How to Be Redeemed

Explore the Bible Series

July 10, 2005


Background Passage: Ezekiel 33:1-33

Lesson Passage: Ezekiel 33:7-11, 30-33


Introduction: Scholars debate the nature and purpose of Ezekiel 33.  Some see this chapter as a continuation of the oracles recorded in chapters 4-24.  Daniel Block, for instance, writes, “The chapter contains no hint at all that a new era in Ezekiel’s preaching is about to begin.”  Others believe that Chapter 33 introduces a second phase of Ezekiel’s ministry.  The recurrence of the “watchman” imagery (vv. 1-11) signals, according to this view, a renewal of Ezekiel’s prophetic call, and the ushering in of a new, more positive era in his work.  Chapters 34-48 contain heartening messages of hope and restoration for the people of God, and Chapter 33 introduces these optimistic passages.


Block’s view seems most plausible.  One looks in vain for the introduction of new images in Chapter 33.  The themes have recurred regularly throughout the first thirty-two chapters of the prophecy.  However, this chapter may be summative, and the prophet, in this case, intended to bring the first section of the book to an end with this last statement of concern for the sins of the Lord’s people. Then, having provided this summary statement, the prophet proceeded to more hopeful material in Chapter 34-48.  If one follows this line of reasoning, Chapter 33 serves as a transitional section between the more severe materials (Chapters 4-32) and the redemptive section (Chapters 34-48).


The chapter divides into five sections.  The first two sections (vv. 1-20) are so closely related that to separate them would do violence to the overall meaning of the chapter; therefore, I have included these two sections under one heading in the outline. The last three portions describe conditions in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem.  Verses 21 and 22 give a simple, straightforward account of the report Ezekiel received concerning Jerusalem’s destruction, and the next few verses give a summary of the reasons for the city’s devastation.  Finally, the chapter closes with God’s description of the attitude of the exiles toward the person and message of Ezekiel.



This chapter gives poignant insight into the nature of Christian ministry.  Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel knew the sting of ministerial rejection and the deflating effects of seeing little positive fruit from his service to God.  Jeremiah met with great hostility to his ministry, and Ezekiel knew the sting of rejection as well.  However, at this point in his life’s work, Ezekiel met with a certain amount of acclaim.  The people came to hear him preach, and they even expressed affection for the prophet.  Sadly, though, they seemed more amused with Ezekiel than moved by his message.  They savored his preaching, but they did not repent and obey the Lord.  Many contemporary preachers my find themselves tempted to relish a popular ministry.  The accolades of the crowd feed something in preachers, but the applause of the masses seldom serves the interests of true godliness.  As we examine this chapter, give special attention to God’s evaluation of the “popularity” of Ezekiel’s preaching.





Outline of the Passage:


I.                    Judah’s Watchman (33:1-20)

A.   The Image of the Watchman (vv. 1-6): These verses unfold two hypothetical scenarios. 

       1.  In the first, a hostile invader threatens a city, and, in the face of the peril, the people of the land chose a man to serve as a watchman to alert the city of the arrival of the threatening army.  The watchman faithfully carries out his duty.  As the enemy approaches, the sentinel sounds the trumpet to warn the people of the imminent threat.    Sadly, some of the people refused to heed the watchman’s warning, and the enemy takes the life of the negligent man.  The blood of the unheeding man is on his own hands.  On the other hand, the responsive man will save his life because he heeds the warning of the watchman.

      2.   The second scenario reverses the circumstances recorded in verses 1-5.  In this instance the watchman fails in his duty, and the enemy approaches without warning.  The bloodguiltiness, in this situation, rests upon the negligent sentinel.  Notice, in each circumstance, Ezekiel leaves the story in a hypothetical form.  The Lord had designated Ezekiel as a watchman over the people (See Ezekiel 3:16-27), but, in this text, God clearly intended to merely establish a general principle of responsibility.  If the people fell before their moral enemies, the fault rested either with the poor watchmen or with an unheeding and callous people.

