Knowing God in the School of Hard Knocks
Have you ever read the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel? It’s an experience you won’t soon forget if you do!
Right out of the gate in chapter 1 there is one of the most fantastic depictions of the throne room of God you will read anywhere in scripture. Whirling wheels and flashes of lightening and beasts that have the face of a man and the face of animals – heightened images of Heaven’s glory and the angelic hosts attending to the throne of God. Ezekiel’s response is one of immediate humility as he falls to his face before the glory of God.
In chapter 2, God begins to describe to Ezekiel the challenging prophetic ministry to which he is called. God tells Ezekiel that he is going to a hard headed and stubborn nation of rebels who do not know the LORD. There is no doubt Ezekiel knows the LORD. After all, he has been in the presence of the glory of God and sensed the weight of His majesty.
The people of Israel, however, have not been in the presence of the LORD and have forgotten God. They have learned to value other things and other “competing” deities. The people of Israel needed a reminder that the One who created them and called them into relationship with Himself still lives, still is in charge, and is still the One they are to worship.
The problem was that the people of God had not been listening to the warnings of the prophets. So, God was going to speak to them in a way that would cause them to know that He is the LORD.
The way that God was going to speak to His people, according to Ezekiel, was through horrific judgments that are sickening even to read about (Things like fathers eating sons and sons eating fathers due to the starvation of those who are in the city – cut off from the rest of the world – their food supply chain gone because of the siege of the enemy seeking their demise). In chapters 5-6, God declares at least five times something like the following, “And they shall know that I am the LORD.”
Hardheaded people of God! Why wouldn’t these rebel people listen? Why did they insist on idol worship and self-centered living? Why did they turn away from God forgetting that He is the LORD?
And then I think of myself. How often I need to be reminded that all this talk about God is not just theory. It’s not just theology rising up from the surface of the pages of the Word of God. God actually is the LORD! He really is in charge! I really can know Him through Jesus and trust Him. I really can be in fellowship with Him as I learn to abide in the greatest expression of God given to mankind, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What was the problem in Ezekiel’s day? The people of God had forgotten the value of knowing the LORD. The lure of life, other voices in the pagan culture, and their own sinful hearts had led them away from fellowship the Almighty. They had forgotten God. They needed to be reminded of His glory and majesty. I often need this same reminder.
With this in mind, I appreciate the words of the New Testament apostle Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).