“Hey, it’s me…”
There are voices we recognize immediately.
On the phone. Or from a distance.
In the space of days and many words, we practice discerning a tone, an accent and a lilt.
Until we know.
Jeff’s is one such voice for me.
I hear him and perceive both his identity and (often) exactly how he is feeling.
I adore this kind of knowing. This depth of awareness.
It feels very big. Very sustaining and full.
That big, meaningful awareness is born from many very common conversations.
In the midst of all the Regular, I have learned his voice.
“…the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest…” Ezekiel 1:3
We find Ezekiel in our Old Testament. Right between the Lamenting and Daniel.
God found Ezekiel by a river in the midst of exiles.
But they already knew each other because Ezekiel was a priest.
Ezekiel’s priesthood indicates, among other things, that he had spent time and energy maintaining daily religious practices in honor and worship of Jehovah God.
He had invested regular days to systematic discipline in obedience to Yahweh.
Ezekiel lived in a time when God’s Word was not compiled into one Holy book.
There was no Bible as we have today.
No concordances or dictionaries.
No bookstores with a zillion versions of His Words decorating the shelves.
When God had something to say, He sent angels.
And sometimes heart stopping visions.
“In my thirtieth year…the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel 1:1
“…This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” Ezekiel 1:28
Ezekiel writes of his commissioning by the very voice of God. He was chosen to be a Prophet.
Propheting (let’s just go with it) wasn’t so much a fun job for Zeke.
Not very many chapters into Ezekiel’s story, one gets the strong feeling that Ezekiel has not been chosen for a ministry of Joy and Abundance.
“The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn….Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions…. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen for they are rebellious.” Ezekiel 2:4-7
Ezekiel was not so very cheery about his calling.
(To this, I might possibly, sometimes relate.)
“The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed.” Ezekiel 3:14-15
He did his job.
He listened. He spoke.
He wrote stuff down.
He did what he was called to do.
There are 48 chapters of all that Ezekiel heard and faithfully repeated.
In the majority of the first 40 chapters Ezekiel is given heaps of bad news to deliver and often, experience himself.
He is asked to do some pretty weird things in order to make a point to a rebellious people.
He was called to be both a watchman and an example; to tell them and SHOW them.
His calling was sometimes harsh.
“Son of man with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes….So I spoke to the people in the morning and in the evening my wife died.” Ezekiel 24: 16&18
So devastating. And yet we read of Ezekiel’s obedience and perseverance.
We see his faithful proclaiming.
“Again the word of the LORD came to me.” Ezekiel 36:16
Ezekiel was listening, but God’s people were not.
It seems many folks, had fallen out of the “It’s me…” connection with Jehovah.
They weren’t recognizing His Voice anymore.
They had fallen into a whole lot of leaning on (listening to) other things.
“…I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols.” Ezekiel 6:9b
“He said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness; each at the shrine of his own idol?” Ezekiel 8:12
“… for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.” Ezekiel 11:12
The ears of God’s people were tuned to the soundtrack of their own pursuits. Images and shrines that had become their Regular.
“… your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.
But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passéd by and your beauty became his.” Ezekiel 16:14-15
“…Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth…” Ezekiel 16:20-22
God’s people did not remember.
They forgot: Who saved them; and Who made them beautiful; and Who they belonged to.
They chose Other Things.
(SO glad we have all moved way past THAT kind of living.)
(deep, deep sigh)
Ezekiel challenges and proclaims and reveals the grim despair of God’s people and the unfaithful nations surrounding God’s people.
At the exact same time. (this is the BEST part!)
A point emerges repetitively from all of the warnings. And the punishments. And the losses. And the catastrophes. And the condemnations. And the silences. And the banishments.
“And then they will know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 7:27b
Repeated more than 60 times, (63 times!!!) a refrain that crescendos and remarkably echoes Promise and Presence.
“And then they will know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 7:27b
God was still showing up.
While the reckoning was resounding and the wrath was pouring.
His love wasn’t going anywhere.
No matter what.
He wanted His Children to come Home.
“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36: 24-28
With the same precision and purpose that He describes, warns and dispenses punishment for their conduct, He plans and purposes their Homecoming too.
The final eight chapters specifically and definitively measure and design glorious.
A City. And a restored temple.
“… the name of the city from that time on will be: ‘THE LORD IS THERE.’” Ezekiel 48:35b
Honesty resolves fastest. God never sugar coats Who We Are and What We Have Done.
Or Who He Is.
He keeps it all True.
Which means (because of us) it can get pretty ugly.
But (because of Him) can always be Redeemed.
According to Ezekiel’s testimony, God will go to extraordinary lengths to get our preoccupied attentions.
He is Jealous for our obsessions with other images, with other things that we depend on to sustain or help us.
He sees the Deception we wallow in and He is not okay with our wayward conduct.
He persists in reminding us of how He sounds. Of the Better Way. Of the pain inherent in sin.
His Tone of Voice holds steady as Reconciling Hope.
(Even when He Shouts.)
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:19-20
Hearing His Voice. (“Hey, it’s me…)
Opening the Door.
And then we will know.