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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

The Christian journalist and stormy weather (Ezekiel 1)

Ezekiel 1:1, 4, 29. “I was among the exiles by the Kebar River . . . I looked and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north – an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. . . . when I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

Exegesis and Application

This is one of the several theophanies reported in holy scripture. “Theophany” means “the appearance of God,” and in the New Testament the greatest theophany is, of course, Jesus the Christ. Theophanies are of interest to me because on several occasions God appears to individuals in the midst of other individuals who do not seem to see God. That is, God selectively appears to one person and not to another person standing next to him. I believe this is the case in our Ezekiel passage.

It was reported by Ezekiel that he was with other Israelite exiles on the Kebar River region in Babylonia when a huge desert windstorm came down from the north. For all appearances, to the other exiles it was a typical Persian windstorm–clouds, lightning, spectacular heavenly displays coming from the northwest off the Mediterranean Sea. Apparently typical for this time of the year (May – October), “windstorm” here is the same Hebrew word used in 13:11 and 13 (“violent winds”) (“ruah se’ara”). A “great” or “tremendous” cloud accompanied this nor’wester. Furthermore, this cloud contained “flashing lightning” or literally, “fire taking hold of itself.” (“we’es mitlaqqahat”).

All of this description of natural phenomena is unique in scripture for the manifestation of divine images.  This appearance does not happen to the prophet in his sleep but rather in a special revelation (“vision”). The sight of all this weather and the accompanying creatures and the man of glory drives Ezekiel to the ground (Ez. 1:28). It is important to note how sensual this particular vision is. Ezekiel “hears” (vss. 24, 28) and “sees” (vss. 4, 15-16, 22, 26-27, 28). The Hebrew words used for “see” and “hear” can be a physical experience of reality as well as in a dream or vision. The “hearing” is compared to “rushing waters” or “tumult of an army” – all natural comparisons.

We have no report of what the other exiles saw or heard, but this was no private storm roaring through Mesopotamia. Indeed, the Biblical report of theophanies tend to be rather public affairs with private meanings (cf, Is. 43:9-10; 44:7; 45:19; 48:16; John 1:10; etc.) So the picture we have is God speaking to one man in the midst of other men. Ezekiel’s experience was not in a private night dream or a supernaturally induced vision.  Rather it was an intimate divine vision out of a natural phenomenon which other individuals saw and heard but had special meaning for Ezekiel alone.

I take the following points from this extraordinary chapter:

1) God will reveal himself to the individual journalist and assist that journalist in understanding the world around him, even in the midst of an unbelieving newsroom.

2) Christian journalists should not look for supernatural visions, but rather see God at work in the physical world around them.

3) Christian journalists should expect to be in the minority and not be afraid or ashamed of being alone and of following a different route to the truth of a given situation.

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