal mercy.
Gloria Deo—Glory to God