“The appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (v.28). How else could Ezekiel describe the majesty of the God he has seen? And what else could he – or you – do, apart from fall down in awe?
God tells him to stand, and Ezekiel is strengthened by God’s Spirit (2.1). The commission he receives is thrilling, terrifying, and also deeply discouraging. He is go to to his countrymen with the Word of God. The highest honour any of us can be given is to speak God’s Words to others. To a man who must have thought that his work was over before it started, God comes in power to declare that this is His work for His servant. But look at the people he is to minister to: obstinate, stubborn, like scorpions and rebellious (vv.3-7). This is no Sunday school picnic, but a commission to speak to a people who haven’t learned, and who refuse to learn, the lessons of their exile. This is a hard call, and one with no promise of a lasting and happy outcome – “whether they listen or fail to listen” (v.5) is deeply ominous. Who says that the work of God, even if given from heaven, will have a happy ending?
There is sweetness in the work, though. Ezekiel is given a scroll, and on it are God’s promised curses for covenant disobedience (3.1). And yet, as Ezekiel eats it, it tastes sweet (v.3). This is a vivid picture of how God’s Word shows God’s justice and holiness, which will be Ezekiel’s comfort in the days ahead. And he will need that comfort: God warns him that people will simply prove to be too hard-hearted to listen to God’s servant (v.7). But Ezekiel will be no pushover, but a man made tough by God for this tough calling (vv.8-9).
Ezekiel is told to go to the people, and then is literally taken to them (vv.10-14). The anger of God at His sinful people is the anger that this servant now feels (v.14). Isn’t that the mark of a true servant of God? We begin to think as God does, feel as He does, and want and work for what He wants. That is what it means to have the mind of Christ. Ezekiel is learning that God’s call is never just to “do the work”, but to be remade in God’s image, loving His holiness, longing for the lost, ready to be broken-hearted, as well as broken-up, in the service of God. This short and terrifying encounter left Ezekiel drained, and for a week he sat among his people, trying to take in what he had seen and heard.
Think about Jesus. He came from the glory of God (and is the glory of God). He came with words of cursing from God on human sin, as well as words of grace. He lived among people exiled by their sin from God’s presence, and came to call them to face God, and to receive His Word. He delighted in the Law of His God, and He wept over lost, hard-hearted people. Ezekiel is yet another servant who was to be remade in the image of Jesus, and a servant who would bring the astounding promises of God to a lost world, at an appalling personal cost.
The end of this call narrative sees Ezekiel learning how serious and how costly his call will be. Serious, in that he is to warn sinners of God’s wrath, and will be accountable for how he speaks, or fails to (vv.18-21). If he fails to do that, their blood will be literally on his hands. Perhaps it’s because this calling is so serious, and hard, that God confirms it a second time (vv.22-30): there is the Glory (v.23, note, the Glory is “standing”, as we know that the glory is the Son of God), and there is the warning: this call will cost Ezekiel. His house will be a prison, his freedom will be taken from him, and not even the words he’s been given to speak will come from his mouth until God sovereignly wills them (vv.24-27).
And we think that discipleship is an easy matter, or just one of many things we “do” in life. These chapters challenge us to think more deeply. Discipleship is a high, holy and hard calling. In all of it there is the gift of the Spirit, as Ezekiel discovered. The Spirit, though takes us to the cross, and conforms us to the life of the cross.
“If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him He will disown us; if we are faithless He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself” (2 Timothy 2.11-13). This is Ezekiel’s calling, and his God, and they are ours, too.