Ezekiel was a functioning priest, probably attached to the Jerusalem Temple staff, before the first surrender of
Jerusalem under the command of Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel was among those deported in 597 BC to Babylonia. It is
worth comparing Ezekiel 24:1-2; 2 Kings 25:1; Jeremiah 39:1 and 52:4. He received his prophetic call and vision in
his own house at Tel-Abib, on the banks of the Chebar River in Babylon in the year 593 and functioned as a
prophet for 20 years. Ezekiel means ‘God strengthens’. Prophet Ezekiel strengthened God’s people from the time of
the lockdown of Israel in Babylonian captivity. If Prophet Jeremiah could in a way be said to have been Jerusalem’s
home minister, Ezekiel would be in the service of the foreign office, following from far off Babylon what was
happening to the Holy City. This means that Ezekiel is preaching his visions to the Jews in Babylon while Jeremiah
is preaching to the Jews in Jerusalem. As a seer Ezekiel made his news known to his audience on the same day. He
held a prominent place among the exiles, and was frequently consulted by the elders (Eze 8:1; 11:25; 14:1; 20:1).
Ours is compassionate God.
Often this compassionate nature is expressed in God’s response to crises experienced
by His children. In the early chapters of Exodus, for instance, we see God’s people suffering in captivity. They
groan under their burdens, and cry out for deliverance. God sees their misery, and the way the Egyptians are
oppressing His people (Exod 3:7, 9, 16). Their cry is heard. God remembers His covenant people and initiates a
plan to rescue them; to bring them out of the land of Egypt and into the promised land (Exod 3:17). Prophets
remind the people about the covenant and how the compassionate God saved them from the bondages. Prophet
Ezekiel cites one of many symbolic visions and compassion of God raising an army of dead men’s bones from their
graves and bringing them back to life (Eze 37:1-14). Regardless of his frightening oracles, Ezekiel concludes with a
message of compassion, hope and restoration. It illustrates the predicted destruction of Israel and the idolatrous
nations around it and the restoration once they repent over their sins and develop compassionate hearts for their
fellow humans during the captive lockdown in Babylon. The etymology of ‘compassion’ is Latin, meaning ‘co-
Compassion involves ‘feeling for another’ and is a precursor to empathy, the ‘feeling as another’
capacity for better person-centred acts of active compassion; in common parlance active compassion is the desire to
alleviate another’s suffering. God who suffers with his own people shows His compassion during the lockdown.
The greatest asset we have is our time. We can give it more freely. When we give, we show compassion.
Compassion is a character trait that is present in everyone; however it is also a trait that sometimes gets forgotten.
When Israelites forget Yahweh tells Ezekiel: “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent
and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations” (Eze 14:6). Compassion is
key. It opens doors and removes confusions of uncertainties of lockdown. When people are open, they can be more
creative in solving problems in ways that drive meaning in life and growth of humanity and thus long-term success.
The concluding chapters of the book of Ezekiel are the result of this growing compassion for one another. It is full
of positive prophecies concerning the future of those who would be allowed to return to Jerusalem someday and
begin to rebuild the city and temple. Feeling the compassion of God during the lockdown in Babylon, Ezekiel
spends a great deal of time working through all of the broken realities of His people to show that they will be
redeemed. The leadership is restored, even though they once sinned, they will be trusted again to lead the people.
The kingdom of Israel will be fully restored, both in numbers to reverse the loss of life in the slaughter of so many
and also in the return of the northern tribes to join the south to be ruled by the Davidic kingship.
God’s presence among the people in the land will defeat any future enemy nations, which echoes the presence of God leading the
people in the wilderness after the Exodus. The book of Ezekiel concludes in great detail the rising compassion of
God that allows them to rebuild the temple. Ezekiel’s prophecy of God’s restoration of Israel reaches a pinnacle of
compassion and hope in the image of the dramatic conversion of each human heart. Not only will the people as a
whole be purified but each person will be sprinkled with clean water. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and
you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (Eze 36:25). Each one
will receive a new heart and a new spirit in their innermost being, and “I will take away the stony heart out of your
flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh” (Eze 36:26). These verses call us to anticipate, and cooperate with, God’s
merciful action deep within us, equipping us to walk in His ways, following His commandments, and learn to love
as we have been loved, get rid of selfishness, corrupt desire and inner fears. Compassion is crucial externally as
well as being able to stand in another person’s shoes. This is what we can embrace during this COVID-19
pandemic. Prophet Ezekiel uses the verbs to know, to remember, to see, and to hear often suggest the
compassionate nature of God and so that we become like Him. Let our lockdowns be a great remembrance of this compassion of God to learn from Him.