The key to unlocking the dynamic of Ezekiel is to understand that this truly great book of Scripture contains some of the most penetrating insights into the heart of the atonement, God’s plan to create a new covenant and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The key to unlocking the dynamic of Ezekiel is first to understand the structure of the book, and then to carefully study the significance of the ending of the two covenants in chapter 24. This is the fulcrum of the book, out of which flows all the prophetic messages about the new covenant in chapters 33-48. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the Jewish Rabbis would not encourage anyone under 30 to read this book.
Nevertheless, this book is 48 chapters long, and the fact that so very few Christians study it demonstrates that most people find it really difficult to read. I once studied the talk library from All Souls Langham Place and found that although this church has arguably the most prominent Biblical teaching ministry in the UK, they had only had 23 sermons from Ezekiel in the previous 20 years.
I am absolutely serious in stating that no one will understand Ezekiel without first taking focused time in private to confess their sins before the Holy God whose Spirit inspired this magisterial writing. To encounter the heart of this book is to encounter the Holy Spirit of the Father God.
Click on the link above for an audio version of the book of Ezekiel.
Listen to Nick’s Podcasts of sections of Ezekiel in the Starter Course.
Download a Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling in the car.
Be careful! Reading Ezekiel straight through can be like crossing the Australian outback – not many make it!
The key is NOT to get lost and stuck in the detail:
I suggest you start by reading the key chapters:
Section 1: Chapters 1-3; 4; 8-11; 13; 18; 24.
Section 2: Chapter 28.
Section 3: Chapters 33; 34; 36:16-38; 37;43; 47.
A film about a (holy) man driven almost mad because of his concern for those he loves who are wilfully destroying themselves.
A film about Savonarola – the 15th Century Dominican Friar in Italy
Use the BfL questions at the end of each course section.
Suggested verses for meditation …
Ezekiel 36:24-27 ‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.’
Context: After Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem in 597BCE, he deported to Babylon many of the young aristocracy. Among these was Ezekiel, a young man beginning his training for the priesthood. Five years later, aged 30 – the point when he would have entered the priesthood – Ezekiel had a dramatic and overwhelming encounter with God. Ezekiel was changed forever. From then on, he was propelled by the conviction that his people’s sin, their idolatry and their outright disobedience to the covenant law meant they stood in a place of impending judgement with the certainty of being exiled from the land. With growing desperation over the six year period to 589BCE, he warned his people (in the prophecies of chapters 4-24) that far from expecting a quick return to Jerusalem, they faced the certain prospect of the death of their relatives in Judah, and the exile of the nation from the land. This happened in 589BCE after Nebuchadnezzar took the city for a second time.
Themes: There is an ‘otherness’ about Ezekiel. His encounter with God meant that his prophetic words always came from an understanding of God’s sovereignty and lordship of the nations. God is holy, and his people are responsible for what they do and must live in holy obedience. God’s wrath is directed against all sin and evil, and because of their disobedience his people stand to face calamity. Ezekiel not only foretold the gift of the Spirit in the new covenant and the atoning work of God (later established through Christ’s death); he actually lived and experienced it! In the death of his wife in chapter 24, the two covenants – the Mosaic covenant and Ezekiel’s marriage covenant – were ended on the same day, when the Lord allowed the destruction of the Temple, and took his wife, also ‘the delight of his eyes’ (24:16), home. Both entered into the ‘death’, so that the new covenant could be created.
Ezekiel was far from being a prophet of doom. The sacking of Jerusalem (chapter 33) ushered in a new era of ministry in which he foretold a great new initiative of God when he would form a new covenant with his people, with a new shepherd (king) over them, and would give them a new heart and a new spirit. In this initiative the dead bones of God’s people would be raised to life, the gods of evil would be defeated, and a new Temple would be established (chapters 33-48).
Applications: Although there are almost no direct imperatives, the appeal of this prophet is to live holy obedient lives before the God who loves us.
Question 1 -
What is holy in society today?
Question 2 -
Ezekiel teaches that the sin of Israel was idolatry. Today there is a lot of encouragement to engage in interfaith dialogue, and sometimes – for example after the 9/11 act of terrorism – interfaith worship. Should disciples of Jesus participate in interfaith worship?
