Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Ezekiel 1-13 "Countdown to Exile" 1/5|
Introduction to Ezekiel
With most of these studies we seek to provide a context within which to view the particular writer or period covered by the studies. For this set of studies this is particularly important.
Ezekiel was a priest, or at least the son of a priest (1:3) and had been taken into captivity into Babylon . It was there that he had his visions. Even as Daniel had his visions in the court of Babylon, Ezekiel had his among the exiles in Babylon, while Jeremiah was prophesying back in Jerusalem, all about the same period. Because the timing is so important, we will consider the time-scale separately in the special note following this Introduction.
The Uniqueness of Ezekiel
Ezekiel is unique in the Scriptures for the revelations of the Glory of the Lord that he saw a number of times, and the position he held as ‘prophet in exile among the people'. In these first 13 chapters covered by this set of studies, we will see him among the exiles receiving revelations unlike anyone else in his time. More than that he was called to enact out prophesies over a long period, thus becoming a talking point among the exiles and eventually to back home in Jerusalem. A difficult and remarkable ministry!
The Breakdown of these Studies:
We will consider these chapters under the following headings:
Part 1 : Vision & Preparation
In this first part we will see one of the most amazing revelations in the Old Testament. Why did he have it? Because with it came strong instructions to go to a hard people. The revelation of God plus some very clear instructions makes Ezekiel's mission quite clear. It will not be easy and it is perhaps because of that that the Lord gives him such revelation which must have left him a changed man! Watch for all this in what follows.
The Time-Scale of Ezekiel
Ezekiel seems to have lived during the reigns of Josiah (640-609 BC), Jehoahaz (609BC), Jehoiakim (609-597BC), Jehoiachin (597BC), and Zedekiah (597-587BC).
If 1:1 refers to his age, 30, (Num 4:3 speaks of this being the age when one became a priest) then in 593BC, the 5th year of Jehoiachin's exile (1:2), he was thirty and had probably been exiled with those taken with Jehoiachin in 597BC (see 2 Kings 24:12-14)
From his writings we can establish the following:
From these we see that in fact he only prophesied during and after the reign of the last king of Judah. If we now take out some of those dates we can see the significance of Ezekiel:
i.e. he was prophesying during the seven years before the final fall of Jerusalem. It is no surprise, therefore to find that much of his words from God are about Jerusalem. Fourteen years after that fall he received his visions about the new Temple, and fresh hope was given from the midst of exile, that God would yet again dwell in the midst of His people. He is thus a prophet of judgment and of hope.
Chapter: Ezek 1
Passage: Ezek 1:1-14
A. Find Out:
1. Where was Ezekiel, when and what happened? v.1
2. What more detail was given of that? v.2,3
3. What did he see coming first? v.4
4. How were the faces of the four creatures described? v.5,6,10
5. What are we told about their wings? v.6,8,9,11
6. What other descriptions are given of the creatures? v.7,12-14
1. How much are we told about Ezekiel himself?
2. What human characteristics did the creatures have?
3. What things showed them to be very “non-human”?
First, Ezekiel himself. He is a priest or at least the son of a priest. He would have had a religious upbringing. He is in exile in Babylon , about 6 or 7 years before the destruction of Jerusalem , by the river Kebar, with a number of other exiles, when suddenly God's hand comes upon him and he starts seeing things that no one else can see. We are told he had visions AND the word of the Lord came to him. Note the difference: visions are pictures he received, and then he received words from God as well.
In his vision he sees various things that remind us of God coming at Sinai (Ex 19), an immense cloud coming (Ex 19:9), like a great storm from the north, a great disturbance. When the presence of God comes, it brings great upheaval, so great is the power that accompanies it. From this immense cloud comes lightning ( 19:16 ) and has light or fire in the midst ( 19:18 ), everything indicating the evidence of the holy presence of God coming.
