We spend most of our younger years planning our lives… which college, which degree, job choices, spouse choices, where to live, what to drive, where to vacation, retirement goals. What happens when all of a sudden you realize that all your plans and dreams have fallen short of your expectations? Perhaps you find yourself somewhere totally different than what you had planned? Let’s look at the prophet Ezekiel.
The Introduction: Ezekiel ministered to his generation who were very sinful and totally hopeless. Through his prophetic ministry he attempted to bring the people to immediate repentance and to confidence in the distant future when God would bring the people back to the promised land. He taught that:
- God works through human messengers
- Even in defeat and despair God’s people need to affirm God’s sovereignty
- God’s Word never fails
- God is present and can be worshiped anywhere
- People must obey God if they expect to receive blessings
- God’s Kingdom will come
Take a look at this passage of the Bible:
On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. This happened during the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity. (The LORD gave this message to Ezekiel son of Buzi, a priest, beside the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians, and he felt the hand of the LORD take hold of him.) (Ezekiel 1:1-3)
The first three verses of Ezekiel introduce us to the prophet and his unexpected calling. In Ezekiel 1:1, the prophet explains the context of his encounter with God. He was thirty years old and in Babylon with other Jewish exiles. They had settled along the Kebar River, and there, Ezekiel tells us, “I saw visions of God.”
Ezekiel 1:3 was added by an anonymous editor of Ezekiel’s book, in order to help the reader understand more about the prophet and his peculiar calling (notice the parentheses in the text). We learn interesting information…
- We learn that Ezekiel was a priest, the son of Buzi.
- We learn that the word of the Lord “came expressively” (NASB) on him and the Lord “took hold of him.”
- We learn that it was “in the fifth year after King Jehoiachin’s deportation”
- The year would be 593 B.C. (see 2 Kings 24:8-17)
- The date would be July 31, The text actually says, “On the fifth day of the fourth month,” but refers to the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar. A number of dates in Ezekiel can be cross-checked with dates in surviving Babylonian records and related accurately to our modern calendar. So the NLT tells us this event occurred on July 31 of that year.
The Irony: It would be easy to miss an ironic and moving element in this parenthetical introduction. Ezekiel 1:1 indicates all this happened in the thirtieth year, which was likely Ezekiel’s age at the time. As a priest (Ezekiel 1:3), he would have had the extreme honor of serving in the temple in Jerusalem (Numbers 4:3, see below). No doubt he spent much of his young life looking forward to this opportunity. He would have been eligible for priestly service when he turned thirty years old, but his hopes were dashed because he was exiled to Babylon during the time when he could have been serving in the temple. It’s not hard to imagine Ezekiel’s disappointment with how his life turned out.
The Interpretation: God had other plans for Ezekiel. When the priest turned thirty, the Lord began to reveal amazing visions to him. God spoke to him and told him to speak his word to God’s people. Ezekiel would have the chance to serve God in a most influential and difficult way, as a prophet of judgment and hope. God took Ezekiel’s plans and reinterpreted how he would be of service to the kingdom.
The Intersection: God has plans for each one of us and at times his plan must intersect with our plans. Sometimes God’s plans line up with our expectations, but often, they surprise us. We have plans for our life, but God may have other plans. His plans are always the best, though they might come in the midst of disappointment, discouragement and difficulty. They might also lead us into greater challenges than we would have chosen for ourselves.
The Inspiration: God wants to use you for his purposes, perhaps as he once used Ezekiel. How will you respond to his call for a new direction or ministry? How will you respond to the call of God on your life, family and work? Are you willing to hear what God wants you to do, even if it’s not what you were expecting?
NOTE on the age of service for a priest: Numbers 4:3 tells us that the priest begins his service age age 30, and must retire at age 50. But also notice that Numbers 8:24, 25 indicates that 25 is the minimum age for service. So, what’s up? It is likely that age 25 began the priest’s five year apprenticeship, before he was fully prepared to be a leader.