Session 31: Ezekiel
Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'" Ezekiel 37:11-14
Ezekiel, Key verses: 37:11-14; 39:28
Key personalities: Jeremiah, Daniel, Zedekiah, and Nebuchadnezzar
Timeline: About 597-571 B.C. This is during the last few years of the Divided Kingdom, and Israel the northern kingdom is conquered by the Assyrians (the areas were ruled by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians conquered the Assyrians). The Iron Age is the main reason for the vast armies; however, bronze is still in the majority of weapons and farming tools. The Greeks were at their pinnacle of power and influence with their philosophy, economic and legal reforms, tragedy plays and poetry and building ships to explore and conquer. The Olmecs built Mexican pyramids, Nebuchadnezzar rebuilds a magnificent wonder of the world--Babylon and its hanging gardens. Aesop writes his fables, and the Lao Tsu founds Taoism. Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian sage, becomes the Buddha. Rome is growing by the destiny of Romulus and Remus who become builders of the first city sewer, the "Cloaca Maxima."
The Book of Ezekiel contains 48 chapters, divided with four main sections. It gives the account of Ezekiel's seven visions (Ezekiel was exiled in Babylon, 593 to 571BC). It starts out when Jerusalem was being destroyed and its people carted off as plunder. It contains judgments and condemnation for Judah's sins, as well as prophecies and hope that it will get better. It is about the prophet of God who received the Word from God in vivid visions and dreams about the impeding destruction and fall of Judah and Jerusalem. His warning and prophecies, like Isaiah a hundred years prior and that of his contemporary Jeramiah, were not heeded. Ezekiel proclaimed God's Word in captivity while Jeremiah did so in Jerusalem--like book ends of Truth. Then, he urges and cautions the people in captivity how one must live and approach God.
- Ezekiel's call, Chapters 1-3
- Prophecies of judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, Chapters 4-24
- Prophecies of judgment against evil nations, Chapters 25-32
- Prophecies of hope, the return, last days salvation, and future blessings, Chapters 33-48
Ezekiel is written in a type of literature called, "Apocalyptic" writing. This is also found in Isaiah, Zechariah, Matthew 24 and Revelation. This is a combination of narrative and prose written in vivid images with hidden meanings, apocalyptic judgments, metaphors, which are 'unveiling' to us God's Truth.
Prophecy is the type of literature that is often associated with predicting the future. However, it also contains God's words of "get with it or else." There are two main types. One is "predictive," as in foretelling an event as Jeremiah did, and the other is "didactic," challenging others to line up morally as Elijah did, or to teach a truth with a play on words as Ezekiel does. Thus, prophecy also exposes sin and calls for repentance and obedience. If not, there will be a judgment from our own misdeeds accumulating and implementing their way back to us from their own harm as well as opening us up to God's judgment. Ezekiel exemplifies this well (Num. 5:23-31; Prov. 5:3-4; 24:13-14; Rom. 1:18-32; Rev. 7:13-14).
Key Happenings, The Sins of the People hurt God: Ezekiel 20:5-26
Ezekiel, a very sensitive and intuitive man of God, lived a living testimony. He was one of the most important prophets, and he was a priest, too. God even made him mute; Ezekiel talked only when God put words in his mouth. He was born into a priesthood, but God interrupted his priestly study and called him to be a prophet. Ezekiel was one of the privileged people carried into exile to Babylon, and he exercises his call with all due passion and diligence. Most of the prophets were not Levites or priests, some educated, some not and now here comes one who fits the expected job description for the Jewish people, but will they listen? No. While Jeramiah as still preaches in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was already in the new land preaching there. His name means 'May God strengthen him. He had lived in Judah and was taken into captivity with other privileged people in one of the first waves along with Daniel in 597 B.C. He was 25; a few years later, his wife died. This all happens under the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C. Ezekiel was taken prisoner to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. This starts off the 70-year Babylonian Captivity (2 Kings 24:8-17; Isa. 22:1-14; Ezek. 1; 3:26-27; 37).
The Visions are set in figurative images denoting the omnipresence and omniscience of God. Ezekiel has an epic encounter with God and sees incredible things of Heaven and things to come that could not be described easily--like four living Cherubim with four wheels. These are not just mere visions, they are so life-shaking that they effect and affect his entire being as one who has encountered and who has been infused by the Spirit of the Living LORD (Ezek. 1:4-18; 10:4-20; 12:6-11; 24:24-27).
Four living creatures. The cherubim are a type of angelic beings appointed as guardians of the holiness of God. They are six-winged. This is about the events of the destruction of Jerusalem and are described in epic, seemingly strange visions of machines. The call here is to be faithful or be harvested for judgment, because God wants the best for Himself just as He offered His best to us (Ex. 19:16-19; Job 37:5-6; Psalm 18:11-15; 77:18; Ezek. 1:4-13, 24-28; 43:2; Dan. 7; 10:5-6; 1 Tim. 6:16; Heb. 12:18-29; Rev. 4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 14:1-5; 16:18; 19:6).
