Know that I am the Lord!
They will know that I am the Lord! (Ezekiel 6:10)
The seventeen Books of Prophecy record the messages of the writing prophets (those whose messages are preserved in writing) God raised up to speak for him following the ministries of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The failings of the Divided Kingdom Era prompted God to speak to Israel in the north and Judah in the south. They continued to speak to God’s people for over 400 years, including the exile to Babylonia and the return to the Promise Land. (1 Kings 12-Esther)
The prophets spoke for God to His people concerning the enforcement of terms of their covenant relationship with God. Each spoke to a specific generation of Israel or Judah to enforce the conditional covenant (Mosaic) in the context of the unconditional covenants flowing from the Abrahamic Covenant. Their message can be summed up in these sentences: You are mine! (Unconditional covenants, Romans 11:29). Walk with me and I will bless you. Walk away from me and I will call you back to myself through loving discipline. (Conditional covenant, Romans 9-11).
Ezekiel, a priest and a prophet, prophesied among the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in three stages. First, in 605 BC he overcame Jehoiakim and carried off key hostages including Daniel and his friends. Second, in 597 BC the rebellion of Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin brought further punishment, and the Babylonians carried off ten thousand hostages including Jehoiachin and Ezekiel. Third, in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city after a long siege. Ezekiel and Daniel were about the same age and Jeremiah was about twenty years older. This means that Ezekiel was about seventeen when Daniel was deported in 605 BC and Ezekiel was about twenty five when he followed. Ezekiel received his prophetic commission at the age of thirty (1:1). This means his ministry overlapped the end of Jeremiah’s and the beginning of Daniel’s. Daniel was already well known and Ezekiel mentions him three times (14:14, 20; 28:3). These three prophets—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel covered all areas of life during this painful time in Judah’s history. Jeremiah in Jerusalem and Ezekiel in Babylonia explained the reason for the judgment and encouraged the people with God’s promise of a restored Kingdom under Messiah. Daniel prophesied to the leaders of Babylonia. Ezekiel’s name means “God strengthens” or “strengthened by God.”
The Jews were in exile because they had been unfaithful to the Mosaic Covenant. God had warned them that He would cast them from the land. But God had also promised them that they would always be His people and that He would establish them in the land. “The purpose of the Exile was to turn God’s people away from their sins and back to their Sovereign. The discipline they experienced was an evidence of God’s love. When it was over, a glorious future lay in store for them. A righteous ruler would eventually lead them back to a radically renovated land where they would enjoy peace, prosperity, and renewed worship”. (Dr. Tom Constable, Ezekiel) Ezekiel presents God as the God who acts to enforce His will and display His glory. The phrase “so you [they] will know that I am the Lord” occurs 60 times! Israel must admit that their unfaithfulness means that the destruction of Jerusalem is inevitable as they place their hope in their promise-keeping God:
Ezekiel emphasizes the transcendence and majesty of the God of Israel as he prophecies her immediate doom and ultimate grandeur.
I. JUDAH’S END God gives Ezekiel a most unusual vision of His greatness and glory to encourage him in a most difficult task: explaining to the exiles why Jerusalem will fall, and why the nation will spend the next 70 years in Babylonia (1-24).
A. EZEKIEL’S CALL Ezekiel receives enablement, instruction, and responsibility from God. (1-3)
B. SINS AND SORROWS, SIGNS AND SERMONS The prophet’s signs and sermons point to the certainty of Judah’s judgment, Judah’s past sins and coming doom are seen in a series of visions of the abominations in the temple, the slaying of the wicked, and the departing glory of God. The princes and priests are condemned as the Glory leaves the temple, moves to the Mount of Olives, and disappears in the east. (4-11)
C. JUDGMENT, SWORDS, AND SIGNPOSTS The cause and extent of Judah’s coming judgment is described through dramatic signs, powerful sermons, and parables. Judah’s prophets are counterfeits and her elders are idolatrous. (12-24)
II. JUDAH’S ENEMIES Judah’s gloating neighbors are next in line. They too will suffer the fate of siege and destruction by Babylon. (25-32)
A. JUDGMENT EAST AND WEST Following a clockwise circuit, Ezekiel prophesies doom on all. He spends an inordinate amount of time on the king of Tyre, and many scholars believe he may be referring to Satan, the power behind the nation. (25-28)
B. JUDGMENT ON EGYPT Unlike the nations that were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, Egypt will continue to exist, but as the “lowliest of kingdoms.” Since that time it has never recovered its former glory or influence. (29-32)
III. JUDAH’S FUTURE The prophecies in these chapters were given after the overthrow of Jerusalem. Now that the promised judgment has come, Ezekiel’s message no longer focuses on coming judgment but on coming comfort and consolation. (33-48)
A. WATCHMAN ON THE WALL The mouth of Ezekiel, God’s watchman is opened when he is told that Jerusalem has been taken. Judah had false shepherds, but the true Shepherd will lead them in the future. The vision of the valley of dry bones pictures the reanimation of the nation by the Spirit of God. Israel and Judah will be purified and restored. (33-37)
B. GOG AND MAGOG There will be an invasion of the northern armies of Gog, but Israel will be saved because the Lord will destroy the invading forces. (38-39)
C. NEW TEMPLE FOR ISRAEL In 572 BC, fourteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel returns in a vision to the fallen city and is given detailed specifications of the reconstruction of the Temple. (40-42)
D. NEW WORSHIP FOR ISRAEL Ezekiel views the return of the glory of the Lord to the Temple from the east. Regulations concerning worship in the coming temple are followed by revelations concerning the new land and city. (43-38)
Messiah: Ezekiel pictures Messiah as a tender twig that becomes a stately cedar on a lofty mountain (17:22-24), as He is similarly called the Branch in Isaiah (11:1), Jeremiah (23:5; 33:15), and Zechariah (3:8; 6:12). The Messiah is the King who has the right to rule (21:26-27), and the true Shepherd who will deliver and feed His flock (34:11-31).
EZEKIEL AND YOU: The exile taught Israel that God loved them too much to tolerate their sinful decadence.
A. Christian, never assume that grace means that God is ignoring your sin. Grace means that God disciplines His children (Hebrews 12).
B. Christian, never conclude that discipline means that God is harsh. His reluctance to remove His glory from His people is astonishing (9:3; 10:4, 18-19, 11:22-23). He always disciplines with a broken heart. God’s will for Israel and for you is blessing as He draws you to Himself.