If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Samuel 24, 1 Corinthians 5, Ezekiel 3, Psalm 39. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Ezekiel 3.
People learn and experience the world differently from one another. Although Jeremiah and Ezekiel had overlapping ministries in terms of the years they served the Lord, the Lord spoke to them in very different ways. Ezekiel, it seems, was a very visual person, judging from how the Lord spoke to him. Instead of hearing oracles from the Lord as Jeremiah did, Ezekiel saw some vivid—even strange—visions. God’s revelation to him engaged his physical senses. Even the auditory messages he received from the Lord often had strong imagery.
We see these two things—high sensory revelation and strong imagery—in the chapter we read today, Ezekiel 3. Let’s start with the “strong imagery” which we can see in the later part of the chapter, verses 12-15. There Ezekiel’s experience was that, “the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing” (v. 12). He flew, heard a sound like an earthquake, and saw God’s glory levitate. Taken together, this was a powerful experience from the Lord.
The “strong imagery” I mentioned showed up in verses 16-23. Here, Ezekiel doesn’t experience a vision that engages his senses, he simply hears the Lord’s Word like the other prophets did. But, God’s word to Ezekiel in this passage comes in the form of an image, an analogy. Instead of telling Ezekiel, “You are a prophet and I will hold you accountable if you fail or refuse to tell people my message,” God called him a “watchman” (v. 17)—someone who looked out of the city walls for approaching attackers. If Ezekiel failed to warn people about their sins God said, “I will hold you accountable for their blood” (v. 18). That’s how the NIV translated the passage but the imagery is actually more like, “Their blood is on your hands!” The imagery of a watchman who fails to warn of danger and ends up with blood on his hands is much more striking, visual, and emotional than, “You’re a prophet and I’ll hold you accountable.”
Continuing on in the passage, God told Ezekiel, “go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you” (v. 22). But the Lord’s “speaking” to him was a terrifying vision like the one he saw of the Lord in chapter 1 and here in 3:13. So, again, we have a highly visual, sensory experience of the Lord and his word.
But the section I want to focus on for this devotional is in the beginning of the passage, verses 1-11, especially verses 1-3. Instead of giving Ezekiel a message to speak, God gave him a scroll and told him to eat it. He did eat it and even described its sweet taste for us (v. 3). What an unusual experience that was for a prophet! But what was the Lord telling him with this experience? He was telling Ezekiel to internalize the message himself before taking it to the other exiles. In other words, God was not merely interested in speaking THROUGH him; God wanted to speak TO Ezekiel and then THROUGH him to the people. Eating the scroll was God’s way of telling Ezekiel to receive, believe, and obey God’s word himself first before taking it to the people.
And this is something we need to do as well. We tend to be effective at quoting scripture to others. We know just the chapter and verse of scripture that our children or our spouse or our boss or our pastor or whomever needs. We are good at rebuking the sins of others—scripturally—but maybe not as good at receiving God’s word ourselves. God calls us to really internalize and see how we need to apply scripture and obey it ourselves before we start speaking prophetically to others. As a teacher of God’s word, this is an important thing for me to do and never forget. Before I call anyone else to faith and obedience, I need to apply God’s word to myself, repenting where I need to and changing my actions accordingly. This is how each of us should live—eat the scroll ourselves first before we pass on its message to others.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.