The Lord is There
Jewish exiles in Babylon sit alongside the River Chebar weeping. As I’ve touched on previously, their captors demanded a song of Zion (Ps. 37:3). Grief stricken, they lament,
“Oh! How can we sing the song of the Lord, in this unrecognizable land? (Ps. 137:4, personal translation).
For all their singing and performance before the Lord and the people in Jerusalem, these Levitical singers could not see past their condition and circumstance in exile. Overcome by captivity, they hang their harps among the willows, unable to raise their voice in praise, remembrance, or hope (Ps. 137:1-2).
What could have happened had they raised their voices? If they praised in their circumstance?
Ezekiel answers this question.
In Ezekiel 1:1, we find him, this cohen (priest), sitting “among the exiles by the river Chebar.” While the singers wept and mourned, the heavens were opened to Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1).
From that same place, rather than joining with mourning singers, Ezekiel has visions of God Himself; and a vision of heavenly creatures that confound even today (Ezek. 1:4-28). We leave that vision for another time, and move on to the purpose.
Ezekiel would prophesy not only of the woes leading to exile, but also of the journey to restoration. His vision would take him from the presence of those weeping in captivity, to the purification of judgment, to the joy of deliverance.
Understand, Ezekiel had a far less pleasant experience than those who sat and mourned – even in obedience. It would have been far more desirable to sit, mourn, and do nothing, than to lie down for 390 days for Israel, and 40 days for Judah, respectively, eat filthy bread, and shave the outward sign of righteousness and wisdom, your beard.
The early record of Ezekiel’s call is absurd from a human perspective; but the absurdity of those early God ordained maneuvers makes way for the message of cleansing and restoration (Ezek. 36:25-27), and resurrection of the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:1-14; cf. Ro. 11:15).
While the singers were focused on their circumstance, Ezekiel was focused on the Lord. He was faith-ing in the direction of the unseen Lord, looking past the circumstance, to see hope realized (Heb. 11:1).
At the beginning of his call, Ezekiel was sitting beside the River Chebar, in exile; but at the end of his vision he saw the River of Life flowing (Ezek. 47:1), from a city called, “Adonai shamah,” “the Lord is there,” (Ezek. 48:35).
Not much changed in Ezekiel’s circumstance during his life, but he did not hang his harp and give up. He kept the Lord at the center of his view, and the Lord allowed him to see the same city hoped for by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all who came before, and those of us still waiting (Heb. 11:10).
Whatever your exile might be, whatever the river you sit beside, raise your voice, not with the mourners, but with the heavenly choir singing His praise; and heaven will ever be before you.
“Adonai shamah,” “the Lord is there!”
Be well. Shalom.