Wheels. This is a display of God's splendor, purity, and overwhelming elaborations, magnitude, and majesty--a representation of God's mighty power coming to deliver His people. It is also a message of hope, a glimpse into the awesome majesty and the power of God. This is not to be scary; rather, it refers to God's Supremacy and Authority and our duty to heed His voice and revere Him with our allegiance and continual faithfulness. These words, as in any human language or thought, are insufficient to convey who God is or what Heaven is like. Obviously, this is a figurative, not a literal description of Heaven (Ezek. 1:6-11, 24; 10:1; 43:2; 44:4; Rev. 1:15; 5:6; 14:14; 19:11-13).
These images have led many to claim that Ezekiel saw a UFO, but the wheel in the wheel was a visible manifestation of God's chariot room. Similar to Elijah's experience, this is an outward expression of God's movement and involving Himself into our lives and plight. This is also set in judgment language.
Son of Man. This is a title that will be given to Jesus. Here it means "Hey you, human being," referring to his fraility and dire situation, standing in God's glory. It will become a Name of Jesus, meaning He is Lord and King (Ezek. 2:1-10; Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 24:30-26:64; Rev. 1:13).
Watchman. Ezekiel was appointed to this task, because he will be responsible for those he ministers to. He had a uniquely dual role as a prophet and priest to watch over the people--the guy you must listen to with all the qualifications and ability to deliver (Ezek. 3:16-17).
Ezekiel bread. This is a great recipe for a very nutritious bread that God told them to eat and be nourished. It is in fact one of the most healthy things we can consume-- wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt. The human excrement for fuel was to show the people contempt (Ezek. 4:8-9).
Put a mark on the foreheads, means that God marks and protects the faithful who accept Christ as Lord and Savior, and who He claims as His, as He did at the Passover with the blood on the doorposts. In ancient times, the forehead and hands were the only parts of the body that were visible to others. This, too, is symbolic; God will not "rubber stamp" people or give us some kind of a visible mark, tattoo, "branding," or a "cross sign." God sees His children as important and worth protecting (Ex. 13:9-16; 28:38; Deut. 6:8; 11:18; Is. 44:5; 66:19; Ezek. 9:3-6; Mal. 3:2; Gal. 6:17; Eph. 1:13; Rev. 7:3)!
Eat this scroll… sweet as honey, as in consume it so it becomes a part of you. The irony of harsh judgment is that it would taste sweet. The message was dire, the outcome will be sweet. This refers to God's judgment and His goodness, grace, and mercy, and that through His Word, both written and Spirit-led, we have "good news" from God's promises and our communion with Him through which we receive His instructions and the knowledge of His nature inducing His grace, mercy, and goodness. For us, God's Word will convict, make us uncomfortable, yet give us what we need and make us better (Psalm 19:10; 119:103; Ezek. 3:1-4; 16:13; 25:5-7; 14-16).
In Ezekiel 16:49-50, the prophet addresses the sins of Israel by pointing to the sins of Sodom. One who sins, refers to that Judged according to what they had done. God keeps account, and we are accountable. This does not mean we earn our salvation; rather, what we have done with it gives us rewards, and damnation to those who reject it. Evil is the evidence of one's rejection of Christ, runaway pride, and agnosticism toward God. When one repents, the sins and offenses before God are cancelled. For us, Jesus pays the debt and our good works are the gratitude and evidence of what He has done in and for us. This is a good place to assess one's conduct before God and man (Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 18:21-30; Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 10:43, Rom. 2:6; 3:23; Col. 2:13-15; 1 Pet. 1:17; 1 John 1:9).
King of Tyrus, a name of Satan! This also refers to Babylonia and the Babylonian empire. It refers to a rock; 'Tsor,' is a place in Palestine, meaning that Satan is the false rock and Babylon was the false temporary home (Ezek. 28:12).
Shepherd, meaning "God nurtures us and extends His abundance and promises to us". Scripture tells us that God Himself is our Shepherd, and the One to lead us, but Israel was not following and was failing at this crucial call. The responsibility of the leader is to feed the sheep. As in shepherding, this applies to reaching others, as well as the responsibility we have in Christ (Num. 27:17; 1 Kings 22: 17; 2 Chron. 18:16; Psalm 36:8; 46: Ezek. 34; Matt. 9:35-38; John 21:15-19)!
Dry bones. Ezekiel's greatest miracle, it is either a grand ecstatic illustration or a real encounter with God's power. This was a graveyard of exposed old bones scorched by the desert heart, utterly repulsive to the Jew. God asks can these bones live? God tells him to preach to them who have no ears or eyes or life to hear the Word of the Lord. Israel is being schooled now, and they will be restored after the Babylonian captivity to inherit the land. This is about becoming spiritually alive and growing into spiritual maturity. They, as a nation, will come to life to show that the people will be regenerated and return to their homeland (Ezek. 37:1-10; 48).
