It is a crucial lesson for a prophet to learn: his words will not be his own, but God’s. He will not have to fabricate his message or concoct it out of thin air. He is assured that what he speaks will be nothing less than God’s word. Yet, it has to become his own before he can present it to others. He must absorb it into his own personality. And in that process of ‘digestion’, the words of God will also be nothing less than Ezekiel’s own words. He will sound like he always sounds; his mannerisms will be recognisably those of the son of Buzi; his priestly interest in all things to do with holiness and the temple will be readily apparent (along with his curious penchant for going into more detail about those matters than many of us really care for). Even so, God will embody his own words in the words of a human being, such that Ezekiel’s message will be fully God’s message.
In Revelation 10:8–10, John undergoes a similar experience. There too we have a dramatic demonstration of a prophet of God internalising the word of God. It’s a powerful picture of what we’re called to in our own engagement with God’s word — not that we will become merely more technically competent in handling scripture, or even that we will just learn more about God and his word, but that his word will become so much more a part of us. It’s an encouragement to read the Bible and to be read by the Bible; to read not merely to be informed about God but to be transformed by God. It’s a challenge to make sure we do not stand over scripture, seeking to make sense of it, without first making sure we stand under it, allowing it to make sense of us and to shape us from the inside out.1
This is a helpful image to keep before us as a directing principle for the ethos of the whole of our lives: as we live for Christ in the contemporary world, we seek to do so in the light of scripture.
That’s the conviction throughout the readings in this book — that the Bible itself, God’s word, sets the agenda for our lives as followers of Jesus today. And it does so not just in the ‘spiritual’ matters of the heart or merely with respect to personal values, but in the whole of life — from Monday to Saturday as well as on Sunday, in public and in private, in culture as well as in church, in work as much as in worship. Moreover, this ‘whole-life’ perspective is not limited to a few biblical passages here and there, but is part of the very warp and woof of scripture, woven through the story as a whole — from creation to new creation, from the garden of Genesis to the city of Revelation.