Day 25 Ezekiel 1 ... Prophet in Exile

About the same time that Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Obadiah were prophesying in Judah, a man named Ezekiel received a dramatic call to minister to their unfortunate countrymen in exile. The Babylonian army had been pillaging Judah for twenty years before the fall of Jerusalem, and Ezekiel was among the first wave of captives taken to Babylon, nearly 500 miles away. He lived with the Israelites in a refugee settlement beside a river.

Like refugees everywhere, those in Babylon longed for nothing more than a chance to return to their homeland. They received letters of advice and comfort from the prophet Jeremiah. They cringed at reports of rebellion by Judah's kings, fearful that any rebellion might arouse the wrath of Babylon. They wondered anxiously whether their beleaugered nation could survive. Would the Babylonians lose patience and destroy the holy city of Jerusalem? Would God possibly allow such a thing?

An uprooted, dispirited people such as these needed a strong, authoritative voice, and in Ezekiel they got exactly that. As a young man in training for the priesthood, he had found his career plans interrupted by the foreign deportations. What good was a priest in Babylon when the temple was in Jerusalem? Chapter 1 records how God summoned Ezekiel to a new role, as prophet to the Jews in exile.

Ezekiel begins with a description so unearthly that some have suggested the prophet saw a UFO. Indeed, there are some similarities: glowing lights, quick movements, inhuman figures. But, there are differences, too, in this account of a "close encounter," this majestic being was not mysteriously rushing off to disappear. He wanted to be known by everyone. And he had chosen the prophet Ezekiel as the one privileged to make him known.

Confronted with such splendor, Ezekiel fell on his face. But the spirit of God raised him to his feet and gave him an assignment. After that vision, Ezekiel would never again wonder about a question that often bothered the other refugees: Had God abandoned them? Ezekiel's encounter of the closest kind convinced him permanently that God still cared about his people - even the exiles in Babylon.

Point to Ponder: Have you ever felt "abandoned" by God? What helped you feel less so?