Ezekiel; the Strength of God

I. Background

Ezekiel is a prophet of God. He was the instrument of the Holy Spirit for authoring one of the four major prophetic books in the Bible. The book, Ezekiel, is named after the prophet himself. Ezekiel means “God strengthens” or “the strength of God.”

Ezekiel lived about 2600 years ago, during the time that the Babylonian Empire had conquered the nation of Judah and had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. He was the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest. It is likely that Ezekiel was born in the days of King Josiah when there was a great reformation going on in Israel. During the reign of Josiah, Ezekiel must have been an infant in the arms of his mother. The Bible does not tell us much about his family except that Ezekiel came from a priestly family. The Bible calls him the Ezekiel, the priest. We do not know to which class in the priestly service he belonged, but by reading the book of Ezekiel, we find that he seems to be greatly respected by his contemporaries.

Ezekiel was among the Jews in Judah who were taken as captives by the Babylonians to Babylon. He was probably taken captive together with Israel King Jehoiachin. Because when Nebuchadnezzar took King Jehoiachin into captivity, he brought with him the royalties, nobilities and the mighty of the land, Ezekiel most likely belonged to a rather important and prominent priestly family.

Ezekiel received his call as a prophet during the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin. Ezekiel’s ministry lasted about 22 years.

Ezekiel’s prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem caused a terrible and divided reaction among the Jews who were with him in Babylon. But, when his prophecies came true, people began to listen to him more intently. Ezekiel’s wife died during the day that the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem, and her death was used as a sign to Jews. This siege began in about 586 BC, after Ezekiel and others had been taken as captives to Babylon. The siege ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple in Jerusalem.

After the destruction, Ezekiel’s prophecies changed from the theme of unbending judgment to the theme of hope and a glorious future.

Ezekiel was very much a shepherd and a watchman for the nation of Israel. As a shepherd, he protected the people. And as a watchman, he warned of dangers ahead.

II. A prophet is called by God into what God wants him to be, not trained into what he himself wants to be

Ezekiel was trained to be a priest. He probably never expected, or even thought of, becoming a prophet. But God called him to be a prophet. All his training throughout his youth was seemingly wasted. However, Ezekiel saw a heavenly vision and was obedient to his vision. He heard the voice of the Lord and was obedient to the Lord. Not only was this calling initially difficult for Ezekiel to follow (because he would have to give up all he had wanted to do in his entire life), it in fact made the rest of Ezekiel’s life extremely painful in human eyes. Ezekiel was about 25 years old when he was called by the Lord to be a prophet. It was about the age he was supposed to enter into formal priestly service. A priest was trained from his childhood. Ezekiel must have eagerly looked forward to serving the Lord as a priest. But he was in Babylon in exile. Furthermore, the Temple was already destroyed. Serving the Lord as a priest apparently became the most impossible thing. Ezekiel must be in despair given his circumstances. It was at that time that the Lord called Ezekiel to be his prophet.

III. The training of a man is nevertheless essential

If one looks at God’s calling of Ezekiel as an earthly career change, one would regret that a huge waste has been inflicted upon Ezekiel. However, God looks at this entirely differently. First of all, an office of a prophet is not a man’s choice of career. It is in the service of an eternal God. In His sovereignty, God calls whoever into whatever He wants that person to do for Him. If God of wisdom has chosen to do so, who are men to judge what has been wasted and what has been judiciously used? Second, although God’s selection of a servant is entirely His sovereignty, His selection is nevertheless not random but instead based on His infinite wisdom. God looks into a man’s heart and finds what He has prepared in that person’s inner being.

The faithful training of Ezekiel as a priest did not prepare himself as a prophet in terms of skills, but has prepared in his inner being a perfect man to serve the Lord as a prophet. We should always be faithful to the Lord Himself. We should also be faithful to the things that the Lord has called us into, but first of all we should be faithful to the Lord himself. We should be faithful in whatever we are required to do in our position (including being a student, or at work), knowing that even though we may or may not be using in the future the knowledge we learn now, the training and the resultant character will not be a waste in God’s kingdom if we follow His will.

IV. An open heaven, visions of God, voice of God, and the hand of God make a complete revelation of the Lord to the great prophet

The heavens were opened Ezekiel. Note that Ezekiel didn’t open to heavens, but the heavens were opened to him. One doesn’t suddenly start to understand and appreciate the heavenlies and the spiritual matters. Neither can one comprehend the spiritual matters through his own efforts. Heaven has to be opened to us so that we who live on the earth start to see something that is fundamentally different from what we can gather and understand through our own efforts and experiences in this world.

