Six hundred years before Christ would make His providential appearance, a righteous man finds himself in captivity. While exiled, Ezekiel, was able to witness the spirit of God in a very intimate way (Ezekiel 1). Even so, he was still living under the thumb of the Babylonians like every other Israelite with him. While under these unideal circumstances though, he is privileged to see awe-inspiring visions from God. Have you ever paid attention to the eerie sensations described throughout this book? In Ezekiel 1:4 the prophet feels a great and stormy wind on the bank of the river Chebar. The wind brings with it a massive cloud with fire flashing around it and a substance like glowing metal in the center of it. The wings of the creatures he saw (verse 24) made sounds like that of roaring waters. The voice of the Almighty was like the sound of a great army camp. What sights he was able to see! This great connection to God didn’t take away his pain or sorrow, though.
Chapter 19 is one long lament as Ezekiel cries over his hardhearted Israelite brothers. Why won’t they listen to him? Even after Ezekiel performs some radical visual illustrations like eating his bread over dung and laying on his side for an entire year, they won’t respond to the “invitation.” How frustrating is that, preachers? God never abandons His faithful servant, but His confused prophet is still left to wonder what God is going to do about the mess which makes up his reality. A familiar feeling for many faithful Christians today.
Never underestimate the hand of the Almighty. This truthful statement can be pulled from Ezekiel 37, when the prophet is taken up and then placed in the middle of a dark valley. Ezekiel is surrounded on all sides by heaps of dry human bones and he’s probably wondering why in the world God has taken him to such a place. The text answers the question by asking a question. God speaks to Ezekiel and says, “Can these dry bones live again?” What an odd thing to ask. However, Ezekiel responds, “Only you know, O Lord.”
It’s always when we’re deep in the valley’s of life that we’re forced to answer the difficult questions about God’s abilities. When we’re surrounded by darkness, the question we have to ask is, “Does God have the power to see me through this?” If you remember, Ezekiel has become frustrated with the fact that Israel just won’t listen to him or Him. He’s lost hope in their ability to change— they’re just too far gone. However, God demonstrates to His prophet in a dramatic way that NOTHING is impossible for Him.
He doesn’t bring the bones to life in the blink of an eye, but we know He could have. Instead, He allows Ezekiel to hear those bones rattle and to hear the sounds of fibers and flesh sticking together. He wanted to leave an impression on Ezekiel to demonstrate the might of the Almighty. Ezekiel had no idea how those bones came to life, but he knew one thing for certain. God did it. You may not understand why God has allowed you to enter your valley, but you can be certain that He has the power to see you through. You are standing on your two feet because God has given you the strength to do so. God has promised His faithful servants a heavenly light at the end of our tunnels and whatever God says— He will always accomplish (Ezekiel 37:14).
Someone once said, “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them seldom go far.” Ben Franklin is quoted saying, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
Jeremiah had a complete list of excuses ready when God called on him to be a prophet to the people of Israel. Many times the excuses of Jeremiah become ours when we are called on to proclaim God’s Word to this world. We see that with every excuse Jeremiah made, God gave promises in return.
First, Jeremiah said, “the task ahead is difficult.” Jeremiah 1:5 says, ““Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” This is God speaking to Jeremiah, and notice what He says, “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The task ahead is difficult, so Jeremiah gives off a list of excuses for why he isn’t the one for this job. God gives a promise for Jeremiah’s excuses. He says, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” God knew that Jeremiah was the one for the job, even if Jeremiah didn’t think so.
Second, Jeremiah said, “I don’t have the talent.” Jeremiah 1:6 says, “Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” Many times people blame their cowardice on a lack of talent. They say that it isn’t natural to them, that there are others more suited for the job. But God knows Jeremiah and the great good he can accomplish. In Jeremiah 1:9, God promises that He would put His words in Jeremiah’s mouth.
As Christians today we have these same promises for our worries and excuses. Let’s not blame our cowardice on a lack of talent or the difficulty of the task. That isn’t a good excuse to God. Nothing is. He has promised that He will be with us, and we have HIS Word to teach to others. Let’s trust in that.
There are several prophets whose writings, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make up part of the Old Testament canon. We often refer to them as the Major Prophets (Isaiah-Daniel) and the Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi). In addition, there is a biblical sense in which the remaining Old Testament writers would be rightly called prophets (from Moses to Samuel, but also including those who lived thereafter as they wrote by inspiration). Then, there are prophets whose labors are recorded by these writing prophets. Some we know very well: Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah, for example. But, there are others whose works either take up less space in the inspired canon or whose work is lesser known. Let us look more deeply at some of these other, more unsung heroes, starting with the prophet Gad.
Nothing is said about where Gad is from, but it’s an educated guess to say it might be the tribe of Gad or perhaps he was from the Valley of Gad (cf. 2 Sam. 24:5). However, without that fact disclosed, that’s a mere conjecture. We do not know when he began his work as prophet, but the first mention of him is during Saul’s relentless hunt for David (1 Sam. 22:5).
He is referred to as “David’s seer,” sometimes alongside Nathan his prophet and Samuel his seer (1 Chron. 29:29; 2 Chron. 29:25). He was quite a versatile man of God, a fact succinctly and well put by J.R. Dummalow: “He became the king’s seer after David was king (2S 24:11); he rebuked David for the sin of numbering Israel; and after David’s death, he wrote a history of that monarch’s reign (1C 29:29)” (193). So, he had the courage to rebuke the king when it was warranted, though his loyalty to him seems very clear. He appears to have been God’s man most of all.
His work was respected. When he told David to leave the stronghold, David did it (1 Sam. 22:5). David pleaded with Gad after the king had sinned (2 Sam. 24:14). He listened to Gad’s instructions for how to show fruits of repentance (2 Sam. 24:18ff). The respect was not derived from his wealth, power, education, looks, or worldly influence. The text does not even mention them. It was the work and the way Gad conducted it. So, the respect people have for us should come from the same place it did for Gad. We shouldn’t have to command or demand it. As we follow God faithfully, others will follow us (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1).
His work was God-ordained. Gad’s authority derived from its source. He spoke in the name of the Lord (1 Chron. 21:19). He spoke with a “thus says the Lord” (1 Chron. 21:11). He spoke, “just as the Lord had commanded” (2 Sam. 24:19). God’s messengers’ clout and credibility is intrinsically connected to its God-ordained nature!
His work was versatile. He helped to strengthen the worship of God’s people (2 Chron. 29:25). He preached (2 Sam. 24:19). He ministered (2 Sam. 24:11ff). He wrote (1 Chron. 29:29). He was multi-talented, and he used his resources to God’s glory. That’s the challenge for us today (cf. Mat. 25:14-30), to use all God gives us to promote His work.