But then there are the four creatures. They have human form, with arms and legs, but that is all. They have four faces so they see everything in all directions: human (man), regal (lion), strong (ox), divine (eagle). They have four wings so they can go in any direction, and they go as the Spirit goes. They are like fire, indicating they came from the holy presence of God. Whatever they are, these creatures are close to God and do the will of God.
1. There is mystery close to God, holy mystery! Don't be casual!
2. Those closest to God always do His will.
Chapter: Ezek 1
Passage: Ezek 1:15-25
A. Find Out:
1. What did he see beside each creature? v.15
2. How were they described? v.16-18
3. Who moved how? v.19-21
4. What was above the creatures? v.22
5. What happened when the creatures moved? v.24a,b
6. What happened when they stood still? v.24c,25
1. What do the descriptions of the wheels indicate?
2. What is the link between the creatures and the wheels?
3. What seems to be the purpose of the creatures and the wheels?
Remember this is a prophetic vision. Throughout Ezekiel says something “looked like” or simply “like”; he has trouble describing things! Perhaps the object is a material illustration or example of the reality.
Beside each creature is a wheel. Either the four wheels are inter-linked or they each have another at right angles (like a gyroscope). The wheels speak of movement, and they can go in any direction without changing. The creatures and the wheels seem to move as one, they are inextricably linked. Wings and wheels speak of power and movement, tremendous power (listen to the sound!) and completely smooth movement. That the wheels have eyes all around indicates that they, like the creatures, can fully see where they are going all the time. There is a sense with these creatures and wheels that there is a total unity in purpose as they seem to carry the presence of God above them, wherever He wants to go.
In this mysterious picture we are confronted with an awesome power and purpose, fully submitted to the will of God. It is certainly a mystery that is not explained, but the sense is there, nothing could stop this tremendous force. The presence of God is accompanied by tremendous power that none can withstand! In history, revival is the word used to describe the awesome power of God coming that cannot be withstood.
Chapter: Ezek 1
Passage: Ezek 1:26-28
A. Find Out:
1. What did he see above the expanse? v.26a
2. Who did he see there? v.26b
3. How was he described? v.27
4. What was all around him? v.28a
5. What was this said to be? v.28b
6. What was the effect on Ezekiel? v.28c
1. What is encouraging about the figure on the throne?
2. What is awesome about him?
3. Why do you think Ezekiel fell face down?
Now we come to the divine presence over and above all the other things. He is there on a throne. The throne speaks of the One who rules over all things. He is Lord of all. But the figure that is there has human form. This says that God wants to communicate with man. He comes to us in a form that is recognisable to us, not some alien shape.
But this human form seems to have two elements. The lower half is pure fire, the upper half is fire within a glowing metal body. Imagine it if you can in that way. As fire blazes up it takes a human form, the upper body is that which is used to communicate to mankind. This fire is the very holy “otherness” that is God. God is spirit but when He makes His presence known to man, because He is Holy spirit, we see Him first as fire. It is awesome.
His very presence is brilliant and because there are clouds about Him, hiding from us more detail of the heavenly presence coming down, the brilliance of His glory shines through the clouds like the most beautiful of rainbows. When the glory of God touches His creation, there is beauty. All of this has an instant impact on Ezekiel: he falls flat on his face. This seems a voluntary act; he knows he cannot stand and face the awesome glory of God. He must hide his face or perhaps die.
1. God is utterly holy and calls us to be so as well.
2. Where God's glory touches God's creation, it is beautiful.
Chapter: Ezek 2
Passage: Ezek 2:1-8
A. Find Out:
1. What did the Lord tell Ezekiel to do and what happened? v.1,2
2. To whom was the Lord sending Ezekiel? v.3a
3. How did he describe them? v.3b,4
4. What will they know? v.5b
5. What did the Lord tell Ezekiel not to be? v.6
6. Of what was he not to worry? v.5a,7
7. Who was he not to be like and what was he to do? v.8
1. What is Ezekiel told about those to whom he is to go?
2. What effect might that have on him?
3. So how does the Lord counter that?
Ezekiel is on his face but the Lord doesn't want to talk to the back of our head so He instructs Ezekiel and then raises him up. He first of all addresses him as “Son of man”, which will occur again and again in this book. It indicates Ezekiel's smallness, weakness and humanity, to contrast with the greatness and holiness of God.
