I HATE to tell you this, but last year was the FIRST time I had ever read the book of Ezekiel completely through!! So…now you know <<<smile>>>!! Sure I had read scriptures or possibly even a chapter or two, but last year really opened my eyes to what this prophet had to say.
The author is The Prophet Ezekiel and it was most likely written between 593-565 B.C., during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah (on the outside of the captivity) and Daniel (on the inside of the captivity.)
Ezekiel’s book can be divided into four sections:
Chapters 1-24: prophecies on the ruin of Jerusalem
Chapters 25-32: prophecies of God’s judgment on nearby nations
Chapter 33: a last call for repentance to Israel
Chapters 34-48: prophecies concerning the future restoration of Israel
Since we will be spending the next 2 weeks with Ezekiel, here is a little background on what Ezekiel was dealing with incase you are just now jumping in (and if you are WELCOME!!) We read about three attacks on Jerusalem that brought all of Judah under Babylonian control. There were 3 distinct moments where they were invaded and taken into captivity. We read about them from the perspective of Jeremiah, who was in Jerusalem to see all 3 events over the course of 40 years. Now we will read about Jerusalem/Judah’s captivity from the INSIDE, from a first person perspective.
King Josiah of Judah was was a good king of Judah. The Book of the Law was found in the temple, when he was having it restored. (I Know…the bells are beginning to go off in your head…”oh yeah..I remember him!!”) He read The Book of the Law and wept when he saw how far away from The Lord his country had grown. He began a reformation, and people began to walk in the ways of the Lord; celebrating Passover, worshipping in the Temple, following the Commandments. Nothing good lasts forever and Josiah was no different. He was killed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo. Four years later Neco was then defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, leaving Babylon as the world power.
Jeremiah prophesied for 40 years and had contemporaries ready to follow in his footsteps. Ezekiel was about 18 yrs old when Nebuchadnezzar took the first group of captives. Among that first group was a familiar name, Daniel. Daniel was exiled at the age of 15 (with his friends Hananuah, Mishael, and Azariah…..you’ll recognize the names that King Nebuchadnezzar gave these three when we get to that part!!), while his friend Ezekiel was left behind. During this time Jeremiah was bringing the message to the people to repent…but they did not.
Keep in mind that Ezekiel and Jeremiah were working with the same generation. That generation was not only exceedingly sinful but thoroughly hopeless (ummmm…guess you could say they were bad to bone!!) By means of his prophetic ministry he attempted to bring them to immediate repentance and to confidence in the distant future. For 10 years, life continued the same, Judah continued to sin. Then King Johoiakim, king of Judah, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and he died. Jehoiachin became king and once again Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem this time taking 10,000 captive, and among them was Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a few years away from becoming a priest (age 30 eligibility). When he turned 30, Ezekiel had a vision! (nope nope nope…not gonna tell you what his vision was….can’t spoil the story <<<smile>>>>).
Ezekiel was uprooted from his homeland in the 2nd Babylon attack at age 25. He was marched off to Babylon and held in captivity. For five years he languished in despair. Then at age thirty a majestic vision of Yahweh’s glory captivated his being while in Babylon. The priest/prophet discovered God was not confined to the narrow structures of Ezekiel’s native land; but HE was/is a universal God who commands and controls persons and nations. In Babylon, God imparted to Ezekiel His Word for the people. This vision from God transformed Ezekiel. He became avidly devoted to God’s Word. He realized he had nothing personally to assist the captives in their bitter situation, but he was convinced God’s Word spoke to their condition and could give them victory in the midst of their circumstances. Ezekiel used various methods to convey God’s Word to his people — things such as art in drawing a depiction of Jerusalem, symbolic actions and unusual conduct to secure attention, and he cut his hair and beard as a demonstration.
In the time frame Ezekiel was written, we have three living prophets:
JEREMIAH — was in Jerusalem with the Jews during all three stages of the exile, prophesying, preaching, and warning them to repent.
EZEKIEL– lived with the exiles in Babylon, bringing them a message of hope.
DANEL–well…. God placed Daniel to live with the Rulers in the court.
During this time frame, other evil nations were wiped out by the Lord. Jerusalem, however was not, but most of the Judeans were in captivity. There is a HUGE difference between the two scenarios. The difference is significant, God disciplines those HE loves. His discipline/punishment (not always the same thing). By placing HIS people in captivity, through their punishment HIS desire was that they would come to know HIM. And they did.
A key verse is from this Book is Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'”
We will find in Ezekiel 34 that God denounces the leaders of Israel as FALSE shepherds because they were self centered and cared ONLY about themselves rather than taking good care of the people, HIS people (Ezekiel 34:1-3.) By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep and who protects them from the wolves who would destroy the flock (John 10:11-12). In chapter 34 these leaders of Israel, Israel’s shepherds failed to see the importance of ministering to the weak, sick, injured, and lost. BUT the good news is that Jesus is our GREAT Physician who heals our spiritual wounds (Isaiah 53:5) by His death on the cross. He is the one who seeks and saves that which is lost (Luke 19:10).
Sharing HIS love,