Getting to grips with Ezekiel
In my Bible readings, I have recently finished working through the book of Ezekiel. This is what I have discovered.
Ezekiel was given a difficult ministry. He was called to prophesy to a ‘stubborn and obstinate people’ – the exiles from Israel in Babylon, who didn’t heed the words of warning God spoke through him.
Not only this; he was called to act out his prophecy in his own life. Laying under a clay tablet on his left side for 390 days and on his right for 40, he represented Israel and Judah’s years of sin.
He was called to symbolise the exile itself by removing his possessions and departing from his fellow exiles in shame. And his wife, the ‘delight of his eyes’, was taken from him as a picture to the exiles of the loss of the temple.
He was shown stark visions of the gross sin of Israel and Judah. And the bulk of his ministry was spent prophesying that further judgement would soon fall on Jerusalem and the remnant still in the land. It was not a light thing for Ezekiel to prophesy that God was about to act in judgement, yet he did so for many years.
Ezekiel was charged by God to be faithful to his office as prophet. Appointed as a watchman for the house of Israel, he was told in no uncertain terms that if he did not confront the people with their sin, and warn them to repent, he would be guilty of their blood.
Prophecies of Jesus
And yet, along with all the hardship he faced, Ezekiel was also blessed with tremendous revelations of the glory and holiness of God. He was also given the gracious prophecy of God’s promised restoration, when God would gather and restore his people to the land of Israel.
So, I found the themes of the book of Ezekiel to be: the holiness of God; the sinfulness of man; the reality of the separation and judgement this brings; and the wonder of God’s grace to sinners.
Of course, there are specific passages that speak louder than others. Direct prophecies relating to the Lord Jesus can be found. God’s word comes to Ezekiel: ‘the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them’. And later: ‘I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd’.
The status of the land of Israel and dealings with her various enemies are prophesied in detail. There is a foreshadowing of the New Jerusalem seen in Revelation – the temple of the Lord from which flows a river that sustains fruit-bearing trees to feed and heal the nations. This is a clear picture of the gospel.
The glory of God
For me, though, the most striking passages were the three visions Ezekiel had of the glory of God – highlighting the gospel truth that God is holy, and we are not. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The separation between holy God and sinful man is made apparent when Ezekiel sees the glory of God depart from his temple in chapter 10. And the prophesied judgement of God against sin soon follows, when Jerusalem and the temple fall.
The final vision of God’s glory is many years later. Now, though, the glory of God is returning to a new temple and to his people gathered from their exile. Sin dealt with, God returns to dwell with man.
This third vision of God’s glory shows that God’s grace restores the right relationship between God and man through atonement for sin. This too foreshadows gospel truth – whoever believes in Jesus Christ shall not perish but have everlasting life. ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’. So, the main thing is that Ezekiel foreshadows the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
Finally, when thinking about the glory of God departing from the temple, I was struck by this contrast. Under the old covenant, God, in his glory, left his defiled temple and people and sinful men were judged. Under the new covenant, God, his glory revealed in the Lord Jesus, came to save his defiled people. Under the new covenant, sinful men were and are saved.