WHERE IS SHARON?
What a tough last couple of months it has been. It’s been tough for our world; it’s been tough for our country; it’s been tough for those who have lost loved ones; it’s been tough for those who have lost jobs and income; and it’s been tough for Sharon.
After a week in the hospital, due to a brain bleed and pneumonia, and another week in a rehab. institute, Sharon has been home (in my loving hands :-). She was discharged early due to fear that the coronavirus might make its way into the rehabilitation institute.
Since being home, Sharon has had weekly appointments with physical, occupational, and speech therapists, all of whom are helping her progress in regaining her strength, speech, and lung capacity. I have been coordinating and participating in her appointments to learn what I can to coach her with exercises and make sure she is safe.
Sharon is not as responsive to my coaching as she is to the therapists. Overall though she is working hard and cooperating, even with me.
I am also in charge of meal prep. My breakfasts are excellent, my lunches are ok, but my dinners are weak. After my gourmet offerings, I look for affirmation by asking Sharon what she thinks of what I have prepared. Most of the time she wobbles her hand back and forth, meaning, “just ok.” Ouch, missed the mark again! Fortunately, I have had some meal help from a great cook and friend (thanks Carol Lee) and from our children too (thanks dear ones).
Sharon is not as responsive to my coaching as she is to the therapists, but overall she is working hard and cooperating—even with me!
WHERE IS GOD?
So where is God in all this? For many in our Western world, He is nowhere. He doesn’t exist. He is inconsequential. But not so. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God has not abandoned us but is in sovereign control. The name Ezekiel means “God will strengthen” or “God strengthens.” He strengthens those who turn to Him. He is strengthening us in the midst of all that is taking place in and around us.
But Ezekiel tells us more. He tells us God is sovereign. In ways we don’t fully understand, “He has the whole world—all of history—all that is going on in our world—all that is going on in our lives— in His sovereign hands”. Ezekiel refers to God as “Sovereign LORD” 261 times in his book.
Ezekiel refers to God as “Sovereign LORD” 261 times.
The book of Ezekiel was written in difficult times. The Babylonians had become the dominant world power of their day and had already taken many Jews into exile to Babylon (Daniel and his friends in 604 BC, and Ezekiel along with 10,000 other Jews in 597 BC). The shadow government left by the Babylonians in Judah and Jerusalem stopped paying tribute, so the Babylonians attacked them once more. They laid siege to the Jewish capital of Jerusalem in 588 BC and would destroy it in 586 BC.
Ezekiel was 30-years old (592 BC) when God called him to be a prophet (Ez. 1:1-2), and was 52-years old (570 BC) when his last prophetic vision is dated (Ez. 29:17). The prophecies God gave him are in recorded in three chronological sections: 1) Before the siege (chapters 1-24), 2) after the siege (chapters 25-32), and 3) after the destruction of Jerusalem (chapters 33-48).
Prophecies of the Near Future
His message in the four years from his call to the siege of Jerusalem (from 592-588 BC) is that Judah is doomed because her people have turned away from God (chapters 1-11). He then refutes the false hopes (chapters 12-24) of his fellow exiles that they will soon return to Jerusalem and life as it was before (the old normal. This first section of Ezekiel ends with the news that the siege of Jerusalem has begun (Ez. 24:1-2). Not long after this, Ezekiels wife, the delight of his life, dies (Ez. 24:15-16).
Prophecies Further Out
In the second section of Ezekiel, from the time of the Babylonian’s siege of Jerusalem in 588 BC to its destruction in 586 BC, the focus of prophecy shifts from God’s judgment of Judah to God’s judgment of the nations surrounding Judah. Chapters 25-32 focus on the culpability of the nations of Ammon, Moab, and Edom to the east, Philistia to the west, Tyre and Sidon to the north, and Egypt to the south. Each of these nations face God’s judgement for not recognizing that they too were guilty of idolatry, pride, arrogance, and violence. They added to their guilt by exulting in the demise of God’s people, Israel.
Prophecies that Zoom Out to our Own Time
The third section of Ezekiel begins with the news that Jerusalem has been conquered (Ez. 33:21). Ezekiel’s focus shifts once again. The first section prophesies events that would occur some four years ahead (the destruction of Jerusalem). The second section prophesies events that would occur some years after Jerusalem’s destruction (the prophecy against Tyre would not be fully accomplished until the time of Alexander the Great in 332 BC). This third section of Ezekiel zooms out and prophesies events centuries and centuries ahead, to the return of Israel to its own land after its dispersion to the nations, and other events surrounding the restoration and reuniting of Israel.
In each of the three sections of Ezekiel, he reiterates over and over again that God is Sovereign. He is the Sovereign LORD. In the first 24 chapters he uses Sovereign LORD 103 times. In chapters 25-32 he uses Sovereign LORD 44 times. In the last sixteen chapters (33-48) he refers to the Sovereign LORD 69 times.We see the sovereignty of God in revealing to Ezekiel that Jerusalem would be destroyed years before it took place (and when all others around Ezekiel were in disbelief). We see the sovereignty of God in revealing what would happen to the nations surrounding Jerusalem. And we see the sovereignty of God in revealing events that have taken place in our lifetime (at least Sharon’s and my lifetime—the return of Israel as a nation in 1948), or that loom ahead of us (the destruction of armies attacking Israel, the reign of the coming David-like Shepherd, Jesus, the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, and more).
HOW DO WE KNOW GOD IS SOVEREIGN?
How do we know that God is sovereign and that He has the whole world in His sovereign hands? Because the things He revealed to the Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel came to pass.
The things God revealed and that Ezekiel prophesied would take place in his lifetime took place as predicted. It is inconceivable that the Jews would keep such negative things written about themselves were it not so. The things God revealed and Ezekiel prophesied regarding the surrounding nations also took place in the years that followed just as Ezekiel predicted. Because of these fulfilled prophecies, we have confidence that the things God prophesied yet to occur (Ezekiel chapters 33-48) will also take place…because God is sovereign.
And so God is sovereign still. He is not the cause of viruses and brain bleeds, but He sovereign over them. In the words of my dear wife, “When it seems like everything is falling apart, things are really falling into place.”
Strengthened by knowing we in His hands,
Linus and Sharon