What am I doing here? It's probably a question you're asking yourself lately. Why am I at home? Why can't I see my friends? You may even get to the point to ask 'When can I go back to school?'.
Reality and life seem to be ever changing right now, but your questions (although unique for our time) are not new over the course of history. You probably know the name and book Ezekiel from the Bible. He ministry and message was to people who were asking similar questions.
To give you an idea of when and where Ezekiel was written, here's a little backstory:
After the time of David and Solomon the kingdom of Israel split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In 722 BC the Assyrian empire conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. So now there is only the southern kingdom of Judah left of David's old kingdom.
In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar (from Babylon) has overtaken the Assyrians and Egypt for control of the Middle East. He lays seize to Jerusalem (in the southern kingdom) in 597 BC and exiles about 10,000 Jews (including Ezekiel) to Babylon. After eleven more years of fighting, the city of Jerusalem was breached and plundered. On August 14, 586 BC, the city and the temple were burned.
As mentioned, Ezekiel is one of the 10,000 Jews that was taken from his home and exiled to Babylon. He was a member of a priestly family (so if he wasn’t exiled, and if there wasn’t a war) he probably would have been a priest in the Temple of Jerusalem. This is someone whose plans and future were drastically changed through no choice of his own. What he thought his future would be and what actually came to pass were two very different things. Sound familiar?
Just like your life right now. You didn't plan on being home from school in mid-March, you didn't plan on being isolated to your house, you didn't plan on being 'here' right now; but you are. Through no choice of your own, this is your reality right now.
Ezekiel is God's messenger to the Jews in exile in Babylon. His book has three main sections:
Chapters 1 - 24: Recall that Ezekiel was taken from his home in 597 BC but Jerusalem was not destroyed until 586 BC. So we have this eleven year period that the Jews in exile still have hope that Judah would win the war against Babylon, meaning they could return home. Ezekiel however has another message for them. Their only hope is that God is with them and that they should live at peace with themselves and God during their exile. Sound familiar? Exile and isolation are not the same thing but they can feel similar. My guess is a lot of Jews were asking those same questions; 'what am I doing here?', 'when can I go back?', that we all are right now. Ezekiel's message to them is to be at peace with God where you are right now.
Chapters 25 - 32: Jerusalem has now fallen and the Jews are in mourning. They no longer have a home to go back to. God tells Ezekiel that he must be an example for others not to mourn for Jerusalem. Just because their home was now gone did not mean their hope in God needed to be gone too. They wanted to return home, to 'normal'. That was not going to happen now. We don't know what kind of lives we will be returning to when this is all said and done. What Ezekiel is telling us is that even when our lives change, our hope in God does not need to too.
Chapters 33-48: Once news was received that Jerusalem had fallen, Ezekiel's message turns to the Lord's consoling word of hope for his people. They would experience revival, restoration, and a glorious future as the redeemed and perfect kingdom of God. We don't know what the future holds for us, but we do know that we are redeemed in God and that he does have a future for us.
The book of Ezekiel can seem kind of rough, but remember what Carly said in the video. She hoped that none of her students ever have to identify with the book. It is God’s promise and commitment to his people during times of trauma, upheaval, and disorder. Ezekiel was literally taken from his home; his future plans crushed, and had no future hope. In that space God comes in and offers hope. He reassures Ezekiel and the exiled Jews that he is still their God and will not abandon them.
I think this is the main message we can take from Ezekiel and apply to our lives. We all will experience times of trauma, upheaval, and disorder in our lives. During those times it is often hard to see God at work. We will probably not be ripped from our homes as Ezekiel was, in fact the opposite has come to pass. Most of us are stuck in our homes.
Whatever it is, the book of Ezekiel is there to remind us that in the midst of all of that, God continues to love us and offer us hope. It’s hard to see sometimes, in fact, that’s why God called Ezekiel in the first place.
Questions to discuss or contemplate: