“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).