How do we know if the heavens were opened to us? We see visions of God. If we see anything other than God, what has been opened to us is either an illusion, or a satanic deception. God appears to us in His glory. And His glory is much more than just physical glory (which God sometimes also manifests). God’s glory is manifested in His Person, His character, mind, thought, purpose, will, counsel, plan, work, and His working, all embodied and manifested in His only begotten Son.

Not only that, we also hear the voice of God personally. The voice of God is much more than just a physical voice. God is spiritual, and therefore it is far better for Him to communicate with His children spiritually. That means God speaks to us personally through His Holy Spirit. For example, as we read God’s words, our spirit not only comprehends and appreciates the meaning of the words, we in fact sense that the Lord is speaking directly into our heart. That is the voice of God that our spirit hears.

However, the work of God goes even further. After we have heard his voice, we will see the guidance of his hand in our personal life. The purpose of God’s manifesting Himself to us is not to have the most glorious show of Himself, but to transform our lives. And this cannot be accomplished without the actual work of God’s hand. God’s hand works in the life of every child of His. You may be only a young child, but the transforming and empowering hand of God is in your life. The question is whether you will be obedient and subject to his hand.

Ezekiel’s vision is therefore a complete vision, which on a grand scale represents the kingdom of God, but on the personal scale represents our personal spiritual life as a child of God.

V. Son of Man

In the Old Testament, only Ezekiel was called by God “son of man” so many times. It reminds us another One who is called the Son of man. Ezekiel therefore is more than just a prophet. He was a type or a sign of the One who is to come. Our Lord Jesus is the one who eventually came. He is always the Son of God when He is in heaven, but He became the Son of Man only when He took the humble form of man and became flesh.

But He was the perfect man. The Son of Man is the true representation of man. When the God’s chosen people Israelites have totally failed, God chosen Ezekiel to be a representative man of Israelites and called him the son of man. When the whole mankind has totally failed, God sent Jesus, the Son of Man to be a representative of mankind. As the Son of God, Jesus represented God. As the Son of Man, Jesus represented us.

How thankful we are for the perfect representation we have in our Lord Jesus. If God can find satisfaction even in an imperfect Ezekiel to present Israelites, how much more satisfaction God would find in the perfect Man, Jesus Christ our Lord?

VI. A watchman

When God called Ezekiel, He appointed him to be a watchman. What is a watchman? Today, most of us do not understand what a watchman is, but in the old days people did not have watches or clocks. So they couldn’t tell time. Even if they had some type of a clock, they still had a watchman in the night. A watchman was not just there watching the door, but he would go around the place every hour or so and beat a gong to tell the time. The watchman was one who knew the time and who told the time. God appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman, to be one who knew the time in which he was living.

Now it isn’t easy to really know the time in which we living. We are in the darkest watch of the night. We often think that we know the time but we really don’t. But God has appointed a watchman. Of course the true watchman is the Holy Spirit himself. But God also appoints some brothers and sisters who are spiritually mature as watchman among us as ministers of the Holy Spirit.

God’s children should all desire to serve as a watchman, for the night is now dark and most people are asleep. If we are not appointed as a watchman, at least we should hear what the watchman reports.

VII. On earth, the greatest hope always comes after the greatest devastation

It is said that prophet Isaiah is the prophet of faith, Prophet Jeremiah the prophet of love, prophet Ezekiel the prophet of hope. But before the Lord revealed the greatest hope to Ezekiel, the Lord first revealed the greatest devastation on earth to him. Just imagine how Ezekiel felt when he heard that his first prophetic report to the people of Israel is such terrible news. We must understand that although there have been much terrible news delivered through prophets in Israel history, the terrible news reported by Ezekiel is much more severe and has a sense of finality.

It was during the captivity of Israelites. After that time period, no major prophecies were to be given and God was to remain silent for some 400 years before our Lord finally appeared on earth. As far as Israelites – the God’s children on earth – are concerned, nowhere in other places of the Bible is a more terrible scene reported: the departure of God’s glory from the Temple. Just imagine, the glory of God had to departure His children! That’s what Ezekiel was shown after he was first shown the terrible sins and abomination committed by Israelites.

Yet God has appointed Ezekiel as the prophet of hope. For law of the Old Testament was given for only one purpose, which is to manifest and convict the sin of people. Finally, after a long history of dealing between God and his people, the utter failure of God’s people has come to a point that the purpose of the law has fulfilled as far as God’s earthly chosen people were concerned.

The verdict is clear: all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. After that the glory of God would then return and the eternal hope be revealed. It is not because of what Israelites have done, but because who God is. It is as said in Ezekiel 36: 22: “therefore say to the House of Israel, ‘thus says the Lord God, “it is not for your sake, O House of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My Holy name…”

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