"So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it…" Ezekiel 22:30
Who was Ezekiel?
Ezekiel was born into the priestly family of Zadok in 622BC. Along with Daniel, Ezekiel was among the first Judeans to be deported into Babylonian exile, in 597BC, when Nebuchadnezzar first captured Jerusalem. In the exile of 593BC, to reduce the conquered people to helplessness, Nebuchadnezzar deported 7,000 army officers and soldiers, 1,000 craftsmen and around 10,000 artisans. Ezekiel lived in the city of Tel-Abib, on the River Chebar. The name Ezekiel means God Strengthens. The prophet Ezekiel is also referred to 83 times as "Son of man." This is a title that our Lord used for Himself. No other prophet is known by this title. While it depicts frailty on behalf of the prophet, the Messianic title as used by our Lord emphasised authority.
Called and Commissioned
At the age of 30, when he would have started his priesthood, Ezekiel was called to be a prophet. While Jeremiah was warning the people in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was ministering amongst the exiles in Babylon, at the same time as Daniel was serving in the courts of Babylon.
Ezekiel is the only prophetic book that is autobiographical. Only in the Book of Ezekiel does the prophet write in the first person. Ezekiel demonstrates a fascinating and unique style of ministry. He used symbols, parables, poems, proverbs and artistic street theatre to dramatically present the prophecies and visons entrusted to him by God. When Ezekiel was called and commissioned as a prophet, God told him that he would make his forehead like flint, so that nothing would be able to discourage him. When the people became more rebellious, intransigent and hard-hearted, refusing to heed his warnings, Ezekiel needed to be single-minded in his determination to be faithful to his mission.
A Vision of the Glory of God
In the 5th year of his exile, when Ezekiel was 30 years old, in 593BC, he saw a majestic and mysterious vison of the Glory of God. Ezekiel describes the transcendence, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience of our Holy and awesome God. Surrounding the Throne of God are four living creatures: Angels, who have the features of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. These angels represent intelligence, dignity, courage, strength, sight and speed, as reflected in His orders of Creation. They face East, West, North and South. All parts of the universe are open to the gaze of God. He is all-knowing, everywhere-present and all-powerful.
Ezekiel saw wheels within wheels and supernatural brilliance in glory, so terrifying that he fell face down before this vison of the Glory of God. Ezekiel saw a vision of the Son of God high above the Throne, who looked like glowing metal as if full of fire. He appeared as fire, with brilliant light surrounding Him. The voice of Almighty God was like the roar of rushing waters and the tumult of an army. The rainbow surrounding the Throne reminded him of God's mercy to Noah, his family and the animals after the Flood. The holiness and transcendence of God as the Eternal Judge is a major theme of the Book of Ezekiel. God is sovereign, not only over the affairs and destiny of Israel, but of all nations.
The Historic Context
More than a century before, the ten Northern tribes of Israel had ignored the warnings of the prophets Amos and Hosea and had been judged for their immorality and idolatry, conquered by Assyria and deported out of the land. Israel and had been compelled to leave their land and wander North and Westwards to establish new homes.
Despite the disaster that had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria, Judah indulged in immorality and idolatry, ignoring the prophets Isaiah, Micah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah. The people of Judah even degenerated to the extent of sacrificing babies to the pagan god Molech (in the Valley of Hinnom, which our Lord Jesus used to describe Hell - Gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom, which was used as a rubbish heap, which was continually burning).
From Reformation to Rebellion
Although King Josiah had attempted to reform the nation according to God's Law, removing the high places from the land, the people's hearts had drifted far from God. After the death of Josiah came a series of bad kings. Jehoahaz ruled for just three months before being taken in chains to Egypt. Then came Jehoiakim, who was unconcerned about the spiritual state of the nation and put his trust in the superpowers of Egypt and Babylon.
Whether they Hear or Whether they Refuse
"Moreover He said to me, 'Son of man… eat this scroll… So I ate, and it was… like honey in sweetness… Behold, I have made your face strong… do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house… receive into your heart all My Words that I speak to you… and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God,' whether they hear, or whether they refuse.' Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: 'Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place!' I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise..."
