Monday, April 10, 2006

Ezekiel Turns 30

I remember when I turned 30. We were living in Maryland. I was serving a church there. We had just had our first daughter, Anabel. Life was pretty good.

I think most people look forward to their 30th birthday. It's not like they're starting out -- just turning 21 or something. But they're not turning 40 or 50 with all the cultural and sociatal baggage that accompanies those years. Usually, you're established in your career and your family. Turning 30 is usually a joyous occassion.

But not for the prophet Ezekiel. His 30th birthday may have been the hardest day of his life.

Ezekiel had spent his entire life getting ready to serve in the Temple, but when he was 25, war broke out and he was carted off as a prisoner to the Kebar River. That probably seemed like the other side of the world for him. Five years later, he turned 30, and he must have been consumed with thoughts of what might have been.

A priest's 30th birthday was the day on which his official service in the Temple could begin. If Ezekiel had been back home, it would have been a great day for him -- the culmination of years of preparation. But he's not home. He's 700 miles away from the Temple.

The whole situation must have felt like a mistake. This wasn't how his life was supposed to end up. This wasn't where he belonged. This wasn't what he was supposed to be doing. He was a man with dashed hopes and shattered dreams. If only he'd lived during another period of history! If only he'd been allowed to stay behind! If only the Babylonians hadn't invaded when they did! If only...!

But now his way was lost. He lived among a group of confused and discouraged people in a backwater town far from everything familiar.

It's easy for some of us to relate to Ezekiel. High hopes. Big dreams. At one time it looked like a wonderful future was in store, but something happened and sidetracked the entire project. Never in your wildest imagination did you ever think you'd wind up where you are now. It's easy to wonder, "What in the world is God doing?"

That's where Ezekiel was. And then something amazing happened:

"In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God" (Ezekiel 1:1).

God met this displaced and disappointed guy. And in his encounter with God, Ezekiel discovered something better than serving in the Temple of the Lord. He discovered the Lord of the Temple. When Ezekiel encountered God, he was able to move ahead instead of looking behind.

In times of confusion, when circumstances are difficult to understand, when we find ourselves in situations we never thought would be ours, the greatest need we have is to see God. When we allow him to meet us where we are, we find we are right where he wants us to be. And we find the direction he wants us to take.