The name Ezekiel means, “God strengthens.” The prophet-priest ministered during a time of crisis for God’s people. The Babylonians forcibly deported 10,000 Jews to Babylon in 597 B.C. While Ezekiel was in exile, God called him to be a prophet. His earliest messages foretold of God’s judgment against His sinful people. After the burning of Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C., the prophet proclaimed a message of “God’s strength” centered on a message of hope. A repeated refrain throughout the book is God acts in judgment and redemption for the sake of His name.
What message of hope did Ezekiel proclaim and personally live out as a prophet that shared the calamities experienced by the people of God?
First, God’s people need God’s help when dealing with national and personal calamity (Ezek. 1:1-3). The reference to the 30th year may communicate something of Ezekiel’s personal pain. Likely, the reference to the 30th year refers to the prophet’s age. At the age when Ezekiel should begin his service as a priest at the temple in Jerusalem (Num. 4: 30), the temple lies in ruins and Ezekiel experienced life in a foreign land. The note about King Jehoiachin’s exile highlights the national calamity. The line of descendants of King David ended with the death of Johoiachin. The descendent from the promise line of David lived as a prisoner to the Babylonian king. Ezekiel lived among the Jewish exiles along the navigable canal Chebar that flows southeast from Babylon.
In this desperate situation, God revealed Himself. The prophet highlighted three aspects of God’s revelation. First, God revealed His glory to Ezekiel by means of a vision of heaven. Secondly, God’s word came to the prophet. Third, God’s empowering hand came upon the man. God revealed Himself, His message, and gave His power in order to communicate hope to the people.
Second, God revealed His glory in the time of trouble (Ezek. 1;28). Ezekiel 1 describes a vision the prophet received of the glory of God. The vision is difficult, yet the basic meaning is readily apparent. God often revealed Himself with the imagery of a storm (Isa. 9:6; Job 38). The
lightening, fire, and smoke recall the description of God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:16-18). The four cherubim (Ezek. 10) symbolize the highest of all creatures (man), bird life (eagle), wild animal (lion), and domesticated life (ox) as a reminder of God’s Sovereignty over all. The fiery coals symbolize the holiness of God. In Ezekiel’s vision, God is all-present and all-knowing. The rainbow recalled God’s promise of faithful mercy to Noah. The prophet bowed in submission.
Third, God empowered His messenger for mission (Ezek.2:1-5). God called the prophet Ezekiel like He called the prophets Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. His call experience teaches four truths about service. First, humans are frail servants. The title “Son of Man” functions as the prophet’s favorite self-designation in the book. In contrast to the glory of God in chapter one, the prophet is weak. Second, frail, sinful human beings cannot serve God without Spirit empowerment. Third, the mission is difficult; God commissioned Ezekiel to minister to rebellious people. Faithfulness, rather than human response, determines the success of the mission. Fourth, the Word of God is central in service. Ezekiel digested the scroll containing God’s message communicating the necessity of the internal work of the Word in a servant’s life.
Fourth, God’s purposes are redemptive (Ezek. 6:7-10). The prophet proclaimed four truths here. First, God’s judgment was just. In light of God’s holiness and faithfulness, the people committed spiritual idolatry. Second, God would not destroy completely; He would preserve a remnant. Third, God desires a personal relationship (know) that develops when people repent.
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