I’ve just started reading Ezekiel, and so I thought I’d put a great quote from Chris Wright’s excellent BST (Bible Speaks Today) up about God’s disorientating ways. I love the way in which in the introduction to the commentary Chris Wright uses imagination rooted in the text to help us picture Ezekiel’s situation. If you want to go a bit deeper in your own study of the Bible, but aren’t sure where to start then the BST series by IVP is a good place to start, and Chris Wright’s volume on Ezekiel is a great help to getting a handle on where such a large book is going and what it is saying.
In his introduction he points out that as the son of a priest Ezekiel would most likely have expected to be a priest in turn when he reached 30. Instead Ezekiel is in exile, with the first group of exiles, in Babylon, hundreds of miles away from the temple he should be serving in. Chris Wright goes on to explain why it would not necessarily have been much consolation for Ezekiel to become a prophet.
As a priest Ezekiel would have a high view of the temple as the central place of interaction between God and people, the place where God lived and where people could have access to God’s eternal home. It was a place of order, ritual and sacrifice, through which the regularity of God’s relationship with his people and world could be known and seen. Prophets like Jeremiah called all that into question. Looking back with the privilege of seeing the whole story we can see how Jeremiah’s message fitted into all that was going on – but at the time it would have been deeply shocking (indeed priests were among those who tried to have him killed) to the establishment. So Chris Wright writes:
So while we can value all the positive contributions that Ezekiel’s education and training as a priest brought to his prophetic ministry, we must also appreciate the immense personal, professional and theological shock it must have been to him when, in his thirtieth year, the year he ought to have entered on his ordained priestly career, God broke into his life, wrecked all such career prospects, and constrained him into a role he may himself have viewed with considerable suspicion – the lonely, friendless, unpopular role of being a prophet, the mouthpiece of Yahweh. No wonder the anger and bitter rage to which he honestly confessed disorientated and overwhelmed him for a full week (3:14-15). God would use all that he had built into Ezekiel’s life during his years of preparation, but he would use it in radically different ways from anything Ezekiel had ever imagined. Such is sometimes the way of God with those whom he calls to his service.