Taking on a Tough Task

Explore the Bible Series

June 5, 2005

 

Background Passage: Ezekiel: 1:1-3:27

Lesson Passage: Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:3-5; 3:4-11

 

Introduction: The Prophecy of Ezekiel is a rich and challenging book.It contains some of the most dramatic, striking images recorded in Scripture, and, because of this vivid imagery, the book proves difficult, in places, to interpret.Bible students should give special attention to researching the historical background of Ezekiel, and this care with historical context will yield great fruit in understanding the prophecy.

 

Authorship:The prophetís name means ďGod will strengthen.ĒThe prophecy only uses Ezekielís proper name a few times.Most often (more than 90 times) God referred to the prophet as the ďson of man.ĒHe was the son of Buzi (otherwise unknown in Scripture), and he came from a priestly family.This family must have held some prominence in Judah because the prophet was taken to Babylon with the second group of captives in 597 B.C. (The first wave of captivity occurred shortly after the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians in the Battle of Carchemish, in 605 B.C.)The Babylonians took approximately 10,000 Jews at the same time that Nebuchadnezzar removed King Jehoiachin from the throne of Judah (See II Kings 24:14-16).Ezekiel lived near the Chebar Canal that irrigated much of the arid region around the Euphrates River.The Bible records that the prophet was married, but his wife died some years after the beginning of Ezekielís prophetic ministry (See 24:18).

 

Liberal scholars have questioned the authorship of Ezekiel for some time (several suggest a post-exilic editor who complied the book), but conservatives affirm the traditional view concerning authorship.Apparently, Ezekiel was about thirty years old (some think the reference to the ďthirtieth yearĒ in Ezekiel 1:1 refers to Ezekielís age) when he began his prophetic work.Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel may have evidenced some reluctance about the hardship of serving as a prophet, and the Lord strengthened and encouraged him in Chapter Two of the prophecy.The oracles of the book appear in a first-person format that lends an air of immediacy to the work.

 

Historical Background: No Hebrew prophet, except Ezekiel, carried out his entire ministry outside of the physical boundaries of Palestine.Ezekiel began his prophetic work five years after the Babylonians took him captive.His ministry lasted for more than three decades, and he was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel. The book reflects the dismal circumstances of the seventy years of the Captivity, but it also contains a powerful redemptive optimism concerning the restoration of the people of God.During the early years of Ezekielís sojourn the Jews apparently held a naÔve view that God would quickly restore the nationís glory.Amazingly, the captives persisted in their disregard for Godís commandments, and Ezekiel had to confront their disobedience and spiritual callousness.

 

 

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                    Ezekielís Vision of the Lordís Glory (1:10-28)

A.     The prophetís call(vv. 1-3)

1.      The time and location of the prophetís call (vv.1-2)

2.      The Lordís hand on Ezekiel (v. 3)

B.     The four living beings (vv. 4-14)

1.      A great storm from the north (v. 4)

2.      The description of the four living creatures (vv. 5-14): This vision describes the striking appearance of angelic beings.They resembled a man, but the creatures had four faces, four wings, and feet like a calf.They also had a radiant countenance that made them very striking and glorious.

C.     The wheel within a wheel (vv. 15-25): Ezekiel saw an awesome vision of a radiant wheel revolving within another wheel.The rims of the wheels were full of eyes, and the resplendent vision glowed like burning coals and amber.

D.     Godís throne (vv. 26-28): The prophet saw the appearance of Godís throne. It is noteworthy that the prophet only saw the lower half of a man-like figure.Above the throne, Ezekiel saw a rainbow that represented Godís glory and grace.

††††††††††††††††† Application: Daniel Block identifies seven points reflected in this vision.

1.      The vision proclaims the transcendent glory of God.

2.      The vision proclaims the transcendent holiness of God.

3.      The vision proclaims the sovereignty of God.††††††††††

4.      The vision proclaims Godís interest in his people.

5.      The vision proclaims the presence of God among the exiles.

6.      The vision hints at the impending judgment of God.

7.      The vision serves notice that whoever would enter into divine service must have a clear vision of the one whose service he or she is called.

 

II.                 The Prophetís Commission and the Hardships He Would Encounter (2:1-10)†††††

A.     The prophetís call to attention (vv. 1-2)

B.     The spirit of those to whom Ezekiel would preach (vv. 3-5)

1.      Rebellious

2.      Stubborn: literally ďstiff facedĒ

3.      Obstinate

C.     Godís call to fearlessness (vv. 6-7)

D.     Ezekiel told to consume the scroll of the Lord (vv. 8-10)

 

III.               The Prophetís Message (3:1-27)

A.     The hardship of the prophetís commission (vv. 1-7)

1.      The sweetness of the Lordís word (vv. 1-3)

2.      The hardheartedness of the Lordís people (vv. 4-7)

B.     Godís promise to strengthen Ezekiel (vv. 8-11)

C.     Ezekielís vision of the glory of the Lord (vv. 12-15)

D.     Ezekiel made a watchman over Israel (vv. 16-27)

1.      Ezekielís responsibility to preach as God commanded (vv. 16-21)

2.      The prophetís first ďliving parableĒ (vv. 22-27): Ezekiel was to tie himself up in his house.The Lord caused the prophetís tongue to cleave to the roof of his mouth until God loosened Ezekielís tongue.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

 

Observations Concerning the Lesson Passage:

 

  1. God calls his servants to obey him in real-life circumstances (1:1-3).The Lord did not shield Ezekiel from the difficult and gritty conditions of the time.The historical context would have discouraged any person, but God remained faithful to his people by raising up a prophet in the midst of a dismal situation.The exiles from Judah lived in an idolatrous and violent society.Their enemies ruled over them, and they could no longer take comfort in the presence of the Temple and the Mosaic sacrificial system.Even though Ezekiel was a priest, he had no Temple in which to carry out his duties. Nevertheless, God called the prophet to boldly obey the Lord of Hosts in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (See Philippians 2:15).
  2. God calls his servants to faithfulness and not success. What would contemporary ďChurch GrowthĒ experts think of Ezekiel?How would they evaluate his effectiveness as a servant of the Lord?Would Ezekiel find his name on the program to speak at the denominational annual convention?Before Ezekiel ever raised his voice to preach, God assured him that he would not ďsucceed.Ē
  3. God, at times, calls his servants to obey him in the face of an indifferent or hostile audience.The Lord is sovereign in the nature of ministry to which he calls his servants.He sent Ezekiel to a rebellious, obstinate people. Do you find yourself in a difficult place of service? Take heart.You are in good company.
  4. God directed Ezekiel to preach to the people.He gave this direction to the prophet in the context of the Ezekielís prayer life. As is ever the case, the prophet had only two weapons in his warfare: prayer and preaching.
  5. Above all, I am struck by the message of the opening chapter of this book.At the very outset of Ezekielís ministry, God impressed him with an unmistakable sense of divine glory.††† The Lord, it seems, knew that the only thing that would sustain the prophet would be an unshakable awareness of the glory, power, majesty, and sovereignty of God.