Ezekiel Historical Context
Ezekiel was the son of a second-generation priest named Buzi - cool name. He was taken captive in 597 BC, when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, captured Jerusalem during a brief siege. Also taken captive were Israel's young King Jehoiachin, his entire court, personal military guard, ten thousand Jews, and all the craftsmen and skilled workers. This captivity was the beginning of a judgment and consequence for their rebellious sin and demonic and evil ideology.
At the time Ezekiel was taken from the temple he was in his early 20's - he would never physically return to there in his lifetime.
Along with the others, they were resettled nearly 800 hundred miles away from Jerusalem to places in around an area called Nippur, basically several hundred miles of dusty plains in Babylonia. In the fifth year of his exile, 593 BC, the call and mission of God came to Ezekiel to exercise a prophetic ministry to his people and to the house of Israel.
For the next 27 years, Ezekiel would without fail or fear answer that call and finish that mission given him by the Lord God of Israel.
Little else is known about his life apart from what we have in his book. He had a wife and she died at the time of second fall of Jerusalem and the annihilation of Solomon's glorious Temple by Nebuchadnezzar.
As Ezekiel moved forward to fulfill and finish his call and mission, he gained audience and influence among not only the exiled Jews, but among the five Kings, twenty-five elders and the host of leaders of Israel as well.
His words and insights mattered - and in spite of the self-deconstruction and cultural devastation of Jewish prominence, Ezekiel stepped forward to lead and speak with authority and assurance regardless of the people's like's, dislike's or feelings about the messages of God.
I'm thinking, who has that kind of courage? Who steps forward in calling and mission to deliver a prophetic vision of both destruction and restoration, to a broken, despondent and disobedient people while in the first quarter-century of a 450-year captivity? Who does that? Only a person certain of the fulfillment and finish of their calling and mission.
Listen to Ezekiel's calling and mission... He was relentless for 27 years in the oral tradition of the house of Israel to proclaim the Majesty of the Lord (in the good and in the bad).
His was repetitive and insistent in his messaging: The house of Israel, every Jewish exile, every nation of the world, and most certainly the demonic forces of darkness, should all ‘know that I am the Lord’.
This consuming message was so vital to fulfilling Ezekiel's mission that he used the phrase "know that I am the Lord" over fifty times in forty-eight chapters. Here are a few samples.
Warning: This is judgment and consequences OC style... it's really harsh.
Pestilence and blood will pass through you, and I will bring the sword upon you. You will know that I am the Lord; I have spoken.
I will crush them and make their cities desolate from the wilderness in the south to Riblah in the north. Then they will know that I am the LORD.
Everyone in the world will know that I am the LORD. My sword is in my hand, and it will not return to its sheath until its work is finished.’
You will look back on all the ways you defiled yourselves and will hate yourselves because of the evil you have done. You will know that I am the LORD.
As I shared last week, Ezekiel was known for several blockbuster prophetic visions to His people. To tell people the news of their demise and destruction and then to tell them of their redemption and restoration is profound. The following prophetic visions of Ezekiel are as profound a fulfillment and finish to a calling and mission as any other recorded in the bible, with the exception of Jesus, and He snuck Him in there too.
The Divine Chariot - Merkavah (Hebrew) meaning; chariot throne of Yawheh - Bringing God's revealed glory to His people. Both for those who would worship Him and for those who would not. You will know that I am the Lord. Fulfilled and Finished
The Destruction and Rebuild - While standing by the canal Chebar, Ezekiel is transported by the hair of his head and given full detailed vision of the destruction of Solomon's Temple exposing its entire cast of corrupt leadership and "fake worship" idolatry and perversion; followed by the departure of the glory of God. He is also given a glimpse of hope - the return of the heart of the people to God. You will know that I am the Lord. Fulfilled and Finished.
Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones - Ezekiel transported to a valley filled with dry human bones. He instructed the bones to join together and to be covered with sinews, flesh and skin. This was followed by an instruction to the souls to enter the bodies and revive them. These bones represent the house of Israel. They say, “Our bones have dried out, our hope is lost!” Tell them; I will open your graves and remove you from them, My nation, and bring you to the land of Israel… I will place My spirit within you, and you will live, and I will place you upon your land.” You will know that I am the Lord. Fulfilled and Finished.
