Wednesday, April 19, 2017

EZEKIEL+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

Ezekiel 1:1 "I saw visions of God." Ezekiel is preeminently the prophet of hope. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, but a much younger man who was taken in the first wave of Babylonian deportations. Probably Jeremiah was engaged in ministry when Ezekiel was born. Ezekiel's work lay among the exiles in Babylon. In the first 3 chapters we have the account of his preparation for that work. The remaining chapters present Ezekiel's message from the Lord in two themes: Certain Judgment for Unrepentant Sin and Ultimate Restoration. He begins this book by telling us he saw visions of God. They enabled him to see the rightness of God's judgment, but he also saw with equal clarity that the original purpose of God for His people will be gloriously realized in a time yet future. God granted to Ezekiel—and to us through Ezekiel's penpictures of Himself in awe-inspiring imagery. The inspiration of all well-founded hope in dark days and desolation is a clear vision of God. All that was suggested to Ezekiel by fire, angelic beings called cherubim, wheels within wheels, the Spirit of life, and the Throne has been more clearly revealed to us in the Son of His love. The New Testament explains that to see "the glory of God in the face of Jesus" is to see the righteousness of all His judgment, and to be sure of the final victory of His love. In the final Book of the Bible we again see Ezekiel's symbols gathered around the Throne of God, in the midst of which is the Lamb of God, who was slain on behalf of all His people and will return as a Lion in triumph.

Ezekiel 2:1 "He said to me, 'Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak with you.'" After the vision of God came the voice. Its first command to Ezekiel on his face in worship from the vision he just saw is to stand up as he listens to God's Word. The faithful prophet or preacher is prepared to deliver God's Word when he both worships God and is alert and attentive to Him, ready for action. Ezekiel encouragingly records next, "The Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet" (verse 2). The Spirit of God is God Himself, working with divine power, enabling Ezekiel to come to the height of his manhood and readily hear the Word of the Lord. Those who are called to preaching and teaching do well to remember that God enables and equips His servants well so they can enable and equip others with the words they need from God, whether warning or encouragement.

Ezekiel 3:4 "He said to me, 'Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.'" This is the last stage in Ezekiel's preparation. Notice the sequence: a high view of God, humble worship, ready to hear, and now going to speak the Word of God. His job would not be easy, for God made it clear to Ezekiel that the refugees he would be speaking to would tend to be hardhearted and unwilling to listen. Nevertheless, the Lord would strengthen him, and his responsibility was not to produce obedience, but to be faithful to proclaim God's Word to everyone who needed to hear it. That was and is a grave responsibility, as the central paragraph of this chapter (verses 17-21) makes clear on the sobering theme of blood guilt: if the wicked die in their wickedness for lack of warning from God's Word, the prophet is guilty of their blood. If the righteous fall into sin because the prophet fails to warn them of their peril, the prophet is held responsible for their perishing. If the wicked or the righteous sin and die in spite of the prophet's warning, then the prophet is not guilty. If you are called to be a prophet or preacher as your vocation or in a particular situation, your silence may be sin. To keep from proclaiming God's Word from fear or for favor is to be involved in the wickedness of evildoers. These are sobering truths to bear in mind, yet also remember this wonderful account of Ezekiel's preparation, for God always equips those whom He sends into holy service, be it long or short.

Ezekiel 4:1 "Son of man, take a tile ... and engrave on it a city." Ezekiel follows God's detailed instructions to become a living demonstration of what will happen. Actions sometimes speak louder than words. The first of four signs depicts the actual  siege of Jerusalem, while the second emphasizes the unrepentant sin that inevitably brings about severe punishment. The third illustrates the methods of judgment and lays stress on the pollution of the people. The fourth illustrates the thoroughness of God's just vengeance overtaking the nation. These signs initiate Ezekiel's prophetic ministry and form the first part of his prophetic message. Chapters 4-14 explain the specific judgments that come to an apostate people who rebel against what they know to be true about God. Chapters 15-19 describe  the people's faithlessness in detail, and chapters 20-23 argue for God's righteous judgment on spiritual adulterers. In these prophetic writings we see how carefully God interprets Himself and explains His ways for those called to be His messengers, and for those who heed their message from the Lord.

Ezekiel 5:7 "You are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you!" Truly terrible are the  judgments described in this chapter! They fell on the people of Jerusalem because they as a nation were worse than the nations around them. The highlighted words reveal a complete subversion of the divine order and intention. God intended Jerusalem to be a city of peace resulting from righteousness, and its people characterized by quiet strength emerging from their relationship with God—but not just for themselves. They were to be a beacon of light to the nations of the world. Instead, Jerusalem had become more polluted than surrounding cities, and its people more turbulent than those of other nations. That led to the blaspheming of God's holy name. Let us be careful not to understand these things only in their application to ancient Israel, but also apply them to ourselves. Jesus says this to all who will listen: "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:13-16). If we are truly related to God, we will fulfill the responsibilities of that relationship. If our connection to God is in name only, we risk judgments as serious as those grimly described in this chapter.

