“In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day 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, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the Lord was upon him there.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Ezekiel is a wild book. Of all of the prophets, much of his work has always been some of the hardest to understand for me. With that in mind, these first three verses are really important. You see, as wild as some of Ezekiel’s visions were (and as you read the rest of this chapter, they start out pretty wild), they really happened to him. They may have stretched the limits of what he was able to mentally process, much less try and explain to someone else, but there was a clear and firm historical context to them.
Many ancient prophets sought to be timeless in their prophecy. They didn’t offer any kind of historical situated-ness such that they could be taken as almost ahistorical in their message. That was not the case with God’s prophets. Indeed, our God operates within the bounds of time. He is greater than time itself and is infinite in His being, but once He created time and put us in it, He has interacted with us from within that framework; voluntarily limiting Himself so our interactions with Him can be more meaningful. He speaks to us at certain times and for certain reasons. This was the case for Ezekiel.
Ezekiel received his initial vision from God on a certain day. With a bit of math and historical work, we could just about pin down the exact day of the week on which this happened. An author doesn’t do that unless he is confident in what he has to say for it invites skeptics to question the veracity of his testimony in a more direct way than not including such details does.
This means two things for us. First, while we may wrestle with what Ezekiel sees to the point of not understanding it at all, we need to take it seriously. The prophet believed in it enough to give us the exact time and day he received this message. The least we can do is pay close attention to what He has to say.
Second, God still operates within the scope of history today. If He comes to you with an invitation to action, He’s not calling you to do it someday. He’s calling you to do it then. Don’t put Him off. Just as you could pay attention to what Ezekiel said, pay attention to what God says. His message was important to Ezekiel, it will be important for you too.