Several years ago, my mother-in-law shared with my wife that she had started eating something called Ezekiel Bread. After explaining its many health benefits, she said, “And it’s even in the Bible!” (We were fairly new Christians at the time, and my mother-in-law was trying to be supportive.) To this, my wife said, “Oh, interesting,” and then looked up the bread in the book of Ezekiel—where she read about how he baked it. Needless to say, after hearing that, I’m pretty sure my mother-in-law never ate it again.
Around that same time, I was in the Christian Books section of my local bookstore, talking to an associate. He mentioned that he was a Christian, and then shared (completely unprompted, mind you) his belief that Ezekiel was obviously describing UFOs and aliens in his visions. I am not exaggerating, not even a little.
All this to say, the prophet Ezekiel incites a response from people. Too often, people think they’re supposed to focus on the hard-for-us-to-understand imagery in his prophecies, spending potentially far too much time trying to determine what the many-wheeled, many-eyed, and many-winged creatures really are. And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to understand the imagery, we should be careful to not get so hung up on it that we miss that Ezekiel’s message was meant to be understood.
God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what you find here. Eat this scroll, then go and speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:1). The Lord instructed the prophet to warn the Israelites that they had become “rebellious pagans” (2:3). God’s rebuke was to be given, regardless of whether or not the Israelites would listen and receive it (2:7; 3:11). With words and actions, Ezekiel then warned the people of God’s coming judgment, and what they would experience when Israel was taken away by the Assyrians into captivity (12:1–6).
And even though they didn’t listen, Ezekiel did as God commanded. He spoke a message offering forgiveness and restoration, a plea from God for Israel to turn from her wicked ways and trust in Him. He called them to reject the sin that had ensnared them as a people for generations.
This is what is so easy for us to miss when we spend our time focusing on the weirder parts of the book, or trying to apply them in ways they were never meant to be applied. What seems strange to us can easily distract us, or even cause us avoid this book altogether. But this book is really good for us! I know I need it, as it shows me just how much I need Jesus. Apart from Christ, I know I am just as wicked and rebellious as any of the Israelites to whom Ezekiel spoke. I know that I would gleefully still be thumbing my nose at my Creator, had Jesus not saved me. And whether or not I listen to it, whether or not I pay attention, this book is still good news, “sweet as honey in my mouth” (Ezekiel 3:3).
Written by Aaron Armstrong