Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Ezekiel 14-20 "A Kaleidoscope of Warnings" 1/4|
Context: Previous Studies
In the first series in this book we saw Ezekiel's early vision of the approaching God of Judgment and his preparation and start of ministry (Ch.1-3), and then him having to act out prophecies (Ch.4 & 5). This was followed by a warning of imminent judgment (Ch.5-7) and then visions of Jerusalem (Ch.8-11). After this came condemnation of princes and prophets (Ch.12 & 13).
Context: History & Geography
We will soon see that these words of warning that are coming from the Lord via Ezekiel must be coming in the period immediately prior to Jerusalem 's destruction and the final exile. In fact the one date (20:1) shows us this was just four years before that events.
What is intriguing is that these are prophecies brought by Ezekiel in Babylonia were presumably conveyed to Jerusalem . (Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem and Daniel was in the court in Babylon.)
Chapters 14 to 20, which will be covered in this set of studies, bring us to ‘in your face' warnings to Israel and Jerusalem and we will view them as follows:
We have entitled this series “A Kaleidoscope of Warnings” because every page carried warning to Jerusalem and remaining Israel but they come in a whole variety of ways. There are direct words from the Lord and there are parables and allegories and even a lament.
The Significance of these Prophecies
These words, like those coming again and again from Jeremiah, show us that the Lord was giving Israel every possibility of avoiding the coming judgment. The messages are full of teaching and principles and the basic one is that God doesn't take pleasure in killing people; He would much rather they repented and were saved from what would otherwise come.
Part 1: Repentance, Judgment Cause & the Burnt Vine – Ch.14 & 15
In this first part we will see the elders of Israel , there in exile, come to Ezekiel asking for a word from the Lord (presumably of encouragement). The message they are given is that the only message is one of repentance for that is what is needed to avoid the judgment that will come if they do not come to their senses. Judgment only comes with a just cause! Look for the lessons.
Part 1 "Repentance, Judgment Cause & a Burnt Vine " Ch.14 & 15
Chapter: Ezek 14
Passage 1: Ezek 14:1-6 - Shall I Answer?
A. Find Out
1. Who came where and did what and what happened? v.1,2
2. What two things had these men done according to the Lord? v.3a,b
3. What did the Lord ask? v.3c
4. How does He say He will answer such people? v.4
5. Why? v.5
6. So what does He call them to do? v.6
1. What do you think was the problem with these men?
2. Why is there is a question over how to answer such people?
3. What needs to happen?
It is interesting to note that although the prophet was often unpopular, still the elders of exiled Israel recognised him for what he was and came and sought him out (v.1). On their arrival the Lord spoke to Ezekiel (v.2) and immediately pinpointed the problem with these leaders: they had idols in their hearts and they had hardened their hearts with excuses why they should do their own thing and not the Lord's (v.3)
“Idols in their hearts” probably means literal idols and holding on to them puts a stumbling block before them to them coming back to the Lord. While they hold on to such things it is really impossible for them to come back to God in reality. That is what is behind this and all that follows.
Now comes the problem: how should God respond to them? (v.3c) Should He say anything at all? After all they have set their hearts against the Lord, so why bother to say anything? Should He just some something encouraging in the vain hope He might win them?
Then the Lord establishes a principle: if such people come to the Lord they must expect Him to answer them on the basis of their state before Him (v.4) There is no point Him just being nice to them and He would prefer not to ignore them. His desire is to recapture their hearts and to bring them back to Him (v.5) but the only way to do this is to call them to repentance (v.6) because there is no hope for them until they do. The Lord wants to bless them but cannot do so while their hearts are away from Him.
1. We need to be honest about the state of our heart before the Lord, and be honest if we have put ‘things' before Him (which are idols)
Chapter: Ezek 14
Passage 2: Ezek 14:7-11 - No Prophesying!
A. Find Out
1. What will happen when such people come to enquire of the Lord? v.7
2. How will the Lord deal with that person? v.8
3. And what about any prophet who might speak for them? v.9
4. So how will it be for that prophet? v.10
5. What effect will that have on the people? v.11a
6. And what will be the end result? v.11b
1. What ironical if not hypocritical behaviour is considered here?
2. How does the Lord day He will deal with it?
3. What effect should that have?
At the heart of these verses is the behaviour of people who have turned away from the Lord and turned to idols and thus have put a blockage between themselves and the Lord (v.7a) What these people (in their spiritual blindness) still tend to do is come to one of the Lord's prophets for reassurance (v.7b) but assurance is something they must not have because they are in a lost place, away from God.
So, says the Lord, if they do come, no prophet is to answer them (with words of encouragement) for I will confront them myself. There will be no intermediary, they will have to face God directly with their sin, and He will deal with them, (v.8) and will declare them cut them off from the rest of His people. Now if a prophet is enticed to give such a person – and it would only be one who has gone astray so the Lord is now dealing with him – the Lord will destroy that man for he should know better, abusing his special role (v.9).
The fact is that such a prophet is just as bad as those idol worshippers and therefore is just as guilty as them and will bear the same punishment. (v.10) When the people realise that is how God will deal with any such unrepentant people daring to come to ‘use' His prophets for their own benefit, and that they will have to face God Himself with their sin, this should act as a deterrent and so they will repent of the idol worshipping before they dare come to the Lord for reassurance. This should mean that they will realise the seriousness of their sin and turn from it (v.11a) so they will return to Him and their relationship with Him will be restored.
1. Spiritual hypocrisy (which is a common form of spiritual blindness) means we think we can sin and still hold our relationship with the Lord.