Ezekiel 6:9 "I have been broken over their adulterous hearts." This is God speaking! Take note of how spiritual adultery hurts Him personally.  Only the strongest words will do to convey the sufferings of Eternal Love when those upon whom it is set turn from Him to lewd and whorish practices. What that means in a spiritual sense is vividly brought out in the prophecy of Hosea, a man who portrayed the wounded heart of  God through his own domestic tragedy. This helps us understand and take warning of how our own conduct affects the Creator and Lover of our very selves.

Ezekiel 7:2 "Thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel: An end!" That exclamation mark is crucial, for God is making clear that His patience is ending. This chapter has two parts, the first consisting of short, sharp sentences broken with emotion as the Lord declares His decision. The second, in a more measured manner describes the breakup of the nation. Ezekiel is telling the exiles in Babylon what Jeremiah is telling the people in Jerusalem: the opportunity for recovery is past since the nation overstepped the Lord's willingness to wait for sincere repentance. Sometimes God's patience brings out our impatience. We cry, "How long, O Lord, how long?" This chapter in Ezekiel teaches us not to fret like that since there is clearly a limit to God's patience. It appears to be when a person's rebellion has so hardened him or her that no repentance will follow. Then there is an end. When it comes it is thorough, complete, and final. As we follow Ezekiel's prophecy straight through, we see how thoroughly the end comes to both persons and property. A study of human history yields many illustrations of this principle. God waits long for nations, and gives them opportunities to trust in Him. If they persist in wickedness, the hour comes when He says, "An end!" And that is the end.

Ezekiel 8:17 "Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations they have committed here?" By this question the Lord appeals to Ezekiel, and us his readers, to see how reasonable His coming judgments are. In Ezekiel's situation, elders visiting from Judah are with Ezekiel in his house, probably to gain his view of current events in Jerusalem. While they are there, "the hand of the Lord God" falls upon Ezekiel (verse 1), which enables him to see visions of Jerusalem. In the Temple complex he sees an "image of jealousy" (verse 5), referred to as such because it provoked the Lord to jealousy. Then Ezekiel sees elders there engaged in abominable idolatrous rites within the Temple court, and women by the Temple entrance doing the same thing. Finally he sees men with their backs toward the Temple and their faces toward sun, worshiping it. The Lord says to Ezekiel, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, 'The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land'" (verse 12). That suggests those visions were not literal, but were pictures of what was going on in people's hearts. That makes the condition all the more terrible. While the external rites of the Temple were being observed, they served merely as a cloak for wicked thoughts and desires of the heart. This is a hopeless stage of spiritual pollution. When men and women come to this point, a true and righteous God can do no other than make an end.

Ezekiel 9:4 "Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and weep over the abominations that are being done." Having seen abominations in his people's hearts and actions through a vision, Ezekiel now sees terrifying but truly just judgment unfold in the polluted city. But God's wrath is not indiscriminate, for the innocent are marked out and spared. In the most corrupt conditions,  God tends to have a remnant of loyal souls. They live among abominations, but have no part in them. They live in perpetual grief, their righteous souls troubled by that which dishonors God and defiles fellow men and women. When the whirlwind of divine fury finally sweeps out to make an end of such appalling corruption, it does not destroy them. God knows these godly ones by name and has them marked for preservation. The question Abraham asked long ago has a persistent answer: God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked. The Hebrew word translated "mark" (tav) is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In Ezekiel's day it looked like a cross. In our day those who sigh and cry amid prevailing abominations are marked with the cross of Christ by faith in Him.

Ezekiel 10:6 "Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim." Ezekiel in this chapter, still in vision mode, sees fire coming down on Jerusalem and the glory of God in the Temple vacating the city. When God goes out from a people, all judgments break in upon them. As in his first chapter, Ezekiel witnesses the telling symbols of wheels, faces, and energy that picture the activity, wisdom, power, authority, and majesty of God. This is the Lord on high who proclaimed an end (Ezekiel 7:2). The destructive fire proceeds from Himself, a truth inspiring both dread and comfort. The fire from God represents His perfect knowledge and holiness. It makes no terms with corruption, and no lie can hide. This kind of fire is absolutely just in its consuming activity. It will harm only what is evil. The wrath of God is terrible in the sense of inspiring awe, but it is never passion leaping over boundaries of right action. It is always restrained by perfect justice.

Ezekiel 11:16 "Yet will I be to them a sanctuary ... in the countries where they shall come." At the end of this chapter Ezekiel's long vision comes to an end, and Ezekiel tells the visitors waiting at his house what he saw. He witnesses the sudden death of one of the chief officials in Jerusalem, a wicked counselor deserving such a fate, but Ezekiel feels shaken and says to the Lord, "Will You make a full end of the remnant of Israel?" (Verse 13). The highlighted verse gives God's immediate and unequivocal answer. Fiery judgment upon Jerusalem did not mean the destruction of Israel nor the abandonment of God's purposes for His people. For the time being, exiles constituted the nation in the purpose of God. He would be their sanctuary. What is more, He promises for His people to be characterized by new spiritual life, saying, "I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (verses 19-20). When any of God's people today experience divine discipline for correction and purification, as was the case with Ezekiel's remnant, God shows them His grace by being their refuge and safety. When cut off from the ordinary means of His grace, those who love God will find Him in their midst as a sanctuary.