I Have Made You Watchmen
"The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel… When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul… Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul..." Ezekiel 3:1-27
Idolatry and Immorality
Ezekiel reminds his people why their country was suffering ruinous attacks from the Arameans, the Moabites and the Ammonites: The people of Judah were guilty of idolatry, immorality and ingratitude. The Judeans were worshipping Asherah, Tummus and the Sun god, even in the Temple. Ezekiel calls Jerusalem "The bloody city" because of its ruthless exploitation of widows, orphans and strangers, and because of the murders that were being tolerated in the city.
Apostasy of Jerusalem
Ezekiel 16 describes Judah as a queen who had become a prostitute. Both the ten tribes in the North and the two tribes in the South had apostatised so far away from God that they were now harlots. For this reason the lion's two cubs were going to be taken captive. This depicted king Jehoahaz who was taken in chains to Egypt and king Jehoakim who would be deported to Babylon. The two eagles referred to by Ezekiel represent Pharaoh in the West and Nebuchadnezzar in the East. Judah is described as a wild vine that had become so useless and worthless that it was only good for firewood. (In John 15 our Lord uses a similar parable).
While the destruction of Jerusalem and exile to Babylon had come about partly as a result of the cumulative guilt of generations of Israelites who had lived in rebellion against God and His Laws, Ezekiel emphasised the individual consequences of disobedience and transgression in chapter 18. Yes, we do suffer famines, wars and pestilences on earth for national sins. But in eternity, each one of us will be judged for our own sins.
"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statues and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live…" Ezekiel 18:20-21
Ezekiel makes it clear that each individual is responsible for their personal state. It does no good to blame one's ancestors. While we do suffer here on earth the consequences of bad choices of our predecessors, on the Day of Judgement each one of us will stand alone to give an account for what we are personally responsible for.
What Are You Doing with Your Life?
Ezekiel emphasises that each person is responsible for their present state. It is not what someone was that matters, but what they are now. The righteous may fall and become wicked. The wicked may repent and become righteous. You may not be to blame for how you were brought up, but you are to blame if you stay that way.
Blow the Trumpet and Warn the People
"'When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life.
The Watchman's Solemn Duty
"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.'
Hear the Word of God
"So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a Word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul…
Turn from Your Evil Ways
"I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?"
Do Not Trust in Your Own Righteousness
"When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. (It is not how to start the race, but how you finish the race that counts).
Restitution Brings Restoration
"Again, when I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live…" (Repentance involves a change of habits, behaviour, direction and life).
What You Sow is What You Shall Reap
"Yet the children of your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you according to his own ways.
Apostasy Brings Condemnation
"And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, 'The city has been captured!'… Then the Word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'Son of man, they who inhabit those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, 'Abraham was only one, and he inherited the land. But we are many; the land has been given to us as a possession.' Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God…'You lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood. Should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you commit abominations, and you defile one another's wives. Should you then possess the land?' Say thus to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: 'As I live, surely those who are in the ruins shall fall by the sword, and the one who is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in the strongholds and caves shall die of the pestilence. For I will make the land most desolate, her arrogant strength shall cease, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through. Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.'
Do Not Merely be Hearers of The Word but Doers
"As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, 'Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.' So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your Words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your Words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass - surely it will come - then they will know that a prophet has been among them." Ezekiel 33:2-33. (The Word of God is not for our entertainment, but for our education and edification).
The Watchmen of Israel
The watchmen were key figures in ancient Israel. Large watchtowers were placed overlooking the fields of agriculture and men would stand watch, guarding the fields which contained the community's basic food supply. The watchmen needed to be alert to any threats, whether from thieves, or from fire. The watchman also had to be alert for any sign of invasion. The watchmen on the walls of a fortified town were to monitor all the approaches and at the sign of any threat would sound the warning so that the town could shut its gates and prepare to defend against an attack.
Vigilant and Alert
The vigilant watchmen would observe the daily life of the community. He could see much of the activity in the streets, and in the markets. He would know the people, their work, their habits and their lifestyles. If his tower was near the city gates, he could also observe the business of the city conducted by its officials.
The Responsibilities of a Minister of God
God uses this role of the watchman to illustrate the responsibilities of a minister to both critically review the conduct of society, and to deliver messages of warning and instruction. The Word of God declares that we who have received the Word of God must give warning to the wicked.
