Proverbs 16:99 The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
When you envision your future, you don't envision yourself, or someone you love battling cancer. You don't imagine burying a child lost too early in a car accident. Your plans don't include bankruptcy and the loss of your job, or home. These are not the things that we see when we look forward into our days. We picture our families intact, prospering, and growing, healthy and happy. We see the future as a breeze and imagine the best for our children and ourselves. Oh yes, we tell ourselves that we are aware these things can happen, but inside we doubt they will ever happen to us.
Our Sunday School lesson this morning was taken from a scripture in Ezekiel. Now, I have to admit that I haven't read a lot in Ezekiel. The visions he shared were always so strange and hard to understand that I had a hard time comprehending it, and the book starts right out with those, so yes, my study of it hasn't been as in depth as other books. But when I read the lesson, and the scripture I was intrigued, and dug a little further on my own.
As a young man, Ezekiel was raised and trained to become a priest in God's temple in Jerusalem. He was just about to begin that when Jerusalem was taken in a siege, and he along with others of Israel's best and brightest were carried off into captivity to Babylon. He was given relative freedom in Babylon, but was a captive none the less, and his life was turned upside down and inside out from what he had been raised and trained to do. All his plans for his future were completely annihilated.
The Bible doesn't tell us what Ezekiel's response to this was. It doesn't tell us if he suffered from severe depression and sorrow, or went into a slump where he couldn't get out of bed, and it doesn't tell us, how long all that lasted, if it happened at all. It does tell us that he saw visions of heaven. That God spoke to him, and basically said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Look at this, read it, eat it, make it a part of you, and get up and go tell everyone what you have seen, heard and read!" and he did!
After reading what I did, I realized that when life has thrown me curve balls, and completely upended my "plans", my initial reaction and response wasn't immediate obedience to God, and a willingness to do what He wanted me to do in that particular circumstance, but usually one of mourning and great sorrow, and self-pity, and even a little wallowing, there, I admitted it. AND I have to admit, that after I finally began to get sick of all that, and looked around, God was patiently waiting for me, and took my hand and we moved on. The point is, that THAT behavior and the circumstances that I chose to dwell on, if Ezekiel experienced them, apparently weren't noteworthy enough to even get a mention in scripture.
The commentary said Ezekiel was open and listening to God, and when he was told what to do, he immediately went and did it. Now this was a guy, that had been schooled in the scriptures, and knew them backward and forward (to say it was required reading is an understatement). His knowledge of God was extensive from years of preparation to prepare him to serve in the temple. And even though he didn't get to serve God in the temple in Jerusalem, and make the sacrifices, and enter the Holy of Holies, God still appeared to him, in a foreign place and spoke to him, and used his life in the lives of others.
As I read, I made some notes. There is a lot there I need to chew on, and remember.
- Know God's word, and what it says. Ezekiel framed everything that he saw and that was happening to him in the framework of what he knew through the scriptures.
- Be obedient. Ezekiel was already in the habit of regular worship, and sacrifice, and being obedient to doing what God wanted and even though he didn't completely understand, he followed God's instructions.
- God isn't confined by MY circumstances and location. He saw firsthand that God wasn't confined to a temple in Jerusalem, God was with him, no matter where he was.
- Share it! Through obedience, he could be a voice to exhort and encourage this brothers in captivity of God's faithfulness to them and love for them if they turned from sin, and followed Him.