A bizarre, often overlooked element of Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry to the Jewish exiles in Babylon is the fact that God muted him for twelve years. Ezekiel was only allowed to speak when he was uttering an authentic word from God.
Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in the first Jewish deportation in 597 B.C., but the city of Jerusalem did not actually fall to King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies until twelve years later, and for the entire twelve years in between the initial deportation and Jerusalem’s ultimate collapse Ezekiel was silenced.
When word of Jerusalem’s fall arrived in Babylon, Ezekiel’s muteness finally came to an end. “In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, ‘The city has been struck down.’ Now the hand of the Lord had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; and He had opened my mouth…so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute” (Ezekiel 33:21-22 ESV).
Can you imagine having those restrictions placed on your speech? Can you imagine holding your tongue for twelve years?
Sometimes I can barely hold my tongue for five minutes…and I almost always regret it when I start talking again.
I’ve seldom ever regretted the things I haven’t said, but I have often regretted the critical, gossipy, pretentious words that I let slip out. The real problem though is not just my regrettable utterances it’s the fact that those things were already in my heart to begin with.
Our speech betrays us; it reveals the internal condition of our soul. Conversely, silence can be a purifier that tests the metal of our soul, revealing what is pure and what is dross. Perhaps we should practice some Ezekiel-esque silence, resolving only to pour unashamed words of life into the ears (and souls) of our listeners.