Posts Tagged ‘Ezekiel’

PurposeEzekiel was one far out dude.  I could focus on the wheels, sing about dem dry bones or wish that I could see the beasts of his prophecy in the zoo but I want to step away from the details of Ezekiel’s message.  Let’s focus on an aspect of Ezekiel’s life that make’s him another Hupomone Man.

Ezekiel was from a priestly family and like Daniel he was taken from his home in Israel and brought to Babylon.  His family was probably prominent and influential.  Ryrie places him among the many hostages that Nebuchadnezzar took to ensure the cooperation of his newly conquered land.  Unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel prophesied to the Jews in Babylon.

As I read through Ezekiel this time around, I really tried to keep the words of the prophecies given to him by God out of focus.  I did not want to get caught up in the wonder and beautiful detail of Ezekiel’s dreams.  I really wanted to get a feel for Ezekiel the man.  This is perhaps most difficult to do with Ezekiel among those whom we term the Major Prophets as there is minimal historical detail.  With the details out of focus I began to notice a recurring phrase:  “Then you will know that I am the Lord”.  It takes some different forms, “and then you shall know that I am the Lord.”  The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Hupomone Men have purpose.”.  Honestly it took me a bit to make the connection (I probably could have used Ezekiel’s help….connecting the bones of the thought together….ok ouch that was bad).

Ezekiel completely understood the purpose of everything that he said and did.  Speaking for God is not an abstract activity.  The life of the Hupomone Man is not an abstract activity.  It has purpose.  It really has one overarching purpose.  That purpose is to act, speak, write…to live in such a way that those around you can “know that He is the Lord.”  Peter put it this way, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies, sot that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:11

As Hupomone Men we can be sure that everything that happens in our lives is some how contributing to this purpose, either for ourselves or for those around us.  Ezekiel deeply understood this even as his wife passed away, there was purpose. ( I deal more with this particular story here. ) This is all part of our great assurance that God is in control.  We cannot, we must not allow circumstances to impinge on this great Peace that we have as children of God.  Ezekiel never lost sight of his purpose through all of the turmoil, through all the circumstances of his life.  He demonstrated Major Endurance and certainly earned the title of Hupomone Man.

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“Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.

Ezekiel 24:16

(I do want to start this with a disclaimer: While I do believe that God has called us to walk this difficult road for His purposes and have already seen incredible fruit from our experiences both within us and around us, I have no reason to believe that Allana is going to be taken from us any time soon.)

Serving God can at times be overwhelming.  We are not told a lot about Ezekiel’s wife, just that she was “the delight” of his eyes.  Ezekiel loved her.  She was perhaps, next to God, the most important thing in Ezekiel’s life.  I have heard it taught that Ezekiel somehow sinned in his desire for his wife, that he had placed her above his devotion to God.  This is simply not in the text and perhaps arises from the desire to believe that God is here to serve us instead of the other way around.  We serve a God who loves us immensely.  We also serve a God who commands ultimate obedience, honor and trust.  The circumstances surrounding this loss are not known to us.  It can be supposed that Ezekiel’s wife succumbed to a fatal illness, a much more common occurrence in the those days than living a long and healthy life.  I can easily imagine Ezekiel crying out to God in prayer over her having been there many times for Allana.  I cannot but believe that Ezekiel’s wife was a godly woman, the respected and honored wife of a priest.  Why O lord does she have to go through this?  And the answer comes,” “For my purposes”

Paul understood service to God when he wrote to the Philippians, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, ” (Philippians 1:29)  Carizomai does not mean imposed upon or required.  It carries the sense of a pleasant task, a favor, something given benevolently.  As His servants, suffering for His name and for His purposes is part of the gift, but in the same book we find that this gift is paired with something else.  “ Rejoice in the Lord always ; again I will say, rejoice !  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will  guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)  This does not mean that everything is going to go the way that we desire it to, it means that through the storm we will be able to say, “It is well with my soul”.

God called Ezekiel to more than just losing the love of his life.  He is called to contravene the social norms of the day and to not enter into what was the common practice of very public and very loud mourning.  God calls him to “groan silently”.  Paul says, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.”  We are called to a holy standard not only in the gift of suffering for His name, but in the Holy Spirit empowered ability to break the customs of this world in our reaction to that suffering and show the very nature of God in our actions.  When we do that the world takes notice!   “and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning I did as I was commanded. The people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?” (Ezekiel 24:18-19)  It is in the very city of Philippi that we get the story of the Philippian Jailer.  After being beaten and praising God through a night of imprisonment Paul and Silas are able to lead their captive audience, the jailer, and his whole family to Jesus.  “Sirs, What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)

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I just went back and read my Christmas Eve post on Nisa.  This is a quote from that post:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

Several weeks ago while in prayer God gave me the name Nisa Faith.  Indeed she is a miracle of faith, not the simple faith of a single prayer or even the cry for healing but the faith of a 9 year journey.  She represents to us the faith of Abraham as he led his entire family to Canaan.  She represents the faith of Joseph as he waited in slavery, in prison for God to act.  She is even now, yet in the womb that miracle, an incredible act of God.