Question 3 -
Is mysticism essential to discipleship?
Encounter and response
New convenant - Word and Spirit
Historical background: In 597BCE after Nebuchadnezzar had overrun Jerusalem, Ezekiel, a young man brought up in the priestly family and trained in the Temple, was deported 1000 miles away to a refugee camp in Babylon. Five years later when he is 30, just at the point when he would normally enter the full priesthood, he encounters God in an overwhelming vision that profoundly affects and changes him. God commissions him as a watchman: a prophetic representative to speak God’s word to God’s people. In addition, Ezekiel seems to have suffered from a speech impediment, so his message of coming tragedy on God’s people is more often acted act in street theatre than spoken publicly. Six years of prophesying goes largely unheeded by the Jewish nobility in Babylon who are fully confident that the Jewish revolt under Zedekiah will bring permanent independence from Babylon and their return to Jerusalem. The revolt fails, the city is sacked, the Temple destroyed, the nation exiled, and the very future existence of God’s people is thrown into doubt. Ezekiel was married (24:15-18) and he owned and lived in his own house (3:24, 8:1).
Destination: Ezekiel writes the first part of the book for the elders in Jerusalem. The middle part is prophecies for the foreign nations. The final part is for all the nation and points to God’s future sovereign work.
Date: These prophecies span the period from 593BCE (1:2), to 571BCE (29:17). Some parts of this book are given an exact date. The first part comprises prophecies given before the fall of Jerusalem in 589BCE. The third part is dated after 589BCE.
In Ezekiel there are:
Visions – descriptions of ‘spiritual’ visions and events witnessed by Ezekiel
Oracles of judgement
Judgements enacted through ‘street drama’
Prophetic messages of blessing and encouragement
(The book also contains surprising details of the trade arrangements in the Eastern Mediterranean – chapter 27).
I began by saying that to understand Ezekiel we must first encounter Ezekiel. What I meant is that we will not properly understand this prophet’s message until we have at least some sense of his experience of reeling after he had encountered God. At least five times he is left flat on his face (1:28; 3:23; 11:13; 43:3; 44:4). Ezekiel is profoundly disturbed by these encounters and this is why he uses all the force and images he can muster, even being sexually explicit, to express his heart’s yearning for God’s people to turn from their idolatry.
So, we need to meditate on these deep experiences described in passages such as 2:1 – 3:15, 11:1-15, 13:4-5, 22:30, 43:1-5.
The Structure of Ezekiel:
Although it is long, the book falls into three clear sections:
|1 - 24||A collection of Ezekiel’s prophecies, warning the Israelites in Jerusalem about God’s judgement that is about to fall on them because of their idolatry.|
|1 - 3||Ezekiel’s vision of God and calling.|
|4 - 7||The fall of Jerusalem prophesied.|
|8 - 11||Vision of idolatry in the Temple.|
|12 - 23||Prophecies of judgement and exile.|
|24||Fall of Jerusalem and death of Ezekiel’s wife.|
|25 - 32||A collection of prophecies of judgement on the nations around Israel.|
|33 - 48||Ezekiel prophesies the restoration of God’s people under a new covenant of the Word and the Spirit.|
|33||Ezekiel again appointed as watchman.|
|36 - 37||Gift of the Spirit.|
|38 - 39||Overthrow of evil.|
|40 - 48||New Temple (the glory returns).|
|47||River from the Temple (to heal the nations).|
|48||The city of God.|
Once we begin to touch the energy and passion of Ezekiel’s heart cry, we can see the themes of this book. We can list these as follows …
Question 1 -
Ezekiel’s life and ministry was shaped by the overwhelming encounter with God in chapters 1-3, and subsequently in chapters 8-11. Ezekiel was never the same again. How realistic is it for us to expect to encounter Jesus in this way?
Question 2 -
Why is it dangerous to worship another God?
Question 3 -
Ezekiel was compassionate, but also deeply motivated, even driven, by an overwhelming conviction that God’s people must separate themselves from sin, evil, violence and idolatry. Do you know any people like this today?