What is the Greatest Threat?
The danger of God's judgement upon wickedness is a far more serious danger than that of an invading army threatening a city. One may be able to defend a city against a foreign invader. However, no one can escape the scrutiny of all all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-wise God! Nor can anyone escape judgement from an omnipresent, omnipotent Judge! Neither can anyone have any hope of victory in a war against Almighty God! If we make God our enemy, then we are doomed.
A Solemn and Serious Responsibility
A prophet of God has a solemn duty to deliver a most sober and serious message. Unless the people acknowledge their sins, repent and resolutely obey the Word of God, they will die in their sins.
Duty is Ours - The Results are in God's Hands
However, regardless of how individuals respond to the warning, if they hear the message, the prophet has fulfilled his duty. Duty is ours. The results are in God's hands. However, if the messenger fails to deliver the warning, their blood will be required at his hand.
Faithful to God's Word
The Word of God is sweet like honey. We are commanded to go to those around us and speak the Word of God to them. Even if they are hard-hearted and unresponsive, we are responsible to faithfully deliver the Word of God, the whole World of God and nothing but the Word of God. We dare not attempt to censor the Word of God.
Our Solemn Duty Before Almighty God
"I charge you, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom: preach the Word, be ready, in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an Evangelist, fulfil your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:1-5
Receive and Relay God's Redeeming Word
"…receive into your hearts all My Words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they hear, or whether they refuse." Ezekiel 3:10-11
Warn the Wicked
"I have made you a watchman… give them warning from Me …warn the wicked…" Ezekiel 3:17-21
The Failure of the Leaders
The prophet Ezekiel firmly fixes the blame for the coming destruction of Jerusalem on three groups of people: The prophets, the priests and the kings. Ezekiel cut off his hair, leaving just a few strands to symbolise that the people of Jerusalem would die by the sword, others would be burned and the remainder would be scattered to the winds. Only a small remnant would remain in the land.
The False Shepherds
"And the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost… So they were scattered because there was no shepherd... My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the Word of the Lord: 'As I live', says the Lord God, 'surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock - therefore, O shepherds, hear the Word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand… I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.'" Ezekiel 34:1-10
God gave Ezekiel supernatural insight, foresight and oversight. Ezekiel and Daniel are the best examples of apocalyptic (unveiling) language in the Old Testament. There are more prophecies in Ezekiel and Daniel than in any other prophets of the Old Testament. The Book of Revelation cannot be understood without carefully studying Ezekiel and Daniel, on which Revelation is clearly based.
One phrase that appears 74 times in Ezekiel's prophecy: "Then you will know that I am the Lord".
In the first section of prophecies (Chapters 4 - 24), concerning judgements on Jerusalem, the wording is: "Then you will know that I am the Lord."
In the second section (Chapters 25 - 32), in the prophecies against the nations, the refrain is: "Then they will know that I am the Lord."
In the last section of Ezekiel (Chapters 33 - 48), which deals with the restoration of the Temple, the wording is: "Then the nations will know that I am the Lord."
At the time when Egypt was the greatest nation in all the world, the king of nations, the richest country on earth, Ezekiel prophesied: "There shall no longer be princes from the land of Egypt" (Ezekiel 30:13).
It is a fact of history that, until a few decades ago when the monarchy was overthrown, Egypt was always ruled by a prince, but during the 2,500 years since this prophecy was given, the princes of Egypt were never Egyptian. Their kings and queens have been Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs and Ottoman Turks. Egypt has even been ruled by the English. But since the prophecy, given through Ezekiel no Egyptian monarch has ruled over Egypt. When Egypt was the world’s superpower, no one could have predicted that.
Tyre was the greatest port city in the ancient world. Yet, at the height of its power, God declared that this city would be destroyed, that its towers would be broken down, and that its stones and timber, and even its dust, would be laid in the midst of the water and it would become like the top of a rock, a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea (Ezekiel 26:4-14).
This very strange prophecy began to be fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched his army to the walls of Tyre and for 13 years besieged the city. When finally the walls of the city crumbled before the persistence of the Babylonians they found that many of the inhabitants had moved to an island half a mile out into the Mediterranean. There they had built an even more impregnable city.