I did not know how real it was going to have to become in just a few short day.  I did not know that the flu symptoms that my beautiful wife was having were not the flu at all.  10 days later Allana was in the hospital in a battle for her life with a deadly disease known by its acronym ALL chromosome positive; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Philadelphia Chromosome positive.   Allana’s CaringBridge site follows the details of our experience.  Throughout this time we have had ups and downs.  I have faced the prospect of losing her and I have faced the deep pain of watching her suffer in ways that I could not even have imagined.  Yet the statement that I made 8 days after Nisa’s birth remains the truest thing in my life:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that  I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

I truly believe that it is this core belief that has opened up our lives for the miraculous interventions that have followed us throughout this experience. It is when we tie our relationship with God to our circumstances that trouble occurs.  If we accept that when bad things happen God somehow has diminished his love for us then our spiritual life will be a roller coaster of highs and lows, undermining our ability to grow spiritually.  The core statement then becomes:

We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us when life is good.  He loves us when I understand and can grasp the good things that he gives us.

I have recently been reading Ezekiel.  My heart broke for him as I read the simple verse in the middle of chapter 24. 

 “Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes. Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.”

It is with that statement that God informs Ezekiel that his wife is going to die.  We are not given any of the back story or the circumstances, just that as a part of his office as prophet of God, as a part of his calling to serve the almighty, as a part of her calling to serve Him, his beloved wife was going to die.  Two things we need to understand here.

1.  Ezekiel was not told by God to just ignore the death of his wife and not to mourn for her.  The culture of the day and even through to today in many cultures in the region, called for very loud and public mourning.  We know that in Jesus day wealthy families would hire professional mourners to make the process as loud and public as possible.  It was this public and plastic mourning that God called Ezekiel to ignore.  “17 Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead. Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet; do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food [of mourners].”   This was extraordinary behavior for a recognized public figure.  God calls us as His elect to extraordinary behavior but he does not expect us to be wooden soldiers.  This mourning would be between God and Ezekiel.  And while the text does not explicitly say so, I believe that the phrase, The Word of the Lord came to me… is an indication of the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.  Dabar is the Hebrew equivalent of Logos.  I am not going to jump into a word or phrase study here but I want to make the point that God did not leave Ezekiel hanging.  Ezekiel did not have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we as New Testament believers enjoyed (He does note that the Holy Spirit entered him at one point and helped him to stand (Ezekiel 2:2).  Still “The Word of the Lord” was with him.  Ezekiel’s continued obedience and interactions with God’s people are a testament to his continued faith in God’s love for him.

2.  Ezekiel’s experience was not in vain.  When the Spirit of God moves things happen!  We may not understand or see the full scope of what God is doing but he calls His people to extraordinary behavior in extraordinary circumstances for His glory and to extend the purposes of His love for all mankind.

19 The people said to me, “Will you not tell us what these things that you are doing mean for us?” 

When God’s people do the extraordinary within the context of the extraordinary people notice.  And honestly what we do within the context of the ordinary often appears extraordinary to those who do not have a relationship with God.  We are not often told the impact of the words spoken by the Old Testament prophets.  I have to believe that while the national fate was sealed by the word of God individuals were impacted by the message and turned their faith to Him even as everything around them fell apart.

3.  It is in our relationship with God that the extraordinary occurs not out of ourselves.  It was the Holy Spirit through Ezekiel who defied the cultural norms to bring God’s message to the people of Israel. ” …for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:21  Ezekiel’s response to this catastrophic even in his life is a direct response to the Holy Spirit.  I can assure you that his heart was breaking even as he rejoiced at the work of God being done in and through his life.  Some day I believe we will be able to talk to the individuals impacted by the ministry of Ezekiel even as the nation fell apart and  fell into exile.

Whatever circumstances one faces the opportunity for the extraordinary exists for all of the followers of Jesus who have the Holy Spirit as an integral part of their lives.  It is interesting that the less that we attempt to be extraordinary and only seek to be obedient, the more extraordinary things God accomplishes through us.

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