The Lord first tells Ezekiel to whom he is to go: to Israel . Now that is not good news because this is at the end of Judah 's time when many are already in exile. It has been their stubbornness and rebellion that has brought them to this place. They may or may not listen to him, but he's to go nevertheless. Being in exile himself, Ezekiel might have already been feeling down and the thought of having to take God's word to this people would quite naturally raise fear in him.
The Lord directly addresses this fear: don't be afraid he says – three times! Don't be afraid of them or of their words or worry about whether they will heed what you say. It's sufficient that they know a prophet has been among them. Our responsibility is simply to pass on what God says and leave the response to our listeners. They are answerable to God! We've just got to ensure we're simply obedient.
1. Communicating the Gospel is our responsibility.
2. How people respond to it is their responsibility.
Chapter: Ezek 2/3
Passage: Ezek 2:8-3:3
A. Find Out:
1. What was Ezekiel told to do? v.8c
2. What did he see before him? v.9
3. What was it? v.10
4. What was he then told to do? v.1
5. So what did he do and what happened? v.2
6. What then happened and how did it taste? v.3
1. How many times was he told to eat? What does that say to us?
2. What was the scroll?
3. How did it taste? What do you think that says?
Having been given a general instruction to go and speak to Israel , Ezekiel (in the vision remember) then has the message imparted to him in a prophetic and symbolic manner. The picture clearly says that the prophet has to inwardly take in the message before he can impart it. Real prophets don't just pass on God's word; they have already taken the truth into their innermost beings so it has become part of them. They thus speak out of the deepest of convictions.
Three times Ezekiel is told to eat what is being given to him. Why three times? First, it is probably because the thought of eating a manuscript would be repugnant. Second, to convince Ezekiel that this is really what God wants him to do and it is so important that he does it.
What did he have to eat? A scroll on which was written both sides, words of anguish over Israel . This indicates first the heart of God over Israel and then the feeling that Ezekiel is to take into himself. When the Lord says He will speak against Israel , it isn't with relish but with anguish that He comes. Ezekiel is to come in the same way. The scroll was first of all filling and then sweet to taste. This is the will of God: it is filling or complete and it is sweet when we receive it - even if later we are to feel the anguish of it! God's word is always good!
1. Prophets are to feel as God feels. They feel His anguish at times.
2. Prophets are to speak with God's feeling, not their own.
Chapter: Ezek 3
Passage: Ezek 3:4-15
A. Find Out:
1. To whom was he to go and how were they described? v.4-6
2. What will be the response? v.7
3. What will God do with Ezekiel? v.8,9
4. What does the Lord then tell him to do? v.10,11
5. What did he hear? v.12,13
6. But what was happening to him, himself? v.14,15
1. What is going to be easy about this assignment?
2. Yet how is it going to be hard?
3. So how is the Lord going to prepare Ezekiel for it?
In chapter 2 the Lord told Ezekiel to whom he was to go. Now He repeats the sending instructions. He's to go to Israel . In one sense that's easy because they are not a foreign people with a difficult language to get through, but on the other hand it's going to be hard because they are rebellious and aren't willing to listen. Note that in the midst of exile (well early days at least) they ARE rebellious and ARE NOT listening, despite what has happened to them, this people has not yet learnt. It will take seventy years of exile to change their hearts. Yet God still speaks to them. We will never, in eternity, be able to criticise and say He didn't try and try again to get them to heed.
This is going to be a hard assignment but the Lord is going to make Ezekiel up to the job, He's going to make him stubborn and obstinate so that he will not give up. How? Well it's already started happening. By allowing him to see this incredible vision, God has already set in him something he'll never forget and something that will keep him, whatever he faces. At the apparent end of this vision he is put down again with the exiles near the river Kebar, but the effect of the vision is so devastating upon him that he simply sits there among them for seven days, overwhelmed. When God reveals the truth sometimes, we are left like that.
