"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Ezekiel

You will “know that I am the Lord”

You will “know that I am the LORD”

The controlling feature of Ezekiel’s life was “the word of the LORD came to me” (forty-nine times in Ezekiel; see previous post here). It speaks of historical encounters. It occurred again and again in specific moments. By each experience, he was immediately constrained and restrained by “the word of the LORD.” It was a past event that of necessity governed and controlled his present and future moments.

But the even more frequently repeated demand that those who hear that word “will know that I am the LORD” (seventy-two times in Ezekiel) speaks of the effect the fulfillment of that word would have on those who heard Ezekiel. Each occurrence of the expression pointed to a future event. When “the word of the LORD” that came to Ezekiel (and which he then obediently spoke) came to pass, then those who heard him would “know that I am the LORD.”

That “the word of the LORD came to me” is a report of a personal encounter. It is a report of revelation given. But “will know that I am the LORD” is a divine guarantee about what will come of that revelation and those to whom it has been given. When God speaks it can’t not happen. When it does, those who heard it will later realize they missed the boat, they should have listened but didn’t.

“The word of the LORD came to me” is the moment for listening. You “will know that I am the LORD” is a moment of reckoning.

When “the word of the LORD came to” Ezekiel, he listened. When he spoke the Lord’s word to the people, they didn’t. Ezekiel already knew the Lord. His listeners didn’t. But their unwillingness to hear did not lessen the effective power of God’s word. It would come to pass and then they would come clearly to know the identity of Him who had spoken through the prophet.

There is no more wonderful moment than when God speaks His Word with Spirit-given illumination and understanding. There is no more dangerous moment than when God speaks His Word. Everything hangs in the balance.

So, again, open your Bible. Bow your head. Ask the Author of this book for light as your read. And then, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7b-8a; Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7).

The Word of the Lord

“The word of the LORD came to me.”

This expression occurs forty-nine times in Ezekiel. Elsewhere in the Bible it is found ten times in Jeremiah and only three other times. Clearly, Ezekiel’s entire life and existence was bound up under this controlling encounter. This simple, but oft-repeated line, tells us he was a man defined and controlled by revelation (“the word of …”), living under authority (“… of the LORD”), by grace (“… came to me”), and that this was profoundly personal (“… to me”) in its implications.

Revelation – Why did God use words to reveal Himself? Is this why He was so set against “images”? God set Himself before us not primarily through visions and dreams but through words. He did not have to reveal Himself at all. Yet He did. And He chose to do it through words of propositional truth and divinely guaranteed promises. This is one reason for the enduring relevance of Biblical religion. This comes to us while the prophet pronounces woe and doom and judgement over the surrounding nations (Ezek. 25ff; cf. Isaiah 13-23, Jeremiah 46-51). None of those nations exist today. Israel does. Those nations received God’s word of judgment. Israel received God’s promise.

Authority – This is not just any “word,” it is the word “of the LORD.” Yahweh, the self-existing, independent, un-contingent, eternal, covenant-making, covenant-keeping God has spoken. His voice brought into existence everything we know. Now he has addressed “me”! There has never been and never will be words like His. I must listen!

Grace – These words, Ezekiel testifies, “came to me.” They have arrived at my ear by grace, entirely by divine initiative. I did not ask for them. I didn’t seek them. I wasn’t expecting or listening for them. I did not know they existed. I didn’t think of this as a possibility. God took gracious initiative. I was going along, doing my own thing and God interrupted me, broke in on me with His “word.” I am an object of and a debtor to His gracious initiative.

Personal – and all this came “to me.” Not simply to us, but to “me.” I can’t farm out any resulting responsibility, it falls upon me. When “the word of the Lord” comes to you, you are, from that moment and by that “word,” an owned man. You have at that moment lost all personal will. You are a captive. A glad captive but a prisoner, nonetheless. You suddenly stand in light you did not know existed before that moment. You see in a way you never saw before. You have heard and can’t unhear. When “the word of the LORD” comes to you, you are from that moment gripped and held captive to that “the LORD” who has spoken. There exist no chains, shackles, zip-ties, prison walls, or contract that could hold you more securely than this “word.” You are an owned-man.

So, open your Bible. Bow your head. Ask the Author of this book for light as your read. And then, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7b-8a; Heb. 3:7, 15; 4:7).

Knowing God in Daily Life

One morning not long ago I was having my daily, personal time with God. I noticed something I found both convicting and helpful.

My Old Testament reading was in Ezekiel 21-22. As I read I began to observe an amazing contrast going on throughout Ezekiel’s prophecy.

On the one hand Ezekiel routinely speaks of his reception and transmission of God’s word to those to whom it was spoken. These expressions are found repeatedly throughout his prophecy:

  • “the word of the LORD came to me” (49x)
  • “declares the LORD” (86x)
  • “thus says the LORD” (126x)
  • “prophesy” (25x)

Ezekiel knew he had heard from God! And thus was able to confidently, authoritatively pass that word on to God’s people.

But on the other hand I ran across for the second time (cf. also 13:6-7, 10) his denunciation of others “prophets” who did not accurately hear God and transmit God’s word:

“And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken.” (Ezek. 22:28)

Clearly and frequently Ezekiel heard the word of the Lord, discerned it as such, knew he had heard Him rightly, and communicated it in God’s Name with utter confidence. Ezekiel knew when he’d heard God and when he had not. Additionally, he knew when others had not heard Him and inaccurately spoke in His Name.

How can you and I be like Ezekiel? How can we be sure not to be like the other “prophets” of his day? How has that task and responsibility changed this side of Jesus’ completed redemptive work and with a closed canon of Scripture?

I then turned to that day’s New Testament reading, which happened to be in the latter half of Hebrews 11. There I read of the great men and women of God …

“who through faith conquered … enforced … obtained … stopped … quenched … escaped … were made strong … became mighty … put … to flight … received back … were tortured … suffered … stoned … sawn in two … killed …” (Heb. 11:33-36).

They too had heard God, knew it, and acted upon it. And their faith was clear for all to see.

Obviously it is of the utmost importance to rightly hear and discern God’s voice/word. But it is equally important to act upon His voice/word! It is easy to become immobilized by introspection and equivocation and “discernment” efforts. God intends us to hear and know His voice … and act upon it in faith!

Faith moves! Faith acts! Faith does! Faith achieves! Faith receives! Faith leaves demonstrable evidence! Faith leaves footprints!

And the net of all this in Ezekiel is found in the oft repeated phrase: “then you will know that I am the LORD” (72x).

So I conclude this: God speaks that we might act that we (and others) might know Him in experience!

If we fail to rightly discern His voice, we will never know Him in experience.

If we hear and rightly discern His voice, but do not act in faith, we will never know Him in experience.

If we act with utter conviction and confidence upon what we believe to be the word/voice of God, but (despite our bluster and bravado) have not rightly heard him, we will never know Him in experience.

If we hear and rightly discern His voice and even communicate it to others, but do not act upon it in faith, we will never know Him in experience.

We can cry and wail all we want about wanting to “experience” God and know Him deeply, but unless we authentically and rightly hear His voice and then act upon it in faith, we (and those for whom we are divinely accountable) will never know God in experience.

Father, would you please enable us to leave a trail of faith-footprints through 2013. We ask this in Jesus’ Name and for your glory. Amen!


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