October 1, 2015

The real world

Ezekiel 1:1–3:15, Revelation 1:1–20, Job 32:1–10

The last two days brought emotional extremes. Tuesday I learned that my heart problem for the past several years has amazingly healed. My heart is functioning normally! With excitement we planned a celebration dinner and invited our son. A few hours before the dinner a neighbor came and told me that our next door neighbor had been hit by a car and was killed instantly. Tears flowed. Then we went to dinner. Our son told us of a tragic situation in the life of someone all of us care about. More tears flowed. Our meal was good, as was most of the conversation, yet all of this has narrowed my world.

Today’s Scripture readings are a timely look at visions from God to His prophets. They take my mind to what is actual and a much larger view than the images and memories of the past two days. The Old Testament vision was given to Ezekiel, also during tragic times:

“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.” (Ezekiel 1:1) Since the Bible says no one can see God and live, these were visions like God, not actually God Himself. It was a view that put the prophet on his face: “Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.’ And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” (Ezekiel 1:28–2:2)

As I read, I could see parallels between what Ezekiel saw and the book of Revelation in the NT. Ezekiel fell on his face, as John the writer of Revelation also did. Ezekiel was given a scroll, as was John later in Revelation.

Both men were allowed to see what would happen in the future and their description of what they saw was mind-boggling and difficult to describe. Both of them used many metaphors in an attempt to write the vision, most of which was “lamentation and mourning and woe.”

John described his experience as a “revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” He said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches . . . .” (Revelation 1:10–11)

Then he saw Jesus and said, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last . . . .” (Revelation 1:17)

At this, my thoughts were lifted from my current emotional highs and lows to the throne of God. When Jesus comes, none of it will matter. He will wipe away all tears and make all things right.

In the meantime, I must deal with those highs and lows. As my son said, the joy of my medical news was offset by two tragedies, but “at least your heart can now handle it.” We smiled, but I think of another reality. In this life there are tough issues, but even in them, there is a sustaining sense of the joy that is to come. Those three things illustrate the amazing power of grace, as did the calm that remained even in those highs and lows.

And Job’s story fits in here too. He had heard the berating of his ‘friends’ and now a younger man stepped into it. Out of respect for the older men, he’d held his tongue, but he “burned with anger.” (Job 32:4–5) He said, “It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right . . . Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.” (Job 32:8–10)

Part of the tragedy of life is being mocked and misunderstood, of trusting God and being accused of wickedness, of being in pain and having that pain disregarded by ‘friends’ who are more concerned that your theology matched theirs. These are real pains also.

However, these prophets wrote truth about what others could not see. John and Ezekiel call me beyond the stuff of this life to something greater, something unknown yet I know it. They urge me to remember that time is running out. It will not be long until Jesus comes again.

God doesn’t want me to focus on my pain, or my joys, or even the rightness of my theology. He takes me beyond what other people think to His grand plan of redemption. I may not yet comprehend all of it, but I do know that God works all things together for my good that I might be transformed into the image of His Son. And one day, I will also see Jesus, not in a vision but in the fullness of His glory. That prospect levels the highs and lows into a stabilizing and yet exciting reality. No matter where my emotions are going, He is going to consummate His relationship with me in a glorious eternity. 

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