All of us make plans for our lives. We set our minds on a career, a goal or a direction. We take what is in front of us and begin to develop a mindset of how we believe our lives should transpire. We build a fictional world in our minds created by our desires, comfort zones, and skills. We protect this world by keeping certain people out of it and only letting certain people in it. It’s not that having a plan for our life is a bad thing. In fact, Proverbs 22:3 teaches, that we should be wise and see danger coming and prepare ourselves for it. We should have a plan for our families, churches, jobs, careers, and education. We should be diligent to make sure those avenues harmonize with the will of God.
My question to the believer is this, what if God came in and changed your plans? What if you pursued a direction in life that you prayed about and God opened the door for you, but soon after, He slammed the door shut? What if God came in and took a hammer to our fictional world we lived in and shattered it?
When the sovereign God changes our plans, those are the moments we need to learn to rest in His sovereignty. Unfortunately, these types of circumstances can have an opposite effect on believers. It can cause believers to question their faith, blame God, grow bitter and lose all stability. Often, the believer was doing right and following God, and then everything changed. The believer then begins to grow weary of doing right because all it resulted in was suffering and loss.
What should our response be when we lose all control of our lives? How should we respond when God completely changes our plans, and we do not like it? I want to take a look at the life of Ezekiel and show you four seasons that appear in the midst of change.
The Season of Disappointment
“Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” (Ezek. 1:1)
“So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.” (Ezek. 3:14)
The disappointment started for Ezekiel with his calling. The first words in the book of Ezekiel give a timeline to the events in his life. Throughout the book, it is common for Ezekiel to pen the year and month of his captivity. In this case, the 30th year and 4th month are not referring to the time of Israel’s captivity, but rather the age of Ezekiel. Most scholars agree with this assessment based on the next timeline given in (Ezek. 1:2). So this begs the question, why is Ezekiel’s age significant to his calling? The reason is because he is a priest (Ezek. 1:3) and he is now old enough to perform his priestly duties. A priest began his ministry in the temple at the age of 30 (Num. 4:3). There is just one problem with that for Ezekiel in this text; he’s a captive in a foreign land. Ezekiel was in a Providence of Babylon near the Chebar River. It is impossible to perform the duties of a priest when you are hundreds of miles away from the temple.
The outcome continues to be unfavorable for Ezekiel as the Lord reveals to him that the captivity would last 70 years. Though there was hope for Israel returning and rebuilding the temple that Babylon destroyed, Ezekiel would never get to be a part of that priestly faction. It appeared that Ezekiel had spent his entire life training for a ministry he would never get to implement. Were the first 30 years of his life training as a priest a waste of time? No, in fact, God had a better plan. I will go into those reasons more in depth later in this blog.
In the start of Chapter 1, Ezekiel is referred to as a “priest.” By Chapter 2, God stated, that He was sending Ezekiel to the rebellious nation of Israel and that they would know a “prophet” was among them. God changed Ezekiel’s plans! The nation of Israel was in desperate need of correction and repentance. They had no temple to worship or sacrifice in. Therefore, the duties of the priest were not the immediate need while in captivity. However, what Israel needed the most was the word of God. So God sent Ezekiel to be his mouthpiece to Israel and the surrounding nations.
There is no doubt that Ezekiel struggled with his new calling. In fact, he went into a season of bitterness and anger (Ezek. 3:14). Ezekiel had received new instruction from God in chapters 2 and 3 and described God’s words as “honey in sweetness” (Ezek. 3:3). By the time Ezekiel was able to “digest” all of these words, he had become bitter in his spirit. Not only did he have a hard time with what God revealed to him, but also his new ministry was less desirable. Who would want to be a prophet to a rebellious people? It is a human reaction to respond to change in anger, especially when the changes are not a part of our plans. A believer will struggle with change, but God can move their heart to comply (which we will deal with in the next section).
The Season of Healing
“…and the hand of the LORD was upon him there.” (Ezek. 1:3)
“…but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.”(Ezek. 3:14)
After any significant disappointment in life, there is always a season of healing. It took seven days for Ezekiel to process his new calling and direction (Ezek. 3:15). The number seven is commonly used as the number of completion in scripture. The time of struggling through God’s will was now over, and it was time to get to work. But what was it that motivated Ezekiel’s heart to adjust and move forward? How did he get out of the state of bitterness and anger? The answer can be seen all through this book.
