We all have images that are seared into our memories. In some cases, these may be beautiful images—like the sight of one’s bride walking down the aisle or the view from the top of a mountain on a crystal clear day. In other cases, these may be awful images—like the newsreel of a terrorist attack or the unwelcome appearance of a loved one in a casket. Images have a way of sticking with us. They live on, long after the eyes have first taken them in.
Ezekiel was a man who understood this truth well.
Raised as a priest but called dramatically by God to be a prophet instead, Ezekiel engaged the community of exiles who had been carried away from Jerusalem and relocated in the enemy territory of Babylon. He confronted them with the sins that had led to their exile. He reminded them of the holiness God had called them to embrace. He pointed them toward the possibility of a new hope and a new future. And in the process, he put on quite the show.
An average contemporary reader who happens to stumble across the book of Ezekiel by accident might be excused for concluding that the guy was totally nuts. In the course of his ministry, he did some utterly bizarre things. Like eating a scroll. And laying siege to a brick. And lighting some of his hair on fire. And preaching to mountains. And all of that’s just in the first few chapters.
But Ezekiel wasn’t nuts. Ezekiel was a messenger of God. And God had sent him to a rebellious people not only to tell them the truth but to show them as well.
God knew that his people had a vision problem. That’s why he said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house” (12:2). They had all the necessary equipment to see, but they weren’t putting it to proper use. They were functionally blind, missing the clear reality right in front of their eyes.
So God sent Ezekiel to engage them in a creative and memorable way: visually. Yes, Ezekiel delivered a spoken message like all the other prophets in the Old Testament. But Ezekiel’s message was often accompanied by dramatic and unexpected visual imagery. I think it’s fitting to say that Ezekiel occupied the vocation of actor as much as he did the vocation of preacher. In this book filled with memorable sights, God sought to engage the eyes of his people that had grown accustomed to not seeing.
This Sunday, we’ll begin a series of sermons that will take us through the book of Ezekiel and help us see what Ezekiel saw—and what the exiles around him saw as well. The title of this series is “Object Lessons,” and I hope that we’ll find it to be just as startling and memorable as it was originally intended to be.
If we’re being honest, we know that God’s accusation against his people in Ezekiel’s day hits close to home. We, too, have eyes to see, and yet we often fail to use them. We, too, are tragically blind to many of the truths we should be seeing clearly.
I hope you’ll be able to join us for this series. And I hope you’ll be prepared not only to listen, but to see as well.