Question 4 -
Do you know of any prophets that are ‘repairing the wall’ in Britain today (13:5; 22:30)?
Chapter by Chapter
Ezekiel experiences an extraordinary and overwhelming vision of the entourage and throne of God with someone like a man sitting on it.
V5-14 Describes the four creatures.
V15-17 Describes the wheels (under the creatures).
V18-21 The wheels and the creatures move simultaneously.
V22-24 The expanse above the creatures.
V25-28 The throne above the expanse, and the man on the throne.
Ezekiel 2:1 – 3:15
Ezekiel is commissioned to go and speak to the Israelites who are in rebellion against the Lord. He is told not to be afraid, to speak God’s words to them, and to eat the scroll and be strengthened by it.
3:7 When a child is cross and angry with its parents and the relationship is tense, the child will often not even hear what the parent is saying, because in their heart they are set against their parent.
3:14 This is one of the rare moments in Scripture when the effect of the Holy Spirit on a human being is described (see Habakkuk 3:16).
Ezekiel 3:16 – 27
After recovering from the overwhelming encounter with God, Ezekiel is commissioned as a watchman for God’s people. This responsibility is serious and if he flinches from his duty to speak God’s word to both righteous and wicked then Ezekiel himself will stand guilty.
3:23 We should note that Ezekiel encounters the glory of God for a second time, and falls down, or collapses, in the presence of God. This is most significant, for all the prophetic utterances that run to the end of chapter 32 flow out of these encounters (the third one is the vision and transportation in Ezekiel 10).
Ezekiel 4 – 5
Ezekiel enacts several prophetic dramas of judgement, whist being unable to speak (3:26):
Ezekiel 6 – 7
Ezekiel prophesies against the ‘mountains of Israel’, which in this context communicates the fundamental foundations of the nation, the elders: those governmental institutions at the centre of the nation and its life. Ezekiel prophesies judgement on the nation because of their idolatry – they are adulterous in turning from the Lord.
Chapter 7 is a summary judgement arising out of the prophetic enacted messages in chapters 4 and 5. The chapter ends with a crescendo of judgement directed at the different levels of society: prophet, priest, elder, king and people. Although it is difficult to describe and articulate, there is a power and inherent authority about the words. These flow directly out of Ezekiel’s encounter with the Lord. It is this spring of authority that John mines when he articulates his vision in Revelation.
Chapters 8-11 are a unit: Ezekiel experiences his third vision and encounter in the Spirit. The vision is a transportation to the Temple in Jerusalem and an unveiling of the idolatry in the Temple that is both hidden and pervasive. The charges are again idolatry and violence (8:17).
Within the unit of chapters 8-11, this section describes the destruction of the idolaters in Jerusalem. Those that have grieved over the idolatry are spared by being marked with a sign on their foreheads in a way that is similar to the marking of the doors of the households at the Passover. But this vision of judgement must be read alongside chapter 11 which contains the only specific reference to someone dying under the Lord’s judgement.
This is the second detailed encounter and description of Ezekiel’s vision of the throne of God, although in 3:23 he mentions but does not describe a second occasion. The description is shorter than in chapter 1 and it focuses more directly on the throne of God. The focus on the fire in v6 parallels the taking of the coal from the altar in Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 6). We should probably understand the departure of the glory from the Temple in v18 (see also 11:23) as a decisive moment of judgement on God’s people. Significantly, the glory remains with the exiles in Babylon.
This chapter again describes the idolatry of God’s people, but it is focused not on the people but on the leaders and for the first time one named man dies, Pelatiah (v13). However, even this is in a vision. We should recognise the power of the prophetic person to proclaim the words of God and the effect of the prophetic. The promises of restoration and blessing of new obedient hearts seal the end of this section. Whatever the severity of Ezekiel’s word, the direction and intention even at this early stage is for renewal and spiritual blessing.
Ezekiel 12 – 23
Ezekiel 12-23 is a collection of prophetic signs and messages arising out of Ezekiel’s vision described in 8-11.
