By Michael E. Brooks
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them'” (Ezekiel 6:1,2 NKJV).
One experience that an American often faces in Bangladesh is to be the focus of stares from the local people. It may happen anywhere, but is especially frequent in rural areas. I remember being left in the van in southern Bangladesh some time ago while our local guides arranged for tickets on a river boat. It seemed it was no more than a few seconds before the car was completely surrounded by more than 50 villagers, all staring intently at me. Some were pressed up against the windows, their noses flattened on the glass, as they peered at this strange person.
I have become somewhat accustomed to this phenomenon, and now realize it is usually a harmless thing. Yet, it might not always be so. Sometimes a stare or a hard look is a precursor to other action. The stare marks the target. This is one reason being stared at remains uncomfortable. One just does not know what the other is thinking or planning. Thankfully, the action being planned is not always harmful. Sometimes others look at us in order to do good.
Ezekiel was commanded by God to “set your face toward the mountains of Israel.” This is idiomatic for “look at them.” It implies concentrated, focused attention. Once that attention was directed toward the appropriate objects, then Ezekiel was to prophesy against them.
We are fully aware that God has revealed himself through his inspired word, the Bible. It is his message, his will. We may not always appreciate the fact, however, that his message was specifically addressed to a particular audience. It was directed, not generic. So far as the record shows, each prophetic oracle was given to its prophet for him (or her) to deliver to particular persons. Whether its audience was a nation, a class of society, or a given individual, the oracle was targeted.
The same is true of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the New Testament in which it is recorded. They are not blogs on a website, posted for whoever might download them. The Good News of Jesus Christ is God’s message of love, sent to each one of us specifically (Matthew 28:18-20). Just as God “[saw] the oppression of my people who are in Egypt, and [heard] their cry” and then “[came] down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:7,8), so he has seen the sin and death to which his creation has become enslaved and has given it a means of salvation.
God saw us. He looked upon us, perceiving our needs, our fears, and our fate. And then he acted. He sent Jesus to atone for our sins, to teach us his will, and to reconcile us to our Father. He did that not just for mankind in general, but for every one of us in particular. “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
By Michael E. Brooks