From the sanctuary flows to them, out from under the threshold of the temple, is an image, indicative of Eden, meaning "God nurtures us and extends His abundance and promises to us" (Psalm 36:8; 46:4; Ezek. 34:27; 36:30 47:1-12; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13; Zech. 13:1).
Gog and Magog. This refers to the enemies of Israel from the land of Magog where Gog was a prince or ruler. According to Josephus, these were perhaps the Scythians from the north. These names occur many times in apocalyptic language, and basically mean those who have hostility and are enemies of God and His people. Here, it can mean those who rise up to fight God in any way. A lot of speculation is read into these names, but it is not really intended to be cryptic or esoteric (Ezek. 37-39; Rev. 16:14; 20:7-15).
Fire is a theme of judgment for those who are evil, and protection to those who are faithful (Gen. 1:24; Ex. 13:21; Lev. 10:2; 2 Kings 1:10; Ezek. 39:6; Zech. 2:5; Rev. 20:7-15 ).
Ezekiel 40, depicts that the Temple will be restored. The Jewish mindset then believed that saying how vast and magnificent was the Temple was a way of praising God. The context also refers to God's omniscience, that He is all knowing, that He cares, and He is active and involved in our lives personally and collectively as a Church. This also refers to God's power and ability, and that all things are under His control and plan (Psalm 48:12-13; Ezek. 40:1-43:17; Zech 2:1-5; Rev. 21:15).
· Measuring rod/Reed was a surveyor's tool, made from cane plant, a type of bamboo that grew beside the Jordan river, and grew to a consistent 20 feet (Ezek. 40:3; Zech. 2:1-2).
Tree of life refers to the garden of Paradise and Heaven. In context, it means the guarantee of an everlasting life, and that this life is to be abundant, vivid, pure, and true. The central focus of Heaven is our effectual, eternal relationship in and with Christ. The images from Genesis and Ezekiel mean having access to God's blessings and Fruit. The tree of life was in the Garden of Eden from which humanity was locked out after the Fall. And, this refers to trees that are always fruit bearing, not just in their season, just as God's Blessings are continual and forevermore. The promise here is the restoration of Paradise, and that this tree will grow again (Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24; Ezek. 47:7-12; 2 Cor. 12:2-4; Rev. 2:1-7, 14, 19)!
Ezekiel gives us a description of faithfulness and models of greatness who exemplify in stature and character, whom we should seek to be like. We too ought to seek faithfulness of faith and character so we can stand in Christ with an authentic consistent testimony from our relationship with Him that is reflected in our behaviors and words (2 Kings 2:1-12; Ezek. 37; Zachariah 4:1-14; Daniel 8; Matt. 17:3-4; Luke 10:1).
Key Takeaway: Why did God allow this all to happen? The same question we all ask in times of turmoil and uncertainty. Has God abandoned us? Of course He has not, and He has a plan. Just as they needed to refocus upon His call and precepts away from their trends and way, so must we. Ezekiel gives us a presentation of a Holy God who does not abandon His people, and how we can approach God, trust Him and even thrive in dire times (Psalm 100:5).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Christ is the caring Shephard. Ezekiel and Daniel portray Christ as Judge and Ruler over all, especially the Church in which we think we rule. Ezekiel is also the key to understanding Jesus in Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation (Ex. 1:13; 28:4; 29:5; 34).
Questions to Ponder
1. What does it mean to you that you are not alone, that God has His hand upon you as He did with Ezekiel?
2. How is your life choices reflected in your beliefs, behaviors and words?
3. What did you think of Ezekiel? Most Christians can't get through it, why?
4. How would you describe Prophecy as a type of literature?
5. Why did the people not listen to Ezekiel? Keep in mind he had the right expected 'qualifications,' unlike the previous Prophets?
6. Do you see the irony of harsh judgment would taste sweet. What is God saying that when the message is dire, the outcome will be sweet?
7. How is it the responsibility of the church leader to be a watchman and feed the sheep, the people in our care?
8. How have you seen God's Word convict, make people uncomfortable, yet give us what we need and make us better?
9. How is it when God speaks (to us through His Word) it is good news" from God's promises and Love?
10. How can you have more communion with Christ through receiving His instructions and the knowledge of His nature, grace, mercy, and goodness?
11. Ezekiel receives his call to prophetic ministry and then he exercised it will all due passion and diligence. How can this motivate you and your church to do as God called?
12. Ezekiel's life was a living testimony to God's faithfulness and a person's faith and character. How does this help you stand in Christ with an authentic consistent testimony?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org