While sitting among the captives at the River Chebar, the hand of the Lord came upon him. God came to Ezekiel to reveal His new plans for the future. Along with the intentions of God, came the presence of God. Interestingly enough, the highlight of a priest working in the temple, was that they were able to experience the presence of God from the Holy of Holies. In this text, God chooses to reveal His presence differently to comfort Ezekiel. God revealed His presence to Ezekiel by placing His hand on him. The truth is God will not lead us where His hand will not bless us. If God calls us to a new path, we are guaranteed to find his presence and healing there.
When Ezekiel was struggling with bitterness and anger in his spirit, it was the hand of God that persevered his heart through it (Ezek. 3:14). The verse stated that the hand of the Lord was “strong” upon him. If we are expected to change paths, it will not take place by mere willpower and desire. It takes the grace of God to adjust our hearts to change. It involves the hand of God reaching into our anxious hearts to guide us to the path of healing. No believer will find healing apart from clinging to God and embracing His will.
During the seven days of grieving, Ezekiel did not hear from the Lord until after those days were complete (Ezek. 3:16). Sometimes God reveals to us His new plan and then goes silent for a time to let it all process. However, He never leaves us to deal with it alone. He places His sovereign hand over our lives and guides us to where we need to be. All through the rest of this book, the hand of the Lord remained on Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:3; 3:14; 3:22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1).
Here is a question I would like to pose for all of us: Would we rather have our plans changed while having the hand of God in our lives everywhere we go? Or would we rather keep our plans and continue living life the way we want, but lose the hand of God in our lives?
The Season of Persevering
“And He said to me: Son of man, I am sending you…” (Ezek. 2:3)
In the previous section, we dealt with the persevering hand of God, strongly moving the heart of Ezekiel through his bitterness and anger. Although that is a start in the right direction, man must also cooperate with God. Ezekiel was called by God to minister to a rebellious people. This call was not desirable nor was he guaranteed a life of happiness and fame. Ezekiel was asked to do more of the unique yet intriguing tasks any prophet had ever been asked to do. Here is just a few examples: Ezekiel had to sleep on his left side for 390 days and his right side 40 days (Ezek. 4:4-8). Ezekiel had to shave his head and beard (Ezek. 5:1-4). Ezekiel could not cry at the death of his wife (Ezek. 24:15-24). There were over 13 tasks that God had asked of Ezekiel to perform to reveal His message to Israel. After each mission, Ezekiel obeyed God and followed through with the new plan.
The more Ezekiel obeyed the direction of God, the more understanding he received. The best way to heal emotionally and spiritually is to keep your eyes on the Lord and follow His instructions. The closer we get to the Lord, the greater the healing. It is an impossible task to draw near to God while living a life opposite of where God called us. Ezekiel followed the Lord at all cost regardless of how comfortable or convenient it appeared. I believe that is what God wants to see from His children, radical obedience. He wants His children to be ignited by His Spirit to persevere through the struggle but selling out to Him in complete faith and obedience.
This season of perseverance will eventually continue past a “season” and become a lifestyle of surrender. The path is never guaranteed to get easier, but your walk with God is guaranteed to be sweeter. The path is difficult, but the reward is great. Life is too short to waste away on ourselves. If God calls us to a new direction, He has an eternal perspective in mind. Whereas, our way of thinking is based on the here and now.
The Season of Understanding
…Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.” (Ezek. 40:4)
It is uncommon for God to reveal to us His master plan in the moments of transition. In fact, it was almost 20 years later before Ezekiel began to see why God changed his direction. However, it is true in some circumstances that the Lord will wait until Heaven to reveal the “why.” On the other hand, God in His timing does reveal the “why” to Ezekiel. He was given a vision in Chapter 40 of a future temple that was much greater than Solomon’s Temple. God showed him the eastern gate, the outer court, northern gate, southern gate, preparation chambers for sacrifices, chambers for the singers and priests, inner courts, sanctuary, side chambers, western end, measurements for the temple, altar, and dwelling place of God. The prophecies from Chapters 40-48 are all prophetic of the future Messianic Kingdom.
The amazing part of this vision God allowed Ezekiel to have is that he would have never been able to understand the significance of these prophecies had he not spent almost 30 years training as a priest. His understanding of the ceremonial law and priestly duties opened up the prophecy of the future Kingdom of Messiah that much more. At the beginning of this book, it seemed like his first 30 years were a waste of time. By the end of this book, those years of his life made him a completed prophet in the end. Because God changed Ezekiel’s plans, His ministry was complete. We to this day can appreciate the writings and ministry of Ezekiel. God is sovereign. He has a master plan. Trust Him throughout the changes He makes. Each season has its ups and downs, but God remains the same.
Edited by Caroline Foster