Ezekiel was a man who brought words from God to the Judean Exiles while they were in Babylon. He was among the 10,000 citizens of Jerusalem who were deported when Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah in 598 B.C.; meaning that Ezekiel was living in Babylon almost 12 years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. Ezekiel was from a priestly family, but instead of serving God as a priest, Ezekiel received the call to be a prophet at about 30 years of age.
Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel is a bit unique among the prophetic authors because of his many uses of metaphors and imagery to get the attention of his audience. Ezekiel is also a lot like the book of Daniel in that spoke to Ezekiel through many visions, not merely by speaking to him. This is a bit important for us as readers because it explains Ezekiel’s use of imagery and metaphor to share God’s messages with his audience. As Ezekiel received, he also gave. But it also reminds us that God does not use the same types of people as his messengers nor does he use the same types of communication with everyone. Some of you reading this are visual learners, you see and understand things best in pictures. The book of Ezekiel should be right up your alley.
Ezekiel is also important because it reminds us that God is a God of visions. In Acts 2:17 Peter uses the words of the prophet Joel to explain the coming of God’s Spirit into the world. “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Ezekiel reminds us that God speaks in visions, and continues to speak in visions to people. I am afraid that the vast majority of Canadian Christians have lost their faith in this fact. Sure, we may say that we “believe” it but in reality we have no real expectation that it will happen. We don’t petition the Spirit to show us things and so we are not surprised when it does not happen.
- A couple more oversight type of thing to help us as we begin this journey through Ezekiel;
the main thrust of what Ezekiel has to say to the exiled Judeans (and all of us) is to remember to give God the reverence he is due. Ezekiel explores this in three ways: by talking about God’s glory, God’s throne and the honour due God’s name. Watch for these themes as you are reading.
- The structure of Ezekiel very much focuses on the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s pronouncements up until the destruction of Jerusalem (chapters 1-24) are about judgement and destruction as a result of Israel’s sins. I know, you may be thinking: “We just read all that destruction stuff in Jeremiah, why is God giving the same messages all over again.” Remember that the two prophets had two completely different audiences. Jeremiah was talking to the kings and people in Judah and Jerusalem while Ezekiel was talking to the people already in exile in Babylon. After Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel’s messages change into a pronouncement of a future hope, first by assuring the Jewish exiles that judgement would also come upon other nations for their sin (chapters 25-32) and then by proclaiming the future restoration of God’s people (chapters 33-39) and a renewed community (chapters chapters 40-48).
As you read through Ezekiel take time to enjoy the imagery, the pictures and descriptions of God. Remember, the main to point of the book is to remind us to be reverent toward God, to stand in awe of him. One of the ways Ezekiel does that is to describe God and his character to us.
Christian pastor Ken Baugh wrote: “I wonder if my familiarity with God has caused me to treat Him too lightly. I know that God is my loving heavenly Father and that I am His adopted son through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. I know that I am forgiven of my sin and saved by His grace. As such, I know that I will one day be with Him for eternity. But I wonder if this familiarity has undermined my reverence for God. Therefore, instead of taking God the Father for granted, I need to be reminded of His holiness and awesome power. In short, I need to be more reverent.”
There is so much I could say on this topic and I think this is going to be the focus of my sermon on Sunday so I will save the rest for that venue. But as you spend time in the book of Ezekiel over these next couple of weeks, take time to ask the question: do I show God reverence?
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Ezekiel 5-8