“The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.”
(Ezekiel 3:14-15 ESV)
Have you ever looked around you and just felt overwhelmed? Have you ever just been depressed by what is going on around you? Ezekiel, the 6th century BC prophet about whom we read in the book bearing his name, was overwhelmed.
In his first vision, his initial call to prophecy, to ministry, Ezekiel is lifted up by the Holy Spirit and carried to “the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal.” Time for a confession – I have no idea what Tel-abib is or where the Chebar canal is, but that’s not the point. The point is that God called Ezekiel to prophecy against a people who “will not being willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” What can we know for certain about people who are hard-headed, hard-hearted, and don’t listen to God? Their lives are saturated with sin.
So Ezekiel was called by God and was lifted up and carried away into the midst of people whose lives were saturated with sin. “And (he) sat there overwhelmed among them for seven days.”
I can certainly empathize with Ezekiel. I often feel overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed by the sheer massive proportions of all the things going on around me – the people, the places, the planets…it’s all just too big for me to wrap my mind around. I feel overwhelmed by the seeming absence of God in so much of what is going on. Why won’t you just show up, God? Why won’t you end the violence in the Middle East? Why won’t you save the lives of the millions of unborn human beings who have been and will continue to be murdered? Why won’t you fix all of the little problems in my life? I feel overwhelmed by the sin that takes place around me constantly. I feel overwhelmed by the repulsive language that I hear every time I go to a ball game and by the increasing animosity in our culture towards anyone who thinks that a homosexual relationship is not God’s design for romance or marriage and by the fraternity and sorority scene that owns college campuses across our country, putting immense pressure on young people to give their lives to the party. This must be how Ezekiel felt.
But something clicked as I read chapter 3 of Ezekiel: Maybe this is the start of all prophetic work. Maybe this is the beginning of all change. Maybe, just maybe, until we are overwhelmed by what is taking place around us, we will be completely useless for the Kingdom and the Glory of God.