In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the River Kebar, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1
Whoa! Visions of God? I told you this was going to be interesting!
On the fifth of the month – it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin – the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the River Kebar in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was on him. Ezekiel 1:2-3
So Ezekiel had been a priest. His job had been to communicate with God on behalf of the people. But that had been in his past life. A life that had long gone. He had been uprooted and dispossessed. Now he was adrift in a foreign land. He must have waited and waited, wondering if God could even be God in a place like this. Ezekiel had none of the traditions and rituals and holy places any more. Maybe he had no idea how to communicate with God without any of those. Maybe he didn’t even believe it was possible.
And then after five years – five years! – the word of the Lord comes to him. Five long years. God had been there all along, whether Ezekiel knew it or not. That’s quite a test of faith – who knows what was going on in Ezekiel’s mind and heart and life after five years without the framework of his religion that he had come to rely on? And yet all that time, the hand of the Lord was on him. Because God never abandons anyone. Ever.
We talk about places being ‘God-forsaken’ – places of atrocity and cruelty and inhumanity where God cannot be present. And yet He is. We talk about ‘hell on earth’ – situations where evil and hatred run riot. And yet God is there.
I’ve talked before about that blessing that our minister in Colchester used to say that went along the lines of ‘Go out into the world and discover the God who is with you and is there to greet you.’ Something like that. It was better than that. But let’s not ever talk about taking God into the world. He is already there. He doesn’t need ‘taking’ anywhere. He got to that seemingly Godforsaken place long before you or I did.
Yes, I know there are times where we feel abandoned and isolated and forgotten and forsaken. And yet God promises to never leave us or forsake us. That’s the reality, whether we can feel it right now or not.
Emmanuel – God is with us.