Ezekiel – Man of Vision, Son of Man

Ezekiel was a man of vision. God showed him the future so clearly that at times he must have felt that he was actually living it. The first vision was perhaps the most stunning of all. Its noise was like a giant storm engulfing the world. It was full of imagery that spoke of Israel’s past and the world’s future. Lights flashed with the intensity of the glory of God itself, rolling as lightning and thunder throughout the earth, and finally a throne was visible rising above all else, glorious in its colours and crowned by a rainbow, the symbol of peace. Together, it seemed to Ezekiel like a window had been opened and he had seen the glory of Yahweh itself. It was breathtaking and he collapsed to the ground under the weight of its awesome majesty.

He was woken and stood upright by the power of God. For Ezekiel, it was the introduction to the work that would totally dominate the rest of his life. He was a prophet of Yahweh, and not just any prophet either. In fact, for a long time afterwards he couldn’t say anything at all, except what God told him. And at this crossroad in his life Ezekiel was given that special title, “Son of man”. He was a Son of man who, for seven years, spoke only the words of God. In this way he was uniquely connected to Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, the Word made flesh.

And Ezekiel was left in no doubt from the beginning as to what life would be like as Son of man. He would, in the beginning at least, deliver a harsh message to a people who would refuse to accept it. His fellow Jews had themselves suffered the trauma of arrest and displacement and many were in no mood to hear a message of further despair from a man claiming to be speaking the Word of God. They preferred to listen to the false prophets still in Jerusalem, who spoke of speedy deliverance. Nor would they be particularly impressed by the way he often presented it. They would be as hard as rock in their reaction against him—and he would need to be even harder.

To many, Ezekiel must have seemed like a very weird man. But it hadn’t always been that way. He had been born into a priestly family. He had a lovely wife whom he loved. He was an articulate public speaker and the people liked to listen to what he said. He had accepted the trauma of captivity and by 30 years of age was a happily married man with a comfortable residence on the river Chebar, close to Babylon. To be sure, he would have preferred to be in Jerusalem, but he accepted God’s verdict through Jeremiah the prophet and settled in to do what he could to see that his family and people remained faithful in exile.

But God had an extra burden for him to carry and right from the start it was, to say the least, unusual. Ezekiel accepted it all, almost without complaint, trusting that God knew what He was doing—as all faithful men and women must finally do. Over the next few years he communicated God’s messages primarily through parables, dramatic sketches, and vivid object lessons. His offbeat symbolic acts must have seemed very amusing to some, whilst others took his prophetic acts seriously and inquired diligently about their meaning.

His work was often entertaining, yet deadly serious in purpose. Here are some examples of what he did:

303:3He ate the scroll the angel of God had been given with the message of mourning and woe. “Delicious”, he said!
3:26He was struck dumb for seven years, only to speak when God spoke to him. For some of that time he was held captive in his own house.
4He built a model of Jerusalem under siege and lay on the ground in front of it for 430 days. During that time he lived on a famine diet, cooked on a fire made of cattle dung.
325At the conclusion of the enacted siege, he shaved off his hair and beard. A third he burnt inside the model of the city, a third he cut up and spread around the outside and the other third he threw to the wind, then tucked just a few strands into his coat.
6:11He howled, clapped his hands and stamped his feet for all to see and hear.
7:23He made a chain to demonstrate the imminent final capture of Judah.
12:3He packed up his entire household and moved it outside into a field.

His wife must have been a very patient woman! But when Ezekiel was just 34 years old she was taken from him. She died suddenly, but God told His prophet this tragic event was to be used as yet another sign. He was not to mourn for her at all, but to continue his business as usual. To some it must have appeared that he never even loved her. But to those who understood, it was a heart-rending demonstration of what Yahweh Himself went through when Israel, His chosen people, His wife, were taken into captivity for their wickedness. To some it must have seemed He never even loved them. But God Himself felt that loss more deeply even than Ezekiel felt the loss of his beloved wife.

It was the same year that the final siege of Jerusalem began. Death was everywhere and four years later the temple was destroyed and the kingdom of Judah was finished. Throughout those years he had been given words of warning and judgment for the Jews, those in Babylon and those still in the land of Judah. There had been prophecies against other nations too. Judgment, warning, destruction and entreaty. Fire and famine, bloodshed everywhere and yet always a faint ray of hope. But finally, very few listened, not enough to make a difference anyway, and after 450 years the throne of the great King David was occupied by the godless fool Zedekiah, and Ezekiel told anyone who would listen what God’s verdict was: “Overturn, overturn, overturn it…” And so Judah passed into history.

“…Until”: Ezekiel’s greatest message was yet to come. Immediately after the news of Jerusalem’s demise reached the prophet, a remarkable thing happened. His voice returned. And at 37 years of age he sat down to write a series of prophecies as remarkable as any man was ever inspired to utter. From the darkness of captiv- ity and destruction came the glorious light of release and rebuilding. The last 15 years of Ezekiel’s life were the loneliest for him, but what awesome things he saw. And he was never alone, for the Word of God was his constant companion. No doubt he formed a close bond with the angel who spoke with him, surely one of those who also comforted his friend Daniel, maybe even Gabriel himself.

It started with a guidebook for shepherds true and false. Judgment on Israel’s enemies followed, then restoration of the land, the people, their spirit and finally, their kingdom. Before his eyes deserts sprang to life, trees blossomed, empty wastelands were re-populated. Finally, most graphically of all, he saw a national bone yard decaying in a hot, dusty valley. Ezekiel watched in wonder as the bones were brought together, re-joined with sinews then covered in skin. Finally, a body lay where only dead bones had once been; then most impossibly of all, the lungs were inflated with breath and the body lived. The nation of Israel would be revived. That was Ezekiel 37 and it is one of history’s most famous prophecies. But Ezekiel wasn’t finished. Next came the monumental chapter 38, the definitive prophecy of the final invasion of the land, and the final deliverance and restoration in the latter days. Graphic visions of judgment followed until all Israel’s enemies were destroyed and the earth was at rest.

The crowning glory of Ezekiel’s prophecies was received by him in his 50th year, probably not long before his death. He was shown, brick by brick, room by room, the future temple of God on earth. He meticulously noted every detail. The dimensions, the basic design, the arches and altars, the carvings and finishes.

Soaring vaulted ceilings, huge towers both in height and breadth, and finally in the centre a high mountain crowned with a glorious golden altar. Lush verdure was everywhere and water gushed out from its base to flow east from Jerusalem into two unquenchable rivers. And it was inhabited by an immortal family of king-priests.

He was Son of man, but not the Son of Man. That title would go to one far greater than Ezekiel, but the great prophet was content to live secure in the shadow of the man he knew would be born eventually, in God’s good time (a time revealed to his friend Daniel), to bring his visions to life. One of his final visions was to be shown the glory of God, which it had been his sad duty to watch leave in the days of his captivity. Those shattered childhood hopes would be restored, only now multiplied by eternity.

Ezekiel was shown in a vision the man he called the Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he no doubt died a faithful, contented man, secure in the hope that one day he would meet his Lord in person in that glorious house of prayer for all nations.