Chapter: Ezek 14
Passage 3: Ezek 14:12-23 - Judgments & Jerusalem
A. Find Out
1. What situation does the Lord next envisage? v.12,13
2. Who does He suppose was there? v.14a
3. What does He say about the situation? v.14b
4. What other similar scenarios does He envisage? v.15,17,19
5. And what does He say about each time? v.16,18,20
6. But then where does He focus upon? 21
7. But how will that be different? v.22
8. And what will the prophet realise at the end? v.23
1. What is it that brings the Lord's judgements?
2. In what form do His judgments come?
3. Yet how will it be different for Jerusalem ?
When God wants to emphasise something He repeats it, often in different forms, and that is what we find in the remainder of this chapter. The word of the Lord comes afresh to Ezekiel, (v.12) maybe at a different time from the previous word. The Lord speaks generally about “a country” so this is a general principle what applies to any country in the world. He speaks about such a country being unfaithful (v.13a) and (because He loves His world and always acts to draw any and every country back to Himself) He sends famine (v.13b) which is a gradual discipline or judgment.
He envisages three great heroes of faith of the Old Testament being there but even so only they would be saved, not anyone else (v.14) Then He repeats the scenario but changes the judgment so we see wild beasts (v.15), sword (v.17) and plague (v.19) but He repeats if those same three heroes were there in each situation, still it would only be they who were saved, not even their families (v.16,18,20)
But then he focuses on Jerusalem (v.21). If those judgments came upon other lands with such effect, how much more if He brought those same judgments in Jerusalem , a limited area, a city that should have known Him and known better, how bad might we expect such judgments to be! But - and here is the surprise – when He does bring such judgment on Jerusalem there will yet be some survivors (v.22a) and when they come to Babylonia and the prophet sees them (v.22b) he will see (implied) contrition and repentance and the prophet will realise the Lord did it for good effect (v.23)
1. Such judgments come when God lifts off His hand of protection.
Chapter: Ezek 15
Passage 4: Ezek 15:1-8 - Desolation!
A. Find Out
1. How does this next part start? v.1
2. What 4 progressive questions does the Lord ask of Ezekiel? v.2-4
3. With what conclusion? v.5
4. How does He then apply that? v.6
5. What does He twice declare about them and what will yet happen? v.7
6. What will be the outcome for the land? v.8
1. What do you think is likely to be the point of the early questions?
2. What picture does the Lord convey of what will happen to Jerusalem ?
3. Why is He going to do this?
The danger, when considering a judgement of God, is failing to see it in context and then wondering about it. In this short chapter we basically find God's conclusion about Jerusalem , that He is going to come and destroy it, but we must remember that the vast part of Jeremiah is about the number of times that the Lord comes to Jerusalem and pleads with them to turn from their evil ways and return to Him. They are supposed to be a light to the Gentiles, revealing the Lord to the rest of the world, but they are failing abysmally at that! This chapter is not being uttered lightly!
So the word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel again (v.1) and in it the Lord asks a number of questions to make a point. His starter is to ask how the wood from the vine better than any other wood? (v.2) Presumably He was asking this because so often in prophetic pictures Israel was portrayed as a vine. His second question asks whether the wood of the vine is useful for anything (v.3). Of course it isn't; that's not its point. But then He asks what about if it was thrown on the fire and burned. Would it be useful for anything then? (v.4) He pushes the point: if it was not a useful wood when whole, how much less when it was burned (v.5) Having made this main point he now focuses it on Jerusalem (v.6)
As the wood from the vine is only useful for burning, so it seems this is true of the people of Jerusalem and this is what is going to happen. It's not said but the point of the wood of the vine was to support growth of leaves and produce fruit. If it can't do that you might as well burn it and that is the conclusion the Lord is obviously now drawing. Thus He will turn from them and although there has already been partial destruction there will be complete destruction (v.7) and the land will be left desolate (v.8)
1. God never acts hastily and judgment is His end conclusion always.
RECAP No.1 "Repentance, Judgment Cause & a Burnt Vine " Ch.14 & 15
In this first group of 4 studies we have seen :
For this series we have done away with our usual ‘Lessons' part of these Recaps because the lessons are so strong that they are at the heart or essence of the readings.
We see this straight away in chapter 14 where the elders of Israel , there in Babylonia with Ezekiel, seek him out for some sort of word of encouragement from the Lord, but the Lord points out that while Israel is in the terrible spiritual state that it is in, the only word that is relevant is, “Repent!” Where a nation is self-centred and godless the call always has to be, “Repent!” for until they do, there is no hope and seeking any other form of encouragement is pointless. For us, the Gospel is so clear in Scriptures that “Repent and Believe,” has got to be the word for the nation.
If prophets bring anything contrary to that, they will be answerable to God. Yes, we may bring the wonder of the Gospel and all the good things God wants to bring us, but these things will be unreachable until there is repentance.
If God brings judgment, in whatever form, there is always a clear and strong reason for it, and it doesn't matter how much spiritual people cry out for the nation, until that nation repents, the fruits of that judgment will be seen.
In Israel's case, it was (at that point) almost a cast iron certainty that Israel would not repent and so the outcome is almost equally certain, and that was conveyed in the picture of a vine (so often portraying Israel in prophetic messages) that would be burnt and destroyed. We now can see that that was what happened – the people were completely removed and Jerusalem was actually burnt down.
Pray for our nation that it will repent and turn back to God.
PART 2 : "Pictures of Unfaithfulness" Ch. 16
This is one of those terrible chapters (necessary to read!) that portrays Israel 's folly turning to idols and false religions.