27 June 2011

"The spirit lifted me up and bore me away; I went in bitterness in the hear of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me." (v. 14)


The context is a terrible time in the history of Israel: the people have been caught up in the rise and fall of empires, their problems exacerbated by their leaders who have switched sides multiple times and now Ezekiel, a priest, is part of a refugee community in Babylon.

As for this prophetic book, "Ezekiel is at point after point like other prophets, only more so" claims John Goldingay (professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, and former principal at St John's College, Nottingham). This passage illustrates this through the way the visionary experience is retold almost in 'high definition'. Verse 14 is one of seven occasions in which the prophet is "taken by the scruff of the neck, whisked from place to place, bowled over and jerked to his feet" (Goldingay again).

So we have a powerful vision in which Ezekiel is called to be a watchman for the people of Israel, with consequences for him if he does not warn the people and for them if they do not respond.

Bearing all that in mind it does not surprise me that when the Spirit lifts him up and takes him away, his feelings are not exactly positive (verse 14). How often do we look at what is happening in the world, to the troubles and persecutions suffered by ordinary people and feel bitterness and anger? Perhaps we also feel bitterness and anger when we consider the tasks we face today to live and proclaim the gospel in what seems to be a Godless society? If the Spirit were to lift you up today, how would you be feeling when you came to the Lord?

Is the frustration that we so often feel because we don't know what to do or say or because we don't want to do or say what we believe we are being called to by God?

If Ezekiel is the 'even more so prophet' then what might we learn from him for today? Where are our 'high definition' visionary experiences? What about the occasions in which we are lifted by the Spirit?

To Ponder

How do you feel about the world today? In what ways do you relate to Ezekiel's feelings?

In this passage Ezekiel was called to be a watchman, how do you understand God calling you today?

Ezekiel was lifted up by the Spirit and borne away. How do you feel about the possibility of the Spirit acting in your life?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dave Warnock

  • Sign up for e-newslettersKeep in touch with what interests you