Ezekiel’s preparation for ministry is elaborate because God knows the message is hard and Ezekiel is not up to the task. The chapter is God doing everything he can to help Ezekiel to make brave choices.
The Israelite people, carted away from Israel into exile in Babylon, no doubt feel abandoned: that God wasn’t real. Or if they do still believe, his plans make no sense.
So Ezekiel coming and telling them “God is very disappointed and angry with you” is highly likely to make him a target for much of their bitterness and misery.
First he eats the scroll of God’s word he got yesterday. It tastes sweet like honey (didn’t The Psalms say the law was sweeter than honey? Hmmmm… Mind you I called it a poison pill yesterday!)
God promises him hardness to match the hardness of the people. So he has the word inside, and the armour of God outside.
The spirit lifts him and the great glorious contraption of wheels and winged creatures delivers him to the people.
Ezekiel is full of bitterness and anger… At God I’m thinking. For seven days he sits among them, deeply distressed. No message.
It’s what I would have done I think, I’m also a coward. It’s why being a writer suits me so well. Giving other people the scripts to deliver.
God takes him out of there into the desert and ratchets up the pressure with the watchman argument: if the people reject your message, it’s on them. If the people never hear your message, that’s on you.
You are simply the watchman, your only job is to warn them of danger, even if you know they’ll reject it.
It ends with a weird scene of Ezekiel being tied up in his own house, unable to leave, and God making him unable to speak.
If you won’t use your legs and tongue for my mission, God’s seems to be saying, how about you don’t use them for anything else for a while!
At this point is it were me, I would start to be persuaded. It a theme from all the major prophets, God knows being a prophet is his suckiest job. He knows a normal person will find it almost impossible.
So it’s quite a threatening chapter to read. Please God, I don’t want to be a prophet!
I’m reminded of our discussions about the best sign to put out the front of our church.
I suggested “lay down your burdens” which was a big hit. Talking about comfort in a very abstract way. It did start some conversations, engagement with our community, it must be said. I certainly intended the any engagement that occurred would lead to a less abstract message in time.
The next one is probably going to be “Jesus loves you”. Still positive, but it confronts head on that Christianity is about responding to Jesus.
If we ever take that out, we aren’t being watchmen.