Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Prophets Live in a Separate World

He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house (Ezek 3:27).

In his superb commentary on Ezekiel, Daniel Block offers this summation of Ezekiel's initiation into the prophetic office in chs 1-3:
Thus the curtain falls on the final act in the call of Ezekiel. He has been initiated into his office. The roles of the various participants in the ensuing drama have been delineated, and the prophet is left completely isolated from his compatriots. The recorded oracles that follow will confirm this alienation.

Ezekiel is never seen out on the street or in the marketplace. No hint of the daily life of the exiles intrudes the prophecy. The prophet lives in a separate world. Others may drift in and out of that world, but they remain merely shadows, with little direct contact. The only recorded conversation between prophet and audience comes by the command of Yahweh in 24:18-24.

Accordingly the book of Ezekiel is a spiritual diary of a man's encounters with God. His experiences move the reader to weep for him - though he never weeps for himself.

- The Book of Ezekiel, vol. 1, p. 161.
It is sobering. Ezekiel did not weep for himself nor his wife (see 24:18); though there was more than enough for him to shed a tear. We recall not only the loneliness of other prophets - like Micah (see 7:1-2) - but that of our Savior, who would likewise utter these words of warning to a recalcitrant generation, "He who has ears to hear..." (Matt 11:15).

The pathos of Ezekiel's call to prophetic ministry breathes of God's brilliant holiness, humanity's sinful sorrow, and unbelief's utter foolishness. And, for the prophet himself, the basically unenviable position of speaking the truth of God to a world that mocks it and its prophets. Anyone who stands to speak for the Creator will stand "in a separate world" alone.

Ministry - be it pastoral or otherwise - has actually little to do with other people, though people are the obvious arena. Ministry is successive encounters with God Himself. It is a commission to confront the shame of the world, without weeping for yourself.

Ministry is walking coram Deo - and only that - even as it is walking among others.

N.B., Daniel Block is one of the great Christian scholars of our generation, for which we give thanks. If he has written a commentary on a book, it is probably one of the best treatments you will find on the market. Judges / Ruth is excellent (and we eagerly await his forthcoming commentary on Deuteronomy in the NIVAC series).

Yet, Block's work on Ezekiel in NICOT is quite possibly the most satisfying commentary I have read on any book of Scripture. At nearly 2,000 pages of detailed exegesis, it is not only a trove of textual and biblical-theological information, but he has written it in a spiritually-mature and a self-consciously Christian prose. Those qualities are unfortunately rare in commentaries!

I do not often recommend commentaries to folks, but if you are a serious Bible-student and diligent reader, Block's two-volume Ezekiel will not disappoint.

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