June 19, 2015.
Daily Reading: Ezekiel 1-6.
Background: Ezekiel was a priest who was called to be a prophet of the Lord as an exile of Babylon. Judah, just as her sister Israel had been taken captive by the Assyrians years before, had fallen into the hand of the Babylonians under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. According to the times given in the book, the oracles of Ezekiel were over a span of 22 years, from 593-571 B.C.. The book itself can be divided into three sections, oracles against Judah and Jerusalem in the first 24 chapters, oracles against the nations around Judah in chapters 25-32 and finally oracles concerning restoration, hope and salvation in chapters 33-48. It is also interesting to note that Ezekiel is repeatedly addressed as “son of man” throughout the book, which is also a designation that was used for Christ (i.e. Matthew 8:20 and 9:6). Ezekiel is a very vivid prophet, often describing visions in great detail and being sent to live out metaphors and analogies that the Lord was giving to the people.
Concepts and Connections.
The vision of the four living creatures: As the book of Ezekiel opens, he dates his vision and jumps right in to one of the most detail oriented recorded vision in biblical prophecy. It is a vision of the glory of the Lord, who is about to call Ezekiel to be a prophet (see next chapter), as a great cloud that flashes forth fire, and in the middle a shimmering metal, which could be reminiscent of the presence of the Lord in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night when He was leading them out of the land of Egypt (see Exodus 13:17-22). In the midst of this cloud, Ezekiel saw four living creatures, with four different face and four wings, and four wheels accompanied them, mimicking their every move. There is much more detail given in the chapter, but this scene could be representative of the cherubim who’s wings touched above the mercy seat of ark of the covenant that sat in the holy of holies (the wheels could be representative of the rings by which the ark was carried, see Exodus 25:10-22), as it was the presence of the Lord coming to call Ezekiel to His service. Regardless, one thing is clear, and that is that Ezekiel describes his inaugural vision in great detail, and is very confident in what he has seen. This vision continues on in the next chapter, as this is only the set up to the purpose of the vision.
Ezekiel’s call: Continuing on the vision that was started in the first chapter, the Lord now speaks to Ezekiel to call him to be a prophet sent to the rebellious house of the people of Israel, who have forsaken their God and had reaped the punishment for their abandonment. Ezekiel is charged to not be afraid of them but rather to go to them and tell them all that the Lord had appointed for him to tell. He was to do this regardless of whether or not they listened to him, or gave him dirty looks and threats. Ezekiel is sent on a rather dismal mission, being told up front that it was likely that none would listen to him, but would rather persecute him. Note the courage of Ezekiel to go despite the grim outlook. He is given a scroll of lamentation, mourning and woe to the people of Israel, and the vision is continued in the next chapter.
1. Continuation of Ezekiel’s call: Chapter three picks up right were chapter two leaves off, with Ezekiel being told to eat the scroll of lamentation, mourning and woe, which he does. The scroll is as sweet as honey in his mouth. This scene is very similar to the one that John describes in Revelation 10:8-11, where he too is given a scroll to eat that was as sweet as honey in his mouth, but was bitter in his stomach. This is Ezekiel’s call to go to his own people, not those who are of foreign speech, but to those who he knew, though they were hard headed. The people of Israel were stubborn in that they would not turn to the Lord though He sent prophet after prophet warning them of the destruction that was now upon them. Even now, it seems that they would not listen, as their heart remained stubborn. The vision and message was overwhelming for Ezekiel, and when it was over, he sat overwhelmed for seven days in the Chebar canal in Tel-abib, until the word of the Lord came to him again.
2. Watchman: After seven days, the word of the Lord came once again to Ezekiel, outlining his responsibility to the people of Israel. The Lord had appointed him as a watchman over the people, to warn them as the Lord gave warning (see also Ezekiel 33:1-9). Ezekiel was given a great responsibility here. If he failed to warn the wicked to turn from the wickedness of his way when the Lord gave warning, the wicked man would surly die because of his iniquity, but his blood would be on Ezekiel’s head because he did not warn him. However, if Ezekiel did warn the wicked man, yet the wicked still did not turn from his way, the wicked man would die, but Ezekiel would be blameless. The same is said about warning a righteous person who committed iniquity. However, if the righteous man turned at the warning of Ezekiel, he would have delivered his soul. This was indeed a great responsibility, one that we should take note of even today, as we are to be watchmen for our fellow brothers and sisters, as well as the world (see James 5:19-20, I Corinthians 9:19-23 and Matthew 5:13-15). Ezekiel’s task would not always be that easy, however, as there would be times when the Lord would shut his mouth so that he could not speak to the people, for they were a rebellious house. Ezekiel was to speak only as the Lord gave him utterance.
Living out prophecy: Sometimes the Lord calls prophets to live out the message that He is giving to the people, such as when God told Hosea to marry a prostitute to symbolize what Israel had done with Him (see Hosea 1, 3). Here, Ezekiel is given three distinct actions to complete as a prophecy to the people. The first is a prophecy of the siege of Jerusalem, where Ezekiel was to simulate the siege with a brick and siege works against it (see II Kings 25 for the fulfillment of this prophecy). Then he was told to lie on his left side for 390 days to represent the time of punishment for the house of Israel, one day for each year that the Lord had appointed for their punishment. After the 390 days were complete, he was to lie on his right side for 40 more days to represent the time of punishment for the house of Judah, a day for each year. The third sign was to be carried out during his days of lying on each side for the two houses, as he was to eat and drink a small, distinct ration of food and water prepared on dung, representing the scarcity of food that would be found in Jerusalem when Babylon mounted the siege against them (see Lamentations 4-5).
Prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem: In what would be another visual display to represent what the Lord was going to do, Ezekiel was told to get a sword and shave off his hair and beard, and part the hair into three sections. One section he was to throw into the fire, another part he was to cut up with the sword all around the city and finally the last third he was to scatter into the wind. Yet, from all of this, he was to bind up a small portion of hair in his robe, perhaps signifying the remnant that was to be saved (see Isaiah 10:20-23). This was a sign against Jerusalem, as the Lord would mount a siege against the city via the nation of Babylon, a siege that would last for two years and be devastating to the people of Israel who were in the city (see II Kings 25). This destruction was coming upon the people from the Lord because of their iniquity in abandoning the Lord their God, not walking in His statutes and rules, but following after other gods. A great punishment was coming on Jerusalem, one of which the likes had never been seen before. Famine would be so bad that it is said that fathers would eat their own children (see Jeremiah 19:9 and Lamentations 4:3, 10), and Jerusalem would be burned with fire (see II Chronicles 17-21). Those who survived famine and sword would be scattered among the nations. Rough times indeed lay ahead for the people of Israel.
Judgment for idolatry: The word of the Lord again came to Ezekiel, this time to prophesy against the mountains of Israel, likely where the high places that were built to sacrifice to foreign gods were built, and to announce the Lord’s judgment and destruction that was coming on the people for their idolatry. The people had left the Lord their God and instead bowed down and worshipped to other gods, thus angering the Lord. He was now going to give them over to sword, pestilence and famine because of the abominations that they had wrought in His sight. Some of the imagery used in this section is very explicit, as we see the dead bodies of the children of Israel laid before the altars on which they whored after other gods. There is a grand visual of ruin and waste here, but the Lord would not destroy the people completely, but rather leave a remnant that would see the destruction and know that He is the Lord.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 11-12.
The Lord guide you.