1. When God gives a job, He also equips us to do it.
2. He doesn't promise success, but just wants obedience.
A. Find Out:
1. What was the Lord making Ezekiel? v.17
2. What might happen with the wicked and with what result? v.18
3. What alternative could happen with the wicked? v.19
4. What could happen in respect of a righteous man? v.20
5. But what alternative could happen? v.21
1. In what way is Ezekiel going to be held accountable?
2. Alternatively how will another's sin not affect Ezekiel?
3. How can God's apparent will be changed?
The Lord now lays down general principles that Ezekiel needs to understand, about accountability.
First of all the Lord warns Ezekiel that because of his role as Watchman to Israel , he may find himself accountable for the lives of others. When will that occur? Well, two scenarios are given. The first is when a wicked person is sinning and God gives Ezekiel His word of warning and Ezekiel does not bring it so the man dies in his sin. The second case is where a righteous man falls away and again Ezekiel fails to pass on God's word of warning. In both cases the Lord will hold Ezekiel accountable for that man's death. Very serious!
Two other possibilities are also given; first that Ezekiel brings God's word of warning to the wicked man and he refuses to heed it and dies in his sin. In that case Ezekiel will not be held accountable for his failure to repent. The other case is of the righteous man who does repent, and Ezekiel will have saved himself there as well.
Note also that God may say to a person “You will die” (v.18) but His intention is that this man will repent (see 2 Kings 20:1-6). Note also that a righteous man can fall away and end up dying for his sin. The challenge to us is to remain righteous. We can't go on past goodness. Today is what matters.
1. When God speaks we are accountable to pass on His message.
A. Find Out:
1. What did the Lord tell Ezekiel to do and where to go? v.22
2. What happened when he went there? v.23
3. What then happened & where was he told to go? v.24
4. What was he told they would do to him? v.25
5. What would the Lord do to him? v.26
6. But when would he be able to speak and what would he say? v.27
1. What prefaces the next set of instructions that Ezekiel receives?
2. How would you summarise the outcome of verses 24-26?
This is the third set of instructions from the Lord. The first after the first vision gave the task and required the digesting of the message. The second seven days later brought rules of accountability. This third set on the plain basically say, “You will say nothing except that which I give to you”!
Note that again the instructions only come after a further revelation of the glory of the Lord. Again he falls down before the Lord and again he is Spirit empowered. Perhaps it a measure of the difficulty of the task, that he is given vision after vision of the glory of the Lord. Perhaps more than any other prophet, Ezekiel saw the glory of God.
Already he is on his own on the plain, but he is told that his isolation will be extended as he is to go into his own house. Who is going to bind him is not made clear but the outcome is: he will be put into a time of restriction so that he cannot go out. The Lord will stop him speaking so that even though he sees the rebellion of the people, he will not be able to speak to them about it. The Lord will give him His words when the time is right. The basic message will be “he who has an ear to hear, let him hear”, or “he whose heart is open to God, let him take note of what I'm saying”.
RECAP - "Visions & Preparation" - Ezekiel 1-3
In this first group of 8 studies we have seen :
Following one of the strangest visions recorded in Scripture, Ezekiel is told he is to go to Israel , who are stubborn and rebellious, and tell them to repent - but they will not listen. Having been told this Ezekiel might have been tempted to argue but the vision is still so clear to him that there is no questioning or querying his mission. His mission is confirmed twice more and he is given levels of accountability and responsibility. The extent of his ministry is thus clearly defined. He's ready to start.
1. God is a mystery; He is awesome and deserves our worship.
2. The closer one gets to God, the more one desires to do His will.
3. When God calls us, He will equip us.
4. Whether people listen and respond is not our responsibility.
Worship the Lord who is God Almighty.
PART 2 : " Visual Aid Prophecies"
In this next Part we'll see God give instructions to Ezekiel on how he is to convey truth to Israel in graphic visual ways that will leave the people talking and wondering.