This chapter has three parts. First, the sign of ‘digging through the wall’ (v1-16) which prophetically enacts the Prince of the Jews fleeing out of Jerusalem. Second is the sign of trembling (v17-20). Third, a statement that God’s words of warning are about to be fulfilled (v21-25).
This chapter is one of the foremost in Ezekiel. In this chapter Ezekiel speaks against the false prophets. In v1-16 he prophesies against the men for failing to strengthen the nation and make it godly, and from v17-23 he speaks against the prophetesses for ‘disheartening the righteous with lies’ (v22).
Again, Ezekiel speaks against the people, this time the elders, for their idolatry. From verses 12-23 Ezekiel describes the forms of judgement that God brings on a country for its unfaithfulness: famine, wild beasts, sword, plague. The passage culminates in the warning that Jerusalem is facing all of these because of its conduct and action.
This short chapter describes the wood of the vine as an allegory of the destruction coming on Jerusalem.
A long, detailed and rather laborious allegorical description of God’s people growing up from being a beautiful orphaned child loved and cared for by God himself, and then entering into covenant with God. But then everything changed and the beautiful woman becomes a public whore.
V44-58 extrapolates the theme with reference to the other nations, particularly Sodom.
The chapter ends on a similar note to 11:18-21 with hope and the promise of a new covenant.
A rather strange allegory describing two eagles and a vine. The story is told in the first 10 verses. It is interpreted historically in v11-18 and then interpreted in terms of theological principles in v19-24 where both the themes of judgement and restoration are present.
This is another outstanding chapter in Ezekiel. A long description of three generations of men is outlined to make the point that ‘the soul who sins is the one who will die’ (v20). The remaining comment in v 21-32 elaborates and reflects on this and establishes some of the profoundest truths in the Old Testament:
‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Declares the sovereign Lord. Rather am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live’ (v23)
‘Get a new heart and a new spirit’ (v31)
‘For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone declares the … Lord’ (v32).
A lament for the Princes of Israel. The illustration is about lions symbolising the governance of Israel, but the description and development is quite complicated. It seems to be a mixture of allegorical political comment and the threat of divine judgement.
This is the first prophecy to be dated, 9th August 591BCE (v1), since 8:1 and this may reflect some time distance between the batch of prophecies from chapters 8-19. The substance of the chapter is a prophecy of judgement on God’s people for their idolatry, but the exhortation is to keep the Sabbath.
There is the promise of a new covenant in v37.
V45-49 record a short dramatised prophetic message against ‘the south’.
While the exiles in Babylon longed for the news that Jerusalem had succeeded in revolting against their captors, Ezekiel is broken hearted (v6) by the revelation that the future is dark with the prospect of siege, suffering, defeat and slavery for decades ahead.
This chapter contains three prophetic messages of lament and warning against Jerusalem for the people’s sin. The first (v1-16) addresses the idolatry of the nation and lists specific sins. The second (v17-22) is a picture of the people under siege in Jerusalem like the refining of a metal in a furnace, and in the third (v23-29) Ezekiel again addresses the different sections of society for their sins. Although the substance of the chapter is full of charges, the tone is distraught. Ezekiel does not want punishment; he identifies and warns in order to press people to repent.
Surely one of the most astonishing appeals in scripture. Ezekiel employs the strongest language and imagery that he can muster (eg v20) to present to his people the shocking nature of their idolatrous turning from the God who has formed them and entered into covenant with them. The summary charge is in v37. Ezekiel’s three visionary encounters with the divine (Chp1, 3:23, Chps 8-11) have left an indelible mark of holiness within his spirit, and it is from this that all the prophetic warnings of these chapters have flown. Here is a man tortured by the experience of divine purity and holy separation from all ungodliness, but who finds himself living among the violent and idolatrous, the power seeking and the spiritually blind. Ezekiel speaks out of shock and horror – this may even explain why there were periods when he was physically unable to speak.
