By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Ezekiel 12.21-28
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Ezekiel in conjunction with this article.
No Better Time than the Present
The Past. The Present. The Future. Three indicators telling of where we have been; where we are; and where we are going. All people, everywhere, experience life in multiple dimensions: individually, regionally, nationally, continentally, and globally. Individually we experience our own past, present, and future that seems to have little impact on the larger scale. But we also collectively experience the past, the present and the future on the larger scale: regionally, nationally, continentally, and globally. Regions have weather patterns, and economic changes. Nations have ups and downs in the midst of peace and war. Continents experience the results of volcanoes, hurricanes/typhoons, and tsunamis. While we are familiar with these and more, it is the individual and regional timeframe with which are most familiar, and it is to that we turn our attention.
To quote Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”1 while the quote is from his 1859 novel, it nevertheless brings to mind the possibility of an individual evaluating their present condition. Each person can feel that no matter how good things are, there are still challenges that make it “feel” the worst. Because of this feeling, we sometimes long for the past.
Nostalgia has its beauty. We all seem to experience a longing and a yearning for former times, when things did not just feel easier but also felt better. This feeling is experienced in the present tense. When one hears music, or smells an aroma, or visits a special place in real time, feelings of the past are immediately brought to mind. It is absolutely amazing that something so innocuous as a song or a smell can elicit such a strong response. That moment brings warm contented feelings that are wonderful to experience. But, if we are not careful, we may forget our present tense life trying to recapture the past. Let us not forget, that like the past, the present can be filled with wonderful future memories.
We study the past, we experience the present, but the future is never truly known. The future is a dream, an ambition, a goal. Each person takes their past and present experiences into tomorrow, into the next month, into the next year, and into the next decade, as humanity collectively moves down the highway of time. To quote a poet, “Time is a train / Makes the future the past.”2 Because of this, the future, like the past, can easily occupy our present tense. We can find ourselves so intent on arriving at some point in the future that we neglect the present. In the scope of time, perhaps the biggest temptation is to push present-tense dilemmas and problems into and onto a future time.
The passage, under examination in Ezekiel, has at its core – time. Time has always been important, no matter the century or country. Humanity seems to strongly measure success and failure by the things that come to pass. The passage for us is found in the twelfth chapter. While many visions have been given, this portion of Scripture begins rather oddly. Ezekiel says that he received a message from Jehovah, the messages begins,
“Human being, don’t you have this proverb in the land of [Israel], ‘Time keeps passing, and none of the visions are fulfilled?’”3
What a truly interesting statement. Accuracy and intent were being assessed. A few things are of interest with these ancient Israelites. They were hearing about the visions and were being given this information, but they (according to this proverb) had not yet experienced what they thought they were going to experience. So the ancient Israelite people proverbialized and took lightly the visions of the prophet(s). In the scope of this passage, this will prove to be a poor response to the prophet(s).
Ezekiel was told by Jehovah, “I will put an end to that proverb; never again will they use it as a proverb in [Israel]. The time is come for the fulfillment of every vision.”4 “It will no longer be delayed… I will speak the word and accomplish it.”5 This is powerful and truly alarming. If I were an ancient Israelite, this should make me take notice. Jehovah seems to be saying, “I’m through with talking.” But what is of more importance is that Jehovah stated that it would be “in your days”.6
Recall our discussion about time: past, present, future. As chapter twelve of Ezekiel closes, it records the ancient Israelites saying, “The vision [Ezekiel] sees concerns the distant future; he is prophesying about a time far off.”7 What are these ancients doing? They are falling into one of the temptations we discussed previously – they were pushing their present-tense dilemmas and problems into and onto a future time. It seems that they were unwilling to address their spiritual problems. Because of their response, Jehovah answered with, “None of my words will be delayed any more, but the word that I speak will be accomplished.”8
While it is true that each person has an individual experience, it must also be said that each individual is accountable to a collective, at least regionally. This is one lesson of Ezekiel. Another is, as alluded to in our title, there is “no better time than the present” to make things right. Ancient Israel did not take the speaking of Jehovah through the prophet(s) seriously and Jehovah ceased to speak and took action. The question we should be asking: “Are we listening to the words of Jehovah?” May the LORD bless us as we seek to listen and respond.
1. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.
2. “Zoo Station,” Achtung Baby, U2.
3. “Time Keeps Passing.” Ezekiel 12.22, Quote: Complete Jewish Bible (CJB); Link: NASB.
4. “A Proverb Is No More.” Ezekiel 12.23, Quote: CJB; Link: NASB.
5. “No Delay.” Ezekiel 12.25, Quote: CJB; Link: NASB.
6. “In Your Days.” Ezekiel 12.25, Quote: CJB; Link: NASB.
7. “Distant Future.” Ezekiel 12.26-27, Quote: CJB; Link: NASB.
8. “It will be done.” Ezekiel 12.28, Quote: CJB; Link: NASB.