… that He has not died, that He has not forgotten us, and that He has not turned against us.
Ezekiel was born to be a priest. He was in the right family, and was destined to minister in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. However, a Babylonian invasion ended that dream, as he was one of thousands taken into captivity and led as slaves into a foreign land. There, Ezekiel dwelt with the captives by the Chebar river. Through no fault of his own, he had lost everything.
So it was, living in Israel’s twilight years prior to the Babylonian captivity. The nation slipped further and further into sin and idolatry, behaving so reprehensibly that even the heathen nations surrounding it were repulsed. As Israel rebelled and reveled, God withdrew His protection, allowing Babylon to continue to conquer the nation. The southern kingdom continued to lose province after province, and city after city, all the while continuing in the sin and idolatry that was bringing on their demise. This continued until the Babylonian troops had laid siege to the capital city of Jerusalem.
The tragedy of a lifestyle of sin is that you often don’t realize what it’s cost you until you are about to lose what little you have left. So it was that Israel was down to defending Jerusalem, and any hope of maintaining the kingdom rested in their ability to fend off the Babylonians.
Meanwhile, back in Babylon, the captives awaited news from back home. Was Jerusalem successfully defended, or did she fall. The anticipation touched off a firestorm of debate. Some believed that God could not allow Jerusalem to be conquered, for doing so would violate the promise He made to Abraham back in Genesis. False prophets had even gone among the people, promising that God would deliver them. Others had concluded that God’s providence was not needed, that the walls of Jerusalem would protect her from her enemies.
Jerusalem had to be saved, for anything else would represent God’s total abandonment of Israel. Some had even believed that God had divorced Himself from His chosen people, a belief that God Himself refuted in Isaiah 50:1. With those questions swirling, God began to speak to His people.
In Ezekiel 1, the former priest, soon to be prophet, Ezekiel, is by the Chebar River when God speaks to Him.
The prophecies recorded in Ezekiel show God’s plan for Israel. In the early part of the book, God tells the people that Jerusalem would fall. That prophecy caused many to reject the legitimacy of Ezekiel’s ministry, but once Jerusalem fell, the people listened.
Through Ezekiel’s prophecies, God told the people that Jerusalem would fall, and that they would spend their 70 years in captivity, but that God would use that time to transform them, and would bring them back into their homeland when the process was finished.
This concept goes right along with Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
In that prophecy, Jeremiah told the people that God was not allowing the captivity to come upon Israel out of wrath, or a desire to see them destroyed. Rather, the captivity was going to transform them to a point where they would trust in the Lord and call upon Him, and He would hear and respond.
Some in Israel may have felt that God abandoned them. The Babylonians might have thought they conquered the Israelites’ God. The question circulating may have been, “Is God dead? Why doesn’t He hear?”
However, the truth was that God was working through the situation the whole time.
So, when you are going through trials and tribulations, or when others mock your faith, do not fear. God is not dead. He did not abandon you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is still with you, and is working through the situations you face to refine you into a glorious child of His. Trust the process, and thank God for the progress.