B.  The Wicked Protests of the Ungodly (vv. 7-20): God anticipated two wicked charges the ungodly would raise against the Lord (See vv. 10 and 17-20).  Profane men often indict God for their unseemly behavior.  They seek to lay the blame for their actions at the feet of the Lord.

     1.    The ungodly accused of God of unfeeling cruelty in his judgment of Judah (vv. 10-11).  They depicted themselves as wasting away with grief and remorse for their sin, and they perceived themselves as helpless in their condition.  Ezekiel used a very powerful word in that is translated “pine away” (NKJV) in verse ten.  The word refers to putrefied, gangrenous flesh.  The people saw themselves as a dead and decaying body: lifeless, rotten, and corrupt.  Verse eleven answers their protest.  God does not delight in the death of the wicked, and, even in this late hour, he offered repentance and forgiveness to the House of Israel.  Mathew Henry pointed out three certainties about this verse.  (1) God certainly has no delight in the ruin of sinners.  (2) God certainly is sincere in calling sinners to repentance.  (3) It is certain that, if sinners perish in the impenitency, it is owing to themselves.  They die because they will die… 

    2.     The ungodly accused God of inequity and unfairness in finding the self-righteous guilty and granting forgiveness to the repentant.  Ezekiel described God’s dealings with two kinds of people.  First, the prophet described the “righteous.”  These people indulge their delusion that they are right with God because of their formal righteousness; however, their virtue suffered from fatal deficiencies.  They trusted in their own merit before God (See v. 13) rather than the mercies of God.  True righteousness trusts in the grace of God, and issues from a regenerate heart.  Furthermore, the “righteousness” of these men did not last.  They made a fair profession of their commitment to the Lord of Hosts, but they did not persevere in grace.  The second kind of man demonstrated a different sort of righteousness.  Though he once lived disgracefully, he repented of his sin and gave evidence of the life-changing mercies of the Lord.  He turned from his wickedness and practiced justice and righteousness (See v. 19).  God promised life to the second man.  This has ever been the way of the Lord.



II.                 The Report of the Fall of Jerusalem (33:21-22)

A.     The escapee from Jerusalem reported to Ezekiel (v. 21): An unnamed refugee reported to Ezekiel that Jerusalem had fallen.  MacArthur dates the fall of the city, July 18, 586 B.C. and the fugitive arrived in Babylon approximately six months later (perhaps January, 585).

B.     The Lord loosened the tongue of Ezekiel (v. 22).  Recall that God had caused Ezekiel’s tongue to cleave to the roof of the prophet’s mouth (See Ezekiel 3:26-27; 24:25-27).   The Lord had promised to loosen the prophet’s tongue when the messenger came from Jerusalem, and the event occurred precisely as God had predicted.


III.               The Reasons for Judah’s Fall (33: 23-29)

A.     God’s indictments against Israel (vv. 23-26)

1.      Sinful presumptuousness (v. 24): They presumed that God’s covenant with Israel revealed no responsibility for the people live obediently before the Lord.

2.      Ate meat with the blood (See Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-14, and 19:26)

3.      lifted up eyes to idols (v. 25)

4.      shed blood (v. 25)

B.     God’s sentence upon a guilty nation (vv. 26-29): The judgments mentioned in this passage do not differ from those recorded in numerous other texts in Ezekiel.  The Lord promised a thorough judgment on everyone: the city-dwellers, the agrarians, and those in the strongholds and the caves (they found no place to hide from the Lord).  The purpose of this destruction centered on God’s desire to reveal himself as the Lord (v. 29).



IV.              The Exiles’ Strange Response to Ezekiel (vv. 30-33)

A.     The Exiles Relished Ezekiel’s Preaching: This passage records the favorable reception Ezekiel received from his countrymen.  They relished his preaching and acknowledged that Ezekiel’s message came from the Lord (v. 30).  They showered the prophet with affection (v. 31), and they regarded his words as pleasant and melodic (v. 32). 

B.     The Exiles Continued to Disobey the Lord: Perhaps the people found some general amusement in Ezekiel’s sermons.  They attended his preaching like men might flock to a pleasant musical concert, but they had no intension of repenting of their sins.