Week One- Introduction to the Book of Ezekiel Part 1
Here’s a confession: I have never read the book of Ezekiel from beginning to end. I’m ashamed! So ashamed! But as a wise woman once said, “tell the truth and shame the devil!”
The books of prophecy have been long neglected by many Christians. When was the last time you sat through a sermon series or a thorough bible study on the any of the books of the prophets? My answer to that question is never! I’ve been a Christian since the age of 13 and have never sat through an expositional preaching of a prophetic book. Its time we repent for our neglect of the scriptures, ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds, give us understanding and get to work!
While Isaiah is all about the principles of the throne of God and Jeremiah about the practice of the throne, the book of Ezekiel is centered upon the ONE who sits upon the throne. It’s all about knowing God. We cannot compare God to a person or any visible created thing and expect to understand him fully. We must look to his Word. He is infinite and our minds are finite yet God does not leave us guessing. He reveals his character and attributes in His Word. The most exciting part of living in heaven for all eternity will be God. Don’t you think that after ten thousand years you will get tired of looking at the same streets of gold and pearly gates? It will be the unceasing revelation of God that will satisfy every longing of our hearts and establish an unspeakable joy for all eternity.
We may never know everything about the One on the throne because he is from everlasting to everlasting but don’t be gullible! God has revealed himself through the Inspired Scriptures. It is false New Age/Gnostic thinking to believe that God cannot be described or understood. Believe me or better yet, believe the bible. You can know God! This is the first focus of the book of Ezekiel. We will see God and we will know him.
The second is the consequence of forgetting God and living in rebellion to the knowledge of God. There was no other nation like Israel who could boast that they had the living God as their King. The people were given the Mosaic Law as their rule for living. God wasn’t trying to burden his people; He gave them guidelines on how to live in holiness and righteousness so that they would be blessed and live long in the land of promise. The Lord of Hosts walked with his people providing, protecting, delivering, rescuing, delivering, caring and loving them. Furthermore, they experienced many physical manifestations of God. Yet they often lived as if they never knew him.
Furthermore, the people of God were forewarned. God told them through the prophets that he would punish them for not living according to the Law by scattering them and removing them from the land of promise. But if they followed God’s Word, they would have his blessing.
Unfortunately, this was not happening with the people of Israel. They believed false prophets and refused to listen to the true prophets. They engaged in idolatry and worshipped Baals. They depended on Egypt to save them from their enemies. They lived in all kinds of lasciviousness, covetousness and lust. They forgot about the poor, widows and orphans.
God raised up Ezekiel (and all the prophets) for the purpose of turning the hearts of the people back to God. In our present times, God raises up pastors, preachers, and teachers to faithfully communicate and teach the bible so that the people will live with circumcised hearts. The pattern for godly living in the Kingdom of God has already been established in the Scriptures but we need faithful men and women who will help us keep to the pattern.
But not only is there leader and corporate responsibility within the church, we are responsible for ourselves. God is not only looking to see if the church as a whole is following the pattern or if the leaders are keeping it, but he also looks at the individual lives of believers. If no one around us is seeking God, we must seek him for ourselves.
The name Ezekiel means “God strengthens”. It was the perfect name for the person that was to declare the prophecies in this book. Even though the people were exiled as punishment for their sins, God was still with them and for them. He would strengthen them every step of the way. Hebrews 12:5 says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.” God’s rebuke is not vindictive; He does not want to hurt us. His goal is to turn our hearts back to Him. Even though the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus for every one of our sins, a loving Father will correct and instruct His children. It’s for the love of His children that God rebukes.
The gospel is the greatest reminder that God will not abandon His people.
One more point: God had a remnant in Israel who had not bowed the knee or kissed a Baal. Even though the remnant will always be saved and God’s faithfulness will not depart from them, they too were chastised for the nation’s sins. They were brought out but only after they too experienced the destruction of Israel. In the church of Christ, we are all responsible for one another. 1 Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” We must practice love by leading fellow believers away from sin. This is what it means to judge. I’m sure some of you are pulling out Matthew 7:1-6 to refute my claims. But if you read that scripture in context, you will discover what Jesus really meant. It’s self-righteous judging that Jesus is refuting. They way in which we judge others reveals far more about us than how we are judged by others. The command to “Judge not” is a pause to examine our intentions and motives behind pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye. Love does not envy or boast and is not arrogant. But, but, but… “It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth”. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7) If you love and cherish the church, we you will desire its purity and sanctification for the glory of God.
The Bible tells us that judgment begins in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). As Christians, we will be judged more strictly than a person who has not known God. Our knowledge of the truth positions us to be judged at higher standards than non-believers by the Lord. Throughout the bible, we see that God allows consequences, sufferings and persecutions to discipline His children and return them to His heart. He has even required that we restore our brothers (Galatians 6:1) and practice church discipline (1 Cor. 5:12).
Do you think the message of Ezekiel is applicable to the modern day church? I hope your answer is a resounding “Yes”! It is a warning. It is a checkpoint. 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” While we work through the book of Ezekiel, I pray that you would stop and scrutinize your life, your beliefs and the intentions of your heart to see if they are in line with the knowledge of God.
- Evaluate yourself. How much do you know about God? Is your knowledge of his character and attributes increasing year by year? Do you seek to know God through his Word and in prayer?