And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
We begin Ezekiel today. His story begins during the reign of Jehoiachin (grandson to Judah’s last good king, Josiah). Ten years before the fall of Jerusalem, when Jehoiachin had been on the throne for only three months, Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and carried Jehoiachin, his family, and 10,000 captives away to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-17). Ezekiel was among this first group of exiles carried to Babylon in 597 BC. He was 25 years old at the time.
Ezekiel began his prophetic ministry as an exile in Babylon around 30 years of age. His message was primarily to his fellow exiles, but the messages of Judgment and Hope are instructive for us today!
Today’s reading is Ezekiel’s description of his call to ministry. The ESV Study Bible summarizes this section of Ezekiel well…
The opening sequence of Ezekiel is the most elaborate and complex of the prophetic call narratives in the OT, and also one of the most carefully structured. In a vision, Ezekiel witnesses the awesome approach of the glory of God (1:1–28). Ezekiel receives his prophetic commission through swallowing the scroll God offers (2:1–3:11), thus both fortifying him and training him in obedience. After the glory of God withdraws (3:12–15), Ezekiel’s role is further refined by his appointment as a “watchman” (3:16–21). The sequence concludes with a further encounter with God’s glory (3:22–27). (ESV Study Bible, Notes on Ezekiel 1-3, Crossway Publishers)
Ezekiel’s encounter with the glory of God serves as a backdrop and contrast to his earthly circumstances. When compared to God’s glory, Israel’s sin is heinous, and this harsh attitude is reflected throughout Ezekiel’s judgment oracles.
In Acts, Stephen begins his defense recounting early Jewish history. Today’s reading summarizes most of Genesis, as Stephen recounts God’s promises to Abraham and the covenant of circumcision.
We are reminded of one interesting detail in Stephen’s discourse. He mentions that Abraham was originally from the land of the Chaldeans – which was the same land where the Judean exiles, including Ezekiel, were taken captive to….
…the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there (Ezekiel 1:3).
So God called Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans into the promised land of Canaan, and promised to make him into a great nation. And even though the promises to Abraham were fulfilled, because of Israel’s sin, God sent his people back to the land of the Chaldeans as exiles. But thankfully, we know that God is in the restoration business – and one day… we will all dwell in the New Jerusalem… forever, with no possibility of ever being sent back to the land of the Chaldeans!