Jeremiah 37:11-38:28; Ezekiel 1:1-3:15
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We read about some very interesting dynamics in Jeremiah chapters 37 & 38 today... Jeremiah goes from dungeon to prison to cistern to prison to being the king's confidant. Being a prophet is quite a life!!
I continue to admire Jeremiah's boldness in speaking the truth in these chapters. 37:17 stood out: "Later King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, "Do you have any messages from the Lord?" "Yes, I do!" said Jeremiah. "You will be defeated by the king of Babylon." Jeremiah goes right to the truth... no beating around the bush! And then 3 verses later he asks Zedekiah - "Listen, my lord the king, I beg you. Don't send me back to the dungeon in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for I will die there." He speaks a harsh truth to Zedekiah and then asks for a favor. I like that! Do we speak the truth in our lives? Even if we know we'll need to ask for a favor of someone later, will we still speak the truth? Or will we default to the un-truthful position of "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil...."
Today we begin the book of the prophet Ezekiel! Ezekiel is a prophet whose name means "God strengthens" - which is clearly a good thing for those in the prophet business. We've recently wrapped up the book of Jeremiah and are well aware of the challenges facing a prophet. The interesting thing to note is that Jeremiah was prophesying in Judah, whereas Ezekiel was prophesying in Babylon to the exiles from Judah. These two were doing their work at about the same time, but in different geographies. Ezekiel gets his call to be a prophet in probably his 30th year of life - the age when most of the priestly line were called to be priests. Instead, Ezekiel was called to be a prophet - which, is probably a good thing because he is living in exile in Babylon - so wouldn't have been able to perform the priestly duties at the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezekiel's call comes in 593 B.C., which is 7 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. Ezekiel's ministry goes until 571 B.C., at the age of 52. (which is 2 years beyond what most priests would have served - from ages 30 to 50). Below is a portrait of Ezekiel by artist Guy Rowe:
~ Ezekiel ~
Date: Sixth century B.C.
Content: Ezekiel, who grew up as a priest, was carried off to Babylon with the Jewish exiles deported in 597 B.C., and there he became a prophet of God. His message was one of coming judgment for those remaining in Jerusalem, but his preaching was not well received by the Jews who were with him in captivity. When his dire predictions came true in 586 B.C. with the destruction of Jerusalem, the people listened then on with great earnestness. His message changed at this point from being one of unbending judgment to one of comfort and hope for the future. The worst had come; it was now time to make plans for beginning again. Ezekiel saw himself as a shepherd and watchman over Israel. As a shepherd, he was to protect the people, but as a watchman, he was to warn of danger ahead.
Theme: The message of Ezekiel is based upon the unchangeable holiness of God. This is both a promise and a warning. It is a warning because God has promised to remain faithful to his people and this will not change. The book of Ezekiel shows God’s unbreakable promise fulfilled in both respects: the city fell according to promise because of Judah’s sin, and the city would be restored according to promise because of God’s faithfulness. The lives of God’s people determined how God would treat them. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” p. 14) A wonderful commentary on the book of Ezekiel by Bob Deffinbaugh is at this link. Below is a sculpture of Ezekiel by German sculptor Johann Josef Christian (1706 - 1777):
In today's readings, chapter 1 is an incredible vision and call that Ezekiel receives! Obviously the flying creatures with 4 faces and wings are a highlight of this vision. What is up with these you ask? Good question. They are called "cherubim" later in the book of Ezekiel (chapter 10) and are also thought to be the creatures in Isaiah called seraphs - and they show up again in the book of Revelation. If you get a vision, and you see these creatures, you know something big is going on... :) The interesting thing about these creatures is that their four faces representing a human, lion, ox and an eagle have many interpretations, which all basically relate to the nature of God. An interesting interpretation I read was that these 4 represent the 4 Gospels - Matthew being the lion, Mark being the ox, Luke being the human and John being the eagle. You'll have to pick up a commentary to read more on why these analogies have been made.... (just trying to get everyone to dive into books beyond this blog... :) Below is the artist Rafaelo's oil painting of "The Vision of Ezekiel" from the year 1518 (Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence)-
Ezekiel Chapter 2 is God's Call and Commission of Ezekiel. Don't we all wish that God could be this clear with us about the purpose of our lives sometimes? :)
Ezekiel Chapter 3 has the great narrative of Ezekiel eating the scroll of God. And it tasting like honey - even though it had words of doom upon it. In Ezekiel 3:3 we read: “Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” Can we eat of the Word of God? Does the Word nourish us? How does the Word nourish us? Is the Word nourishing you today? Is it as sweet as honey? Is the Word literally spiritual food? Will you eat of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, today – and every day of your life?
Then, in Ezekiel 3 verse 15 ends with a very appropriate line I believe- "I sat there among them for seven days, overwhelmed." Think you'd be overwhelmed if you experienced chapters 1 & 2?? Whew. I am looking forward to us starting the book of Ezekiel! Thanks for joining me on this journey! Below is one final image of Ezekiel from the artist Michelangelo. This one's in the Sistine Chapel in Rome:
Worship Video: Today's readings in Ezekiel reminds me of the wonderful Selah video and song "You Raise Me Up:"
Has God raised you up? Click here for Resurrection!
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
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