The Third Temple - Ezekiel high-points with a prophecy envisioned fourteen years after the First Temple’s destruction. Ezekiel saw himself again transported to the Temple Mount, where an angel holding a measuring rod gave him a detailed tour of the Third Temple.
Ezekiel was instructed to impart this vision to his brethren, so that they would study the building’s dimensions and be prepared to build it when the time would come. The dimensions are clearly included in Ezekiel chapter 40.
According to Ezekiel The Third Temple is to be massively larger than the previous two. In fact, it will be 36 times larger, (approx. 22,325,625 Sq. Ft. or 512.5 acres)!
The Midrash records a discussion between God and Ezekiel:
Ezekiel said to God: Master of the World! The Jews are exiled in the land of their enemies, and You are telling me to inform them of the Temple’s dimensions? Are they able to build it now? Wait until they are redeemed from exile, and then I will tell them!
God responded: Just because My sons are in exile, My home should not be built? Tell them to study the form of the Temple, and it will be as if they are actually building it!
The time span for the relevance of Ezekiel's visionary prophecies is nearly 2600 years and counting. How is that for fulfillment and finish?
But even more than his Award Winning Prophecies and Visions, Ezekiel would become "the voice", the connector, the truth-teller, the people's conscience and living reminder that God in spite of the loss of life, liberty, livelihood and property; grief, suffering and sorrow; hatred, enslavement, displacement and threat to race and culture was still the God of His people, and no matter the judgement, consequences or reasons for them - they would remain His covenant people.
God was cleaning His house of everyone and everything that did not honor or acknowledge Him. No one would escape some portion or all of that purge and purify.
Son of man, are you ready to judge Jerusalem? Are you ready to judge this city of murderers? Publicly denounce her detestable sins, and give her this message from the Sovereign LORD: O city of murderers, doomed and damned—city of idols, filthy and foul—you are guilty because of the blood you have shed. You are defiled because of the idols you have made. Your day of destruction has come! You have reached the end of your years.
Even though spoken nearly 2600 years ago, that is hard to hear, in fact because of what I hear and see around me - I don't want to hear it at all - but I need to.
Here is the believers bridge of hope on this. Even in His sweeping arm of judgement and the inescapable consequences of sin and evil, Ezekiel was also told to leave hope alive. Here is a biblical and eternal truth to process.
In spite of circumstances and consequences that don't feel fair God is love.
Here is another biblical truth... God hates sin and sin has consequences. Those consequences include disappointment, tragedy, evil, racial prejudice, social injustice, perversity and debauchery, abuse and misuse of power and authority, exploitation and betrayal. That is the reality and consequence of sin. Just because everyone stopped talking about how bad and wrong and destructive sin is doesn’t mean it has gone away - obviously. It’s easier to blame someone or something other than ourselves when sin comes back to bite us.
God in His love had a new covenant plan of redemption in place and that too was Ezekiel's call and mission. This one included redemption, reconciliation, healing and hope for everyone.
Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. I, the Sovereign LORD, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’
“When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of their vile images and detestable idols. And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.
As I said, for twenty-seven years the words and visions of Ezekiel were the words and visions God used repair and continue to His relationship with His people - even during the 10 year period where they lost everything God had ever given them except Himself and His covenant and His everlasting love for them.
Some ask, what kind of loving God/monster would pass that kind of judgment? I would ask, "Is judgment a consequence of sin and evil, or are consequences of sin and evil the judgment"?
God told Ezekiel, “They will know that I am the Lord.” I guess we could also ask what kind of monsters can sex-traffic small children, behead and blowup innocent unsuspecting people, or kill unborn babies only days before they are born?
Let’s stop right there for a moment...
So, we pray for our messengers of the truth and love of God the Father through Jesus Christ today. We pray that love for God and love for all humanity find the heart of Americans today. We pray for forgiveness and we repent for our apathy and the sin in our own lives today. We pray for our calling and mission to be clarified by trusting in your justice and mercy for your creation. We pray the message of God's love for His Church and for the lost, sick, and broken be placed in our mouth to spoken with the heart of Jesus.
Jesus said it...
Discern and Engage - Demonic Forces and Evil Opposition
Healing and Hope - For the Sick, the Lost, and the Suffering
Fulfill and Finish our Calling and Mission
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
This is my command: Love each other. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.
YOU HAVE THIS CALLING AND THIS MISSION…
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