As we continue on in the series of post on God Encounters, I want you to first remember the most important God encounter is where we encounter God and understand salvation that comes through Christ. After that there are other encounters we can have with God where he shows us things like direction in life or seeing Him in fresh and new ways. God encounters are where we have an overwhelming sense of the presence and power of God in our lives and they happen when we have an open heart and attitude toward God.
So far in these posts we have looked at two encounters – the first was Jacob and Jacob had trouble on every side and he was a manipulator and one who was fearful but God changed him. God changed his heart and God even changed his name. God encountered Jacob and Jacob held on to God until God made him let go by knocking his hip out of joint! Jacob gladly left that encounter with God with a limp that reminded Him of who God was and how great God was! The other person we looked was Elijah who had great a victory – he defeated over 400 prophets of Baal – but quickly after that victory Elijah turned into a man who is discouraged, thinks he is all alone and who is running for his life. God encounters Elijah not in a strong wind, or an earthquake, or in fire but in a gentle breeze and with a still small voice. In that encounter God gives Elijah a job to do. He was to anoint two men as kings of nations and anoint the one to take his place. God forced Elijah to look forward to the future with the job He gave him and that is how God dealt with Elijah’s discouragement. Elijah’s encounter with God changed him and helped him out of his discouragement.
This week we will look at Ezekiel and his encounters with God through visions and some of the apparent crazy things that God asked him to do. The first thing we need to do is get to know something about Ezekiel. Here is what we know about Ezekiel. He was a priest and he belonged to the family of Zadok, who was a famous priest. Ezekiel was taken into exile and taken to Babylon. He lived with other exiles at the river called Chebar. His wife died in the 9th year of his exile. Ezekiel lived at the same time as Jeremiah the prophet, but Ezekiel does not mention Jeremiah. Jeremiah was still in Judah while Ezekiel was with the exiles, but Jeremiah still plays a part in Ezekiel’s life as we will see later.
The book of Ezekiel is full of personal experiences where Ezekiel encounters God and God asks him to do things that would look foolish to the rest of the world. Here are some other things that seem pretty crazy that God told Ezekiel to do – for instance in Chapter 4:4-8 you can see that God told Ezekiel to lie on his left side for 390 days then to lay on his right side for 40 days as a sign to Israel of the siege of Jerusalem. Later in Ezekiel 4 God put a limit on Ezekiel’s food and drink during that period and told him to cook his food over human excrement and Ezekiel obeyed and again is was a sign to Israel about eating defiled food. In chapter 5 God calls on Ezekiel had to shave his head and his beard and divide the hair up and burn part of it and again it is all done as a sign to Israel. In chapter 24 God did not permit Ezekiel to be sad at the death of his wife and then takes Ezekiel’s use of speech away. These are just some of the thing that happen with Ezekiel’s encounters with God and you might wonder why? It comes down to this, God intended Ezekiel to give a message to Israel by means of the experiences in his life. God uses our obedient experiences in the lives of others.
If you want to get an idea of Ezekiel and his call click here and read at least the first three chapters. If you read these chapters you will see that the call on Ezekiel’s life is a tough one because he is called to go to a defiant and obstinate Israel. When you read this you will see why when God asked him to do things that seemed crazy that he obeyed him fully. He had encountered God in a very real and personal way that was life changing for him.
You might say this is all well and good but difference does this make in my life today? Let me share a couple of areas this will make a difference in: the first is that an encounter with God can come after our dreams fail and we do not know what to do. The Jewish captives were exiles in a foreign land. Most of us do not understand the experiences of the exiles and we do not have the experience of being a prisoner. God’s people were living in Babylon and there was no kosher food, nothing that resembled the comfortable surroundings of their home and really all they wanted to do was to go home.
In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah writes a letter to those in exile and in and in that letter the exiles are given news that their dreams of going home were not going to happen. The letter from Jeremiah told them that they should build houses and settle down and have families because it would be 70 years before they could go home which meant that most of them would die there. It was in this disillusionment that Ezekiel encountered God and learned what it was like to be a prophet to Israel. Ezekiel as a prophet gives both a message of judgment as we have heard and a message of hope at the end of the book. It is in this encounter that Ezekiel gets are fresh dream or a fresh direction – a dream and direction that would replace the one that died when he realized he would not make it back home.
God can encounter you in the midst of your dreams that seem to have failed and give you a new dream and a new direction. Do you have a dream that has failed or died? God wants to give you a new dream and new direction but you need to have an open heart and open attitude so that He encounter you and give it to you. You also need to be receptive of the new dream but the problem is this – we do not like to change and so a new dream means change. Here is the thing – we serve a God of change! He changes lives and people – it is all through the Bible.
To go along with the fact that God can give a fresh dream in an encounter he can also prepare us for an encounter with him like he did Ezekiel here. When Jeremiah’s letter came it produced gloom and pessimism and some rejected it because of what it said. Jeremiah in his letter warns against false prophets who were predicting prosperity for Israel. God used the letter from Jeremiah to prepare Ezekiel for the encounters he had. God will prepare us with what is happening around us to encounter Him. Again – are you open for an encounter with God? In life’s circumstance you can encounter God!
This then shows us that God uses political and cultural conditions to prepare us for an encounter with Him. When Nebuchadnezzar brought 10,000 Israelite captives to Babylon, he brought the best 10,000 he could find. He brought the young warriors, statesman, and spiritual leaders because they were all young and impressionable and would in the end make his country stronger because he would train them in the Chaldean ways. Ezekiel was one of these smart ones brought to learn the Chaldean ways. Here is the thing – God was using this experience to prepare Ezekiel for what it was that He had planned for his life. God used what was happening in the country to prepare Ezekiel for his encounter with Him.
God can and will use what is happening in our lives and experiences to help us to be molded into who we are to be in Him. When you are going through life – look for the opportunities that God is giving you, look for the ways that God wants to teach you, find the ways that God is pointing you. He is in the middle of all that is happening around us and He is pointing us toward His goal for each of us. Are we looking and willing to take the opportunities God provides regardless of if they are big or small? God is providing and now we need to trust Him in it.
Have you ever had a dream die and then God give a new dream or vision or passion? What dream died and what was the new dream, vision, or passion that God gave?