You lay Your crushing hand
Your mighty hand
On me gently
— Terry Scott Taylor (“Crushing Hand” from Nazarene Crying Towel)
Ezekiel felt the crushing gentle hand of Yahweh. In fact, he had felt it for more than a decade now. What were you doing 10 years ago? Can you remember?
I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be speechless and unable to reprove them; for they are a rebellious house. (3:26, NRSV)
For over a decade Ezekiel was not able to go about and speak freely. With the horrible news from the fugitive of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was finally free.
. . .
The news that the fugitive brought the exilic community was horrifying. Jerusalem had fallen. God’s Temple was invaded. God had let his own people be completely banished from their land.
If this were a normal historical book, we would expect to see the impact of such momentous words on the community. We would expect them to tear their clothes and sit in ashes, mourning what once was. But this is not a normal historical book. It is a prophet’s book, and Yahweh showed a side to the story that was quite different.
The news of the fall of Jerusalem, horrible though it was, was a vindicating message for Ezekiel. The prophet of gloom and doom had been telling the exiles for years that God would judge his people for their wickedness by destroying their land. Now those prophecies have all come true, and Ezekiel is revealed as a genuine prophet.
. . .
Yahweh’s hand is all over this brief narrative. Ezekiel felt Yahweh’s crushing hand the night before, when his tongue was finally loosed in his mouth. He knew that something momentous had come. Now, instead of a story of a horrible event announcement, we have the story of Ezekiel being freed by Yahweh because he was faithful to tell the community God’s words.
Ezekiel is free. He is free to move about socially and engage in life. More importantly, he is free to throw himself wholeheartedly into his role as a prophet—now he is free to represent his people to God. He is free to warn and guide them. He is free.
This freedom has an important overtone in the book as a whole. It is possible to see in Ezekiel’s liberation, the future freedom of God’s remnant people. In that sense, Ezekiel is a type of Israel. They were oppressed (judged!) by God, but the time would come when they would be free.
. . .
Lord God, help us to be faithful in proclaiming your message of true freedom in our world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.