This chapter is the fulcrum of the book of Ezekiel. This is holy ground. This is Ezekiel’s equivalent of Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22. Who cannot weep at these words? Here we plumb the depths of the atonement in astonishment as Ezekiel and his wife are drawn by the Spirit of God into the severing of their one flesh union; as Ezekiel experiences and once again prophetically enacts, or dramatises (v24), God’s intervention in order to atone. As their marriage covenant ends and the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes dies (is destroyed), so on that very day (v2) the Temple, the delight of the eyes of the nation and the sign of their covenant with Yahweh, begins to experience destruction. Both man and women experience this destruction as a prophetic witness to the perfect atonement God will one day work through the divine and human Christ. The prophetic sign lasts from the day the siege begins; 24:1 to the day the fugitive brings the news (v27; 33:21). The next section, chapters 25-32, are the intermediary pause during this period when evil is exposed and his fate prophesied.
Ezekiel 25 – 32
Chapters 25-32 are a section of prophecies to the nations surrounding Israel.
Four nations are addressed in this chapter:
1) Ammon will be destroyed (v7) because they rejoiced over the destruction of Israel (v6).
2) The nation of Moab will disappear (v10) because it gloated over Israel’s defeat (v8).
3) Edom will be overrun by the Israelites (v14) because they joined in attacking Israel after Israel had suffered defeat by Babylon (v12). Read also the book of Obediah and Ezekiel 35.
4) The Philistines will also suffer for taking the opportunity for revenge (v15).
Chapters 25-32 are a section of prophecies to the nations surrounding Israel. Within this, chapters 26-28 are addressed to Tyre.
The chapter contains four prophecies against Tyre:
1) V1-6 Tyre will suffer attack, be defeated and left as little more than a fishing village.
2) V7-14 God will cause the King of Babylon to attack, defeat and ruin Tyre.
3) V15-18 A description of the fear that will follow the destruction of Tyre.
4) V19-21 Tyre will not only be completely destroyed but will go down into the pit (v20).
This is an extraordinarily rich and detailed description of Tyre as a leading trading centre in the Mediterranean the details of which here are unique in the Old Testament. The chapter both celebrates the influence of this port (v2-25), but also laments its fall (v1, 26-36).
It is precisely at the point of atonement that the evil one is revealed and stripped of his power. The prophetic journey of atoning sacrifice on which the Holy Spirit has led Ezekiel and his wife through death leads directly to the revelation of the evil spirit (v12-18) and the stripping of that spirit’s power (v7-10) and the horrible death of that spirit (v19). This is why the vision of the dragon in Revelation 12 follows on immediately after the martyr’s death of Revelation 11. At the Cross, God was revealed for who and all he is, but Satan is also revealed for all that he is, and defeated, and dismissed: ‘I made a spectacle of you before kings’ (v17).
Various things are happening in this section and chapter. First, Ezekiel correctly discerns that behind the challenge from Jerusalem’s northern trading rival (Tyre), a demonic evil force is working against (trying to destroy) God’s dwelling place. The two, Tyre and the evil spirit, are different and yet synonymous.
Second, the presenting issue is abundant trade and wealth (chapter 27), but the spirit is the deceiving spirit of Eden (28:13); the spirit that aspires to the very godhead (28:2); the corrupting spirit, once ‘perfect in beauty’ (v12), who walked on God’s holy mountain (v14), but through hubris (v2, 17) is now wicked (v15), thrown out of heaven (v17), and now destined for a horrible end (v19).
Third, one can sense in these chapters that Ezekiel is struggling to see clearly and articulate accurately what he perceives in his spirit. This is exactly what Peter describes in 1 Peter 1:10-11. As with the different strategies in Daniel 8-12, these prophets are straining to find ways to verbalise, to paint, describe and reveal their insights through the Spirit. So trade and the demonic become mixed. Ezekiel’s descriptions are somehow muddled, a little disturbed. There is anger: the human spirit of Ezekiel is also writing, and sometimes has nothing encouraging to say (chapter 25). The disturbance of this holy man, still reeling from his encounters (chaps 1, 3, 10) with this holy, utterly supreme God, searches for ways to express the horror in his spirit that God’ people could possibly turn away from him – to worship wretched little reptile gods (8:10)!?
