What a keen imagination! JK Rowling, say hello to your predecessor when it comes to satisfyingly detailed descriptions, creating vivid images that compel the reader to keep going. Ezekiel, a 6th century BCE prophet, has long been touted for the spectacular visions contained in the book bearing his name and the influence they had on later writers.
Our first two prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, began from a pre-exilic perspective. Their prophecies both started out with warnings about what was to come if Judah did not change its ways. Ezekiel is the first we meet whose starting point is with a people already in exile. In spite of their circumstances, many apparently are still in denial about what has happened (for anyone who has ever studied stages of grief, this will come as no surprise). They certainly do not seem able to accept their own culpability for their present condition.
Ezekiel, recognizing their denial for what it is, commands their attention by taking a unique approach. Rather than speaking to them directly about their sin and its consequences, he uses a series of visions. In the first vision today, he is transported on an imaginative journey back to pre-exilic Jerusalem. Once there, he takes a not-so-scenic tour of the people’s disobedience, witnessing their atrocious behavior throughout the city and the priests’ crude practices in the temple. Upon completing his flight, he is back in Babylon, sharing his vision with the exiles.
Artists and poets often have a way of helping us see truths that we would otherwise not acknowledge. Images and stories capture our attention in ways that straight talk never could. Today, we get the first installment of Ezekiel’s use of creative expression to turn the light on for a people in denial and despair.