They knew they were different. God was with them. Not some local deity, but the God of all creation. He was with them as they left Egypt, he went before them into battle, and he established them as a nation. His presence was real and tangible. They were God’s chosen people. But things had gone a little wrong, and by the time of Ezekiel, very wrong.
Judah had rebelled against God and now Nebuchadnezzar had subjugated Judah. What was worse, she had rebelled, and now he was after their blood, and the only hope the people had was in their God.
Ezekiel was not having a good time of it. God had given him the message to tell Judah that the city was guilty before God and would be besieged. God is against the city and he is going to send famine and plague. Furthermore, God gave him a vision of his glory leaving the temple. This was not the message that Ezekiel wanted to hear. Even less was it a message that he wanted to preach. All was now lost. Hope was no more.
Ezekiel knew it was the end, but he also knew that one day, God would return. Nobody knew when. Some said seventy years. Some said five hundred years. All they knew is, that it was a long way off and not now when they felt their need for him most.
And it was a long time. Five hundred years came and went. Not that anyone was counting that carefully. Nobody knew for sure when the five hundred years was actually going to be up. All they knew was that God was due to show up at some time soon. Overdue in fact.
So when a prophet-like figure claimed to be called to prepare the way for God’s coming, people were ready to listen. His message was clear: Repent, before the great and terrible day of God’s coming. So they repented, and the people were baptised.
Then something strange happened. Jesus showed up, and John began to declared: “Behold the lamb of God who is coming after me.”
The people were stunned, and said to each other “John’s gone mad. We’ve been waiting five hundred years for God to show up, not some bloody carpenter!”