V1-16 are a prophecy against Egypt, but v17-21 are a final prophecy against Tyre. Ezekiel’s prophecy against Egypt is similar to those in chapter 25 against the surrounding nations, but there is a promise of relief from v13 onwards.
V17-21 have caused a lot of difficulty for some who see this as an admission by Ezekiel that his earlier prophecies were wrong, and didn’t happen. But this conclusion should be challenged. The historical fact is that Nebuchadnezzar DID siege Tyre for 13 years and take it in 573BCE, having destroyed its economic and political importance. The argument of v17-21 is that ‘he got no reward from his campaign’ (v18). So God is going to give Nebuchadnezzar Egypt as payment because ‘he did it for me’ (v20).
This is a lament for Egypt. The first part of the chapter is more ‘lament-like’ than the rest which, certainly from 11 onwards, has the tone and form of a straightforward prophecy of judgement against Egypt.
This is a prophetic picture of Egypt’s coming fall. Ezekiel describes Egypt like Assyria, as a towering cedar that dominates the garden and gives life to all, but was then cut down. Egypt will suffer the same fate.
V1-16 are a specific lament for the fall of Pharaoh. V17-32 form a crescendo of all the prophecies in this section, chapters 25-32. It is a picture of hades with all the nations of the region lying there.
Ezekiel 33 – 48
Chapters 33 – 48 form the third section; the new covenant of the Word and Spirit.
In a direct parallel to Ezekiel’s commissioning in chapters 1-3, Ezekiel is once again commissioned as a watchman over God’s people.
V21-22 are the linchpin of the story from chapter 24, and in a bigger sense of the entire book as they completely vindicate all of Ezekiel’s prophetic messages up to this point. From here on Ezekiel is someone who must be listened to (v30-32).
Since the city is fallen and the Temple ruined, the people of God are only those who hear and respond obediently to the word of the Lord (v7, v32 etc). Ezekiel is therefore commissioned as watchman into a role similar to Moses himself.
The first prophetic message describing the new era is about the ruler (v10) of God’s people – the shepherd. The kings of Israel should have pastored God’s people, but instead they fed themselves (v3-6). This prophecy promises that God will establish “David” over his people: ‘I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them’ (v24). Jesus referred to this directly in John 10:11: ‘I am the good shepherd, I lay down my life for the sheep’. V25 describes the results: ‘I will make a covenant of peace’; the very first thing Jesus said to his disciples collectively on the first Easter evening: ‘Peace be with you’ (John 20:19). This first chapter after Ezekiel’s appointment describes the Messiah.
Ezekiel 35:1 – 36:15
This prophecy against Edom, which parallels the book of Obediah, does seem rather out of place here. Its inclusion may reflect the reference to the mountains of Israel (v12), following on from 34:13. In Ezekiel ‘the mountains of Israel’ seem to refer to the institutions of governance in Israel, and this would explain their inclusion immediately after the primary establishment of the Messiah in the new covenant. 36:1-15 continues this prophetic statement that punishment is coming on the nations that took advantage of Israel’s defeat, but a time of establishment and prosperity is coming on Israel.
Ezekiel 36:16 – 38
This is arguably the highlight of Ezekiel – the description of the restoration of God’s people – which God will do for the sake of his glory and honour, not theirs. Verses 24-29 state that the essence of this will be cleanliness, ‘the washing of regeneration’ (Titus 3:5), and the Spirit, ‘and renewal in the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5). The chapter contains further promises of growth and reestablishment. So God will first establish the nation with the Messiah as king, and will then will bring cleanliness (atonement) and the gift of the Spirit. The next chapter is a picture of this gift.
This chapter gives a glorious and famous picture of the renewal of God’s people. The vision of the dry bones becoming human beings (v1-14) is a brilliant picture of the powerful theme of hope that runs throughout Ezekiel. It is also a picture of the axiomatic promises in 36:24-27.
Verses 15-28 endorse the vision of the dry bones with the important addition that the nation that was divided after Solomon’s death will become united again under one king (v24) and under one covenant (v26) – an everlasting covenant of peace. Verse 27 describes the central place that the Temple will have and this leads into the king description in chapters 40-47.