For hundreds of years one might have said that the prophecy given through Ezekiel was not completely fulfilled. Then Alexander the Great came, defeated the Persians and demanded the surrender of the port cities of the Eastern Mediterranean. Tyre alone refused to open its gates to him, so Alexander then conceived the boldest and most daring plan in siege history. He ordered a causeway built across half a mile of the Mediterranean Sea to the island of the new Tyre. All the walls of Tyre were torn down, the timber, the stones, the rubble and the logs and they were cast into the sea. They scraped the very dust of the city itself into the sea to make this highway to destroy the new island city of Tyre. In this way the prophecy in Ezekiel 26 was completely fulfilled.
The prophecy against Sidon (Ezekiel 28:21-23) was that the inhabitants would be decimated, but the city would continue. History records that the city of Sidon was attacked, betrayed by its own king, and 40,000 of its inhabitants were killed. But the city of Sidon continues.
The Glory Has Departed
In chapter 11, Ezekiel declares that the Glory of the Lord has departed from the Temple because of the wickedness and ungodliness of the prophets, priests, princes and people of Jerusalem. Ezekiel lay beside a brick depicting Jerusalem for over a year (390 days on his left side and 40 on his right) to represent the coming siege and suffering of Judea. He ate barely cakes, cooked over dried dung, to dramatize the disgusting conditions that the people would be reduced to. When his wife died, Ezekiel dressed normally and did not eat the food of mourners, to dramatize to the people the coming destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Valley of Dry Bones
"The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' So I answered, 'O Lord God, You know.' Again He said to me, 'Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: 'Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.' So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man… So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.'" Ezekiel 37:1-11
When last did God speak to you?
What did He say?
Did you obey?
When man listens, God speaks.
We Need Revival
All around we are surrounded what seems to be dead churches and we are confronted with lifelessness and disorder. Our prayer is: "Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?" Psalm 85:6
When last did you experience the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you?
What is the condition of your soul?
Is your Faith dry?
Do you have the Bible in your home?
Do you have the Bible in your hand?
Do you have the Bible in your head?
Do you have the Bible in your heart?
"Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Romans 10:17
Life to the Dead
Just as the dead Lazarus was raised by the power of the Word of Jesus: "Lazarus! Come forth!" So we can see the power of the Word of God, as it is faithfully proclaimed, bringing the spiritually dead to life.
"The Gospel is the power of God for the Salvation of everyone who believes." Romans 1:16
Reformation and Revival
We must know the Truth in our head. We must believe the Truth in our heart. We must live the Truth in our hands. We need to be faithful watchmen on the wall, proclaiming the Word of God in season and out of season, working for Biblical Reformation and praying for spiritual Revival. The Word of God assures us, that the whole Church will be revived and stand up, a vast army!
"Then say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: 'Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land… They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God… they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them..." Ezekiel 37:21-28
Jesus in Ezekiel
As Ezekiel condemns the prophets, priests and princes of Judah for their idolatry, immorality, ingratitude and injustice, he points to God, the True Shepherd, who will come to search for His sheep and seek them out as a Good Shepherd. As Jerusalem had become a bloody and immoral city of idolatry and injustice, God will build a New Jerusalem. As the Temple had been desecrated with idolatry and inter-faith worship, the Messiah Himself will become the Temple from which rivers of living waters will flow out, bringing healing and blessings to the nations (Ezekiel 47).
As the Book of Ezekiel begins with doom and gloom because of the wickedness of God's people, it ends with a glorious vision of hope as God Himself intervenes and establishes His Kingdom on earth to bless the nations. All of this is being fulfilled through our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Temple from whom Rivers of Living Water flow to bring healing to the nations (John 7:37-39).
Jesus said: "If anyone is thirsty, he should come unto Me and drink and out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living waters." John 7:37
The Book of Genesis begins with paradise lost, because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The prophet Ezekiel looks forward to the time when paradise will be restored, because of the obedience of the Second Adam. Jesus comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.
A New Covenant
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out… and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you… shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations." Ezekiel 36:25-30
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
The full message on Ezekiel, as delivered at Livingstone Fellowship, is available on audio CD from: Christian Liberty Books, PO Box 358, Howard Place 7450, Cape Town, South Africa, tel: 021-689-7478, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and website: www.christianlibertybooks.co.za