God chose the prophet Ezekiel to preach to the Jews in Babylon. While living in exile, Ezekiel’s heart was broken by the devastation of Jerusalem and the carnage he witnessed. God revealed what was going to happen in the future.
As a youth, Ezekiel read about the time of Israel’s historical superficial renewal of 621 B.C. as documented in the book of Deuteronomy. Folks had once again returned to their ways. Without trusting God, the political upheaval of the times ruled their minds and hearts instead of God. The Temple was in ashes, and as their faith was based on the scene, and not the unseen, they were devastated. While reading Ezekiel the phrase the Glory of God is repeated a dozen times in the first eleven chapters. Then in chapter 43, the glory of the Lord is grieved by the idol worship of the people. A personal take away is that since we live in New Testament times, that we too can grieve the indwelt Holy Spirit by what we give our hearts over to. If we continue to resist what the Spirit is saying to us, He gets snuffed out, and our hearts then resembles a temple in ashes, totally deprived of the glory of God. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we replace time with God for things of this world.
In Old Testament times, the glory of God referred to the light that shined between the cherubim as the evidence of God in our midst. In the first chapter Ezekiel shares a vision of what that looks like. The writings of Ezekiel end with the earthly glory of God returning. Ezekiel reports in chapter one: “Standing near the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens opened up and God gave him an incredible vision. A windstorm coming out of the North hurled a fiery glowing metal object with four living creatures riding in it. Each creature had the face of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. When the creatures moved the wheels moved. “Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. “ (Ez 1:20) Ezekiel details what he heard. The sound of their wings was like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of God. He saw a throne of sapphire and above the throne was a figure of a man with a brilliant, radiant light all around him. “This as the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ez 1:28)
When Ezekiel saw what some scholars today believe was Jesus, the prophet fell facedown as the man spoke. “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” (Ez 2) As the man spoke, the Spirit came into Ezekiel and raised him to his feet, and Ezekiel heard him clearly speak.
God chose Ezekiel and He sent him to speak to His rebellious, stubborn people. God instructed him not to be terrified as Ezekiel lived among evil. God then stretched out his hand and handed Ezekiel a scroll. Both sides of the scroll had words of lament and woe. God then told Ezekiel to eat the scrolls, to digest them fully and then go and speak to the house of Israel. Ezekiel reports that the words on the scrolls tasted sweet.
God warned Ezekiel that the house of Israel was not willing to listen to him because they were not willing to listen to God. God promised to make Ezekiel as unyielding as they were with a forehead like the hardest stone. Then the Spirit lifted Ezekiel up and he heard a loud rushing sound “May the glory of the Lord be praised in His dwelling place”. Ezekiel reports that he was taken away in bitterness as anger welled up in his spirit. The strong hand of God was on Ezekiel. He went to the exiles who lived in Tel Aviv, near the Kebar River. At the end of seven days … “The word of the Lord came to me” (Ez 3:16) this phrase is repeated 49 times in this book. God instructed Ezekiel “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved your life.” (Ez 3:18)
God assigned Ezekiel 390 days to bear the sin of the house of Israel. He gave strict instructions to Ezekiel of what, how much and when to eat. God told him of His plan to cut off the supply of food in Jerusalem and that there would be much anxiety as food and water would be scarce. God told Ezekiel to shave his head and beard and then to periodically burn his hair.
In chapter 7 we read that the end came to the four corners of Israel.“The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.” (Ez 7)
In chapter nine Ezekiel has another vision “I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces North, each with a deadly weapon in their hand.” (Ez 9:2) The glory of the Lord departed the temple. Ezekiel saw the living creatures that he had seen at the Kebar River and realized that they were cherubim. In chapter eleven God promises the return of His people to Israel. Ezekiel artistically paints pictures full of terror and mystery. Whether or not people listen or understand, Ezekiel’s responsibility was to deliver God’s message.
He describes visions in chapter 4, while he speaks in parables in chapter 17. His major prophecies spread across chapters 6: 20: and 40-48. In all the land, the religious practices became superficial and ritualistic. The temple had been worshipped above God and so He reduced it to ashes as the people were deported to Babylon. The same thing can happen to Christians today. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we worship our accomplishments, our possessions and our traditions. Music, sports, work or ambition can all easily become an idol. The Spirit of God is limited if we refuse to examine our heart’s motives and confess. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we must crucify our personal desires so that He may rise up and work in us for God’s glory.
Ezekiel was a home missionary to the people of Israel. “You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech.” (Ez 3:5) He was a watchman (Ez 33:7) who was careful to speak to save souls. He was used as a sign post that said “walk this way”. In humility and obedience, Ezekiel lost all things and shut down his personal interests. He ate his food by weight as he sacrificed his personal appearance. He remains an example to all of us. That we should be careful to watch and listen to what the Spirit is saying.
In chapter 37:1-18 Ezekiel was given the vision of a valley filled with dry bones which represented the whole house of Israel. It pictures the power of God to raise those who are dead and bring forth new life “in Him”. The bones are the Jews; and the graves are the nations in which they were buried. God’s promise to bring them back to their own land, and to revive His Holy City will be, according to His purpose, in His time, to fulfill all that He promised. “Being reborn” as it was explained to Nicodemus is what God promises His people Israel. LESSON: Jesus will judge us, and He will restore those who confess their sins.
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
All rights reserved.
“It is finished” – 4/7/19