Ezekiel 38 – 39
These chapters describe an attack on Israel by the northern forces of Gog, which will be defeated through the Lord’s decisive intervention. There is no consensus about the identity of Gog. The prophecy has an apocalyptic, ‘final’ tone to it and its stated intention is that God’s people understand his sovereignty (39:27-28). Once again, Ezekiel promises the gift of God’s Spirit (39:29).
Ezekiel 40 – 42
These three chapters describe a vision of a new temple. A helpful picture can be found in the ESV Study Bible. These three chapters give a rather detailed description which is not that easy to follow from the text itself.
V1-4 describe the return of the glory of the Lord to the Temple. This is the response to the departure of the glory in Ezekiel 10:18. The altar is described (v13-17) and then consecrated with a costly and involved week-long ceremony (v18-27). Although the promise is that ‘I will live among the Israelites forever. The house of Israel will never again defile my holy name’ (v7), the warning against idolatry is repeated in the description of v8-9. In describing the priestly duties in regard to the altar, Ezekiel is effectively in the role of a second Moses, as this is the only place outside the Pentateuch where such ‘law’ is written.
This chapter addresses and gives regulations for several areas of Temple practice.
V1-3 stipulates the access that the prince has into the Temple.
V4 describes a further occurrence of the coming of the glory of God into the Temple.
V5-9 stipulates the rules for foreigners entering the Temple.
V10-14 limits the activities of the Levites to routine sacrificial duties because of their unfaithfulness to God.
V15-16, in contrast, gives special privileges to the Zadok priests because of their faithfulness.
V17-19 stipulates the clothing that the priests must wear when they minister in the inner court.
V20-23 gives guidance about the holy and the common in areas of hair length, alcohol and marriage.
V24 states that the priests are ex officio the civil judges.
V25-27 stipulates the limitations that priests must have with dead bodies.
V28-31 stipulates how priests are to be financed. The only inheritance they have is the Lord. The priests are to live off the offerings from the people to the Temple.
In this chapter Ezekiel begins to map out the allocation of the land between the twelve tribes. A diagram should be viewed at this point such as the one in the ESV Study Bible.
This chapter articulates instructions for the priests (and the prince) in their organisation of the festivals and the sacrificial system in the Temple.
Ezekiel 47:1 – 12
This is the crescendo towards which the whole description of the Temple has been moving. The river flows from the Temple out into the desert and brings life, fertility and healing to the nations.
Ezekiel 47:13 – 48:35
This final section building on the earlier description in 45:1-8 describes the division of the land between the 12 tribes. Once again, it is vital to study a diagram in a Study Bible. The final section (v30-36) describes the capital, Jerusalem.
47:22 is crucial. It answers the question of modern-day Palestine: ‘Who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.’ When this happens there will be peace in Israel and the prayers of many.
The overall message of Ezekiel:
God wants his people to live holy obedient lives. Since his people were consistently disobeying him, and specifically practicing idolatry, they were destined to be overrun by their enemies and lose their land.
The leading imperatives:
The supporting imperatives:
The implied imperatives:
Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives. These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)
Since the leading imperative is to turn from idolatry, here are some ideas:
Question 1 -
Recently a friend quoted Jonathan Edwards, the man at the centre of the Great Awakening in America and said that after a few years, 95% of those who experienced the awakening were left unchanged by it. In 1994 there was a powerful work of the Spirit centred on Toronto referred to as the Toronto Blessing. If you were involved with this, what difference has it made to you over 20 years later. What difference has it made to your friends?
Question 2 -
Long-term commitment is rare in today’s individualistic, consumerist, post-modern society. How can apprentices of Jesus build long-term covenant (22:30)?
Question 1 -
Ezekiel and his wife enter into a dramatic prophetic sign of atonement, (Chapter 24). This is the only time in the Old Testament where God allows this to happen. What does each party suffer? Why does God allow it? What does it tell us about what God went through at the Cross?
Question 2 -
Study the exposing of evil (chapter 28) and its defeat (chapters 38-39) after the atonement in chapter 24.