“You see, but you do not observe.”
This quote by Sherlock Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia” could easily have been spoken by Ezekiel. Today’s reading uses some form of the word “see” fourteen times—more than any other two chapters in the entire book of Ezekiel.
First, God gives His prophet a clear-eyed vision of what’s really going on (Ezekiel 8:1–4). In ancient Israel, prophets used to be called “seers” (1Samuel 9:19), because God gave them supernatural insight into the true nature of things. What does Ezekiel see?
In the vision of Ezekiel 8–9, God enables Ezekiel to see that the consequences He is bringing upon His people are warranted. The punishment fits the crime.
Ezekiel 9 portrays a slaughterhouse of judgment. Not only had the Lord sent His people into exile in Babylon, where Ezekiel receives his vision, but He would also execute judgment on all who reject the true God—by exalting the images of false gods and by oppressing those truly made in the image of God, Ezekiel now sees why his strong prophetic words of judgment are right and just.
But, second, what Ezekiel sees is blindness. Many among God’s people don’t really see. They insist that God has abandoned them (Ezekiel 8:12,9:9). And while God is in the process of removing His presence from the land, the people were wrong to conclude that some judgment meant complete abandonment. God’s people were blind to the truth that when God brings judgment, it’s meant to provoke repentance.
Yet, sadly, the pressure God brings into the lives of His people only reveals what is truly in their hearts. Under the blazing sun of judgment, the hearts of God’s people do not melt like wax, but harden like clay. Ezekiel sees it all, but the people do not—except for a few.
When is the last time you saw sin for what it really is—that which belittles God and hurts those made in His image? Are you blind to these realities in the world around you? Are you blind to these tendencies in your home or in your own heart? Do you see and observe the glory of God in hard times? This season of Lent offers us an opportunity to reflect on the condition of our hearts to receive the mercy of God offered even in the midst of discipline.
Do you see and observe?