TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 1-4
“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.” – Ezekiel 1:1-3
The setting of this passage is that Ezekiel the priest is among the exiles of Israel by the Chebar canal in the land of Chaldeans. And, this passage is about the start of Ezekiel’s ministry to the exiles. If we consider the details of the start of Ezekiel’s ministry, then I believe it will reveal to us Jesus’ baptism and the start of his ministry.
The name Ezekiel means God strengthens, the strength of God, or strengthened by God. As a priest, Ezekiel mediated God’s strength. In other words, Ezekiel was the go-between that brought God’s strength to the exiles.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:24, Jesus Christ is the power of God. As the power of God, Christ gives us strength. He gives us, or mediates, God’s strength to us.
Ephesians 3:16-18 says, “That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth.” We are strengthened with power as the Spirit reveals Christ dwelling in our hearts.
In Philippians 4:13, Paul says, “I can do all things through him [Jesus] that strengthens me.”
So, Ezekiel the priest is a picture of Jesus Christ who strengthens us in the power of God.
SON OF BUZI
Ezekiel was the son of Buzi. The name Buzi means my contempt. So, Ezekiel was the son of my contempt. Through this name, we can see Ezekiel was held in contempt by the exiles in the land of the Chaldeans.
One meaning of contempt is the state of being despised.
This most certainly is a description of Jesus as he dwelt among the Jews.
Speaking of God’s servant, Jesus Christ, Isaiah 53:3 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” That’s a pretty good description of being held in contempt.
John 1:9-11 says, “The true light, which gives everyone light, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
John 3:19 says, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
We all, not just Israel, held Jesus in contempt.
1 Corinthians 1:28 says, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing those things that are.” God, Jesus, chose the cross, the thing that is low and despised in the world, to bring to nothing all our previous misconceptions of him.
EXILES IN THE LAND OF THE CHALDEANS
Ezekiel was dwelling among the exiles in the land of the Chaldeans.
The Chaldeans were the learned class, the philosophers, the magicians, the advisors and the interpreters of dreams in Babylon. The Chaldeans were the ones looked to for spiritual revelation.
The term Chaldean is the plural form of the name Chesed. Chesed was the fourth son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. Remember, Abraham left his family in Ur of the Chaldeans. One meaning of the name Chesed means increase. But, one of the roots of the name Chesed has an element of the demoni associated with it. Therefore, one possible meaning of the term Chaldeans is “as it were demons.”
While the Chaldeans were looked to for spiritual revelation, their wisdom and philosophy did not lead one to God. Rather, it was the wisdom and philosophy of the world. Hence, the Chaldeans were the learned class of Babylon, which pictures the kingdom of the world.
The Jews, the exiles, were dwelling in the land, the thoughts, of the Chaldeans.
And, this is a picture of the state of the Jews when Jesus appeared. Sure, the Jews were living in the promised land. But, the land was controlled by the Roman Empire, which was an empire in the line of succession from Babylon. In effect, the Jews were still exiles, at in their thoughts and hearts as in relation to God.
John 1:14 says, “And the Word become flesh and dwelt among us.”
Jesus dwelt, literally tabernacled, among the Jews while they were in exile under the Roman Empire. The Jews were wanting to regain their land and their kingdom through a military messiah. This was the same means of the world, the same means the Roman Empire used to build their empire. This was the wisdom and philosophy of the world. But, Jesus dwelt among us to show a different way, God’s way, for God’s kingdom to be established.
Notice, too, that Ezekiel 1:3 says, “the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest.” So, here we have a picture of the Word becoming flesh in the son of man, Jesus. Ezekiel is filled with references to the son of man, and this was Jesus’ favorite title, or description, of himself.
The name Chebar means binding together, joining, force, strength, abundance. There is some evidence that the Chebar canal was the royal canal of King Nebuchadnezzar. So, perhaps we could think of the Chebar canal as that river that joined one in strength with the king of this world.
But, here we see Ezekiel among the exiles of Israel in the land of the Chaldeans “by” the Chebar canal. He was not in the canal as if being taken to the king of this world.
However, I believe what we are given of glimpse of is that Ezekiel is going to lead the exiles through Chebar from the land of Chaldeans back to their own land. So, Ezekiel is going to lead the exiles from the wisdom of this world to the wisdom of God.
Interestingly, the word Chebar is only found in Ezekiel. And, it used in Ezekiel eight times. Eight is the number of new beginning and new creation. So, when we are led from the wisdom of the world and joined or bound together with the wisdom of God, we have a new beginning and are a new creation.
30TH YEAR, 4TH MONTH, 5TH DAY
Ezekiel says that everything I have mentioned so far happened in the 30th year, the fourth month, and the fifth day of the month of the exile. This was the start of Ezekiel’s ministry.
The number 30 is a symbol of authority and leadership. In particular, it is the number of dedication for rulership. David was 30 years old when he became king. Priests could begin serving in the temple when they were 30 years old.
Not coincidentally, Jesus’ ministry began when he was 30 years old. Remember, the gospels, particularly John, tell us that Jesus was the temple of God. So, Jesus began serving God in the temple of his body at 30 years old.
And, what happened in Jesus’ 30th year to launch his service and his ministry?
He was baptized.
He was the first to go through the Chebar canal as symbol of his leading us from the wisdom of the world to the wisdom of God.
What does Ezekiel say happened by the Chebar canal?
“The heavens were opened.”
“I saw visions of God.”
“The hand of the Lord was upon him there.”
Matthew 3:16-17 says, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The account of Jesus baptized is exactly what we read in the first three verses of Ezekiel 1.
The number four symbolizes the creation, the material world.
Prior to being baptized, Jesus did no miracles. In other words, he exercised no authority over creation.
But, in the 30th year when he was baptized and the heavens were opened and God’s hand was upon him, Jesus did all kinds of miracles. And, his miracles – whether healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, or calming the storm – had a direct, visible, tangible effect on the relation. In the 30th year and fourth month, Jesus began to exercise his authority over creation.
It is well known that the number five symbolizes grace throughout the Bible.
So, how did Jesus exercise his authority over creation?
Not destructively. Not condemningly.
But, with grace. With favor. Doing good.
John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Notice what happened after Jesus’ baptism.
Acts 10:37-38 says, “You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Back in Ezekiel, we are told that this happened on the fifth day of the month and in the fifth year exile of King Jehoiachin.
Five and five.
Grace upon grace.
John 1:16 says, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
So, we see that the start of Ezekiel the priest’s ministry is a shadow of the ministry of our great high priest, Jesus Christ. In the start of Ezekiel’s ministry, we see the beginning of Jesus’s ministry at his baptism when he began to exercise his authority over all creation to usher in a new creation with grace upon grace.