We study the calling of prophets that we have learned of. Are you called?
Ezekiel’s Call to Be a Prophet (Ezekiel 1-17)
Produced by TOW Project
Let us begin, as the Book of Ezekiel does, with God’s call to Ezekiel to become a prophet. When we meet Ezekiel, as a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi, he is by profession a priest (Ezek. 1:2). As such, his day-to-day work had previously lain in slaughtering, butchering and roasting the sacrificial animals brought by worshipers to the temple in Jerusalem. As a priest, he also served as a moral and spiritual guide to the people, teaching them God’s law and adjudicating disputes (Leviticus 10:11, Deuteronomy 17:8-10, 33:10).
However, his priesthood had been violently interrupted when he was taken as a captive to Babylon in the first deportation of Jews from Jerusalem in 605 B.C. In Babylon, the Jewish community of exile was preoccupied with two questions: “Has God been unjust to us?” and “What did we do to deserve this?” The desolation of these exiled Jews is captured well in Psalm 137:1-4: “By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How could we sing The Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
In exile in Babylon, Ezekiel receives a dramatic call from God. Like Isaiah’s call (Isaiah 6:1-8), Ezekiel’s begins with a vision of God (Ezek. 1:4-2:8) and concludes with God’s command to become a prophet. Direct calls to a particular kind of work are rare in the Bible, and Ezekiel’s is one of the most dramatic. Although Ezekiel’s original profession was the priesthood, God called him to a prophetic career that was primarily political, not religious. It is fitting that the vision in which he received his call includes political symbols such as chariot wheels (Ezek. 1:16), an army (Ezek. 1:24), a throne (Ezek. 1:26) and a sentinel (Ezek. 3:16), but no religious symbols. Ezekiel’s call should dispel any notion that calls from God are generally calls away from secular professions and into church ministry.
Ezekiel’s prophetic career begins in Babylonian exile eleven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. His first charge from God is to refute the empty promises of false prophets who were assuring the exiles that Babylon would be defeated and they would soon go home. In the opening chapters of the book, Ezekiel is shown a series of visions depicting the horrors of the siege of Jerusalem and then the slaughter in the capture of the city.
The Call of Isaiah
“One of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for’” (vv. 6–7).
– Isaiah 6:1-7
Isaiah 6:1–7 is undoubtedly one of the most famous passages in the prophet’s book, having laid out the problem of Judah’s uncleanness in chapters 1–5, Isaiah now provides the solution as he concludes the introduction to his work.
The passage is an account of Isaiah’s call to ministry, wherein the prophet served as a kind of representative for all of God’s people. Isaiah’s encounter with God was an example to the ancient Judahites, for if even one of the holiest men in the nation needed pardon and cleansing! (vv. 4–7), how much more did the common people need the same?
This example is mirrored by Jesus’ example! In speaking with Scribes and Pharisees; the supposed ‘holy’ men in the temple. When brought a woman who was caught committing adultery – they looked to corner Him and quoted the Mosaic law, that instructed that such be stoned to death as just punishment for the disobedience to the Mosaic law! Jesus ignored them at first, but with their continued petering seeking to judge Him! Jesus said simply “he who is among you without sin, let HIM be the first to cast a stone…” we can read that ALL left without casting a single stone.
So many things come to mind! There is none without sin! It would take eons to discuss sin!
To briefly and succinctly describe it – Sin?
We live in a culture where the concept of sin has become entangled in legalistic arguments over right and wrong. When many of us consider “What is sin?” we think of violations of the Ten Commandments. Even then, we tend to think of murder and adultery as “major” sins compared with lying, cursing, or idolatry.
The truth is that sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” The mark, in this case, is the standard of perfection established by God and evidenced by Jesus. Viewed in that light, it is clear that we are all sinners.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In light of this, it does no good to compare ourselves to others. We cannot escape our failure to be righteous in our own strength. This is by God’s design, because only when we understand our weakness will we consider relying on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
What Is Sin – A Biblical Perspective
Sin is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, starting with the “original” sin when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge. Often it seems as if sin is simply the violation of any of God’s laws, including the Ten Commandments.
Paul, however, puts this in perspective in Romans 3:20, when he says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
God wanted us to recognize our sins. Even those who have not murdered or committed adultery will find themselves convicted of lying, or of worshipping false idols like wealth or power ahead of God.
Tragically, sin in any amount will distance us from God.
“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear,” says Isaiah 59:1-2. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
We must resist the temptation to act as if we are righteous, especially by leaning on our good works.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:8-10).
What Is Sin – A Call to Repentance
The good news in all of this is that, once we recognize ourselves as sinners, we need only to repent and embrace Jesus to be forgiven. Jesus can forgive us because he died and rose again three days later in victory over sin and death.
The Apostle Paul refers to this process of recognizing sin and being responsible for it as “godly sorrow.”
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. “See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”
They needed to return to trusting in the Lord and not false gods or foreign powers, and to acknowledge their transgression. Judah could fulfill its original calling to be the light of the world (42:6) only through such cleansing, much as Isaiah was commissioned to serve God “in the year that King Uzziah died” (6:1)—740 BC.
God revealed Himself to Isaiah in a manner few have experienced. Taken into the Lord’s Heavenly temple in a vision, the prophet saw the Creator seated on His throne. Isaiah’s vision of the Lord captures the immensity and glory of Yahweh, for the prophet could describe only the train of His robe, not His face (v. 1). Seraphim—“fiery ones”— surrounded the divine throne, hovering and singing praises to the Lord, proclaiming His glorious holiness. Their threefold repetition of the word holy is significant, for this is how the ancient Hebrews placed emphasis on their words (vv. 2–3). This shows us that what sets Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel and the only true God (Jer. 10:10; John 17:3), apart from the pretenders to His throne is not primarily His omniscience or omnipotence, for other religions confess an all-knowing and all-powerful Creator. Instead, Yahweh’s holiness puts Him in a class by Himself. His separateness and purity are so grand, so complete that other would-be deities cannot be compared to Him.
Although Isaiah could not explain the fullness of what he saw in the year King Uzziah died, we know who the prophet met when he was called to ministry. In John 12:36b–43, the Apostle comments that Jesus’ ministry fulfills Isaiah 6:9–10 and that the prophet had actually seen the pre-incarnate Christ in His vision. Isaiah met the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God Himself.