Ezekiel 12:22 "What is this proverb?" The Lord asks this question to challenge a popular mental attitude sounding like this: "The days grow long, and these prophecies come to nothing!" Doubters among the people refuse to believe Ezekiel's repeated warnings from God of coming judgment. The Lord therefore gives Ezekiel this response: "Tell them ... the days are near, and the fulfillment of every vision" (verse 23). Another bad attitude emerges, sounding like this: "The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off" (verse 27). This is the view of those who do believe in prophecy, but comfort themselves by the false assurance that there would be no immediate fulfillment. The Lord, however, says, "None of My words will be delayed any longer, but the Word that I speak will be performed" (verse 28). The heart of man, set upon evil courses, constantly adopts one of those two expedients to comfort itself. Either it mocks the prophetic Word or it says that fulfillment is postponed. Whatever proverbial sayings people with such hearts devise through the ages, the Lord Himself holds them in contempt, and will contradict them to fulfill His Word at His perfect time.

Ezekiel 13:10 "When anyone builds a wall, look: they plaster it over with whitewash!" This is how God describes the words and deeds of false prophets. The Hebrew word translated "wall" refers to a flimsy, not  solid structure. The politicians of Ezekiel's day were busy devising weak policies to avoid the judgment Ezekiel prophesied without having to bother with sincere repentance and obedience to God's Word. The false teachers aided them by convincing men and women that such weak policies were stronger than they really were by whitewashing them with words they claimed came from God. That is the essence of false teaching. Men and women who have no divine message pose as though they do, seeking to please their audience by agreeing with their desires and policies. This is a great evil because it gives a false sense of security to those who are in rebellion against God by fooling them into thinking God is on their side. What is more reprehensible and deadly than that? Notice how constantly biblical revelation deals with false prophets: all the Hebrew prophets denounced them in stark terms, as did the Lord Jesus Christ, who—like Ezekiel here—accused false prophets of whitewashing (Matthew 23:27).

Ezekiel 14:14 "'Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness,' declares the Lord God."  These words occur in a message Ezekiel delivers to a company of elders who came to him, apparently to inquire about the state of affairs in Jerusalem. It is also apparent they were suggesting the predicted doom might be avoided because there were good people in the city. Ezekiel's reply, received directly from the Lord, is twofold. First it deals with these men and denounces them. They were dishonest. While inquiring of the Lord through His prophet, they were secretly disloyal, for God all-knowing reveals they had "set up idols in their hearts" (verse 3). Therefore it was hypocritical for them to seek to know God's mind. The Lord, however, informs them that righteous men and women in an utterly polluted city can save only themselves. He describes some of them at the end of this chapter who will humbly join Ezekiel and the rest of the exiles in Babylon, and serve as an encouragement to them (verses 22-23). God's selecting Noah, Job, and Daniel as exemplars of righteousness is particularly striking since unlike the first two, Daniel is a young man like Ezekiel, living and ministering in Babylon. That is another source of encouragement to Ezekiel's godly readers, but regarding the ungodly leaders before Ezekiel, notice how strongly evil men believe in goodness. They hope its influence will protect them, but it will not.

Ezekiel 15:2 "How does the wood of the vine surpass any wood ... that is among the trees of the forest?" The thin, gnarly wood of a vine branch is vastly inferior to any forest tree. Fruit, not wood, is the chief value of the vine, but Ezekiel's people had none at this point. The Lord uses this shocking image to help the people understand why they were being judged. They knew the familiar symbol of the fruitful vine as a picture of what God wanted for His people (for example, Psalm 80, Isaiah 5, and Hosea 10). The Lord through Ezekiel makes no mention of fruit on the vine here because the nation was barren of fruit; it had completely failed to bring forth good deeds in accord with God's holy nature. It was wood only, and a type of wood so useless, no thinking person would use it even for a peg to hang a hat on (verse 3). Jesus taught that He is the true vine and that those connected to Him in truth will inevitably bear fruit, but those whose connection is superficial will end up like the same type of people in Ezekiel's day: trimmed away from the vine, taken away, and burned.

Ezekiel 16:2 "Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations." This the Lord has Ezekiel do by telling a heart-rending allegory that starts with a girl child neglected at birth, left to die in an open field. A compassionate man finds her and takes her into his household, where she is well cared for. When she grows to beautiful womanhood, her benefactor marries her, lavishing her with heartfelt love and honor. What happens next is shocking: this blessed woman, representing God's people, becomes worse than a prostitute: rather than accepting payment for adulterous favors, she pays her lovers, shamelessly spurning her loving Benefactor, Lord, and Husband! This unfaithful wife is visited with punishments fitting her crimes, yet is at last restored.  It is striking that God, through His prophets and later through His apostles, chooses marriage to illustrate His connection with His people as He desires and strongly feels it. His love is most strong and tender, best returned by complete loyalty.

Ezekiel 17:2 "Son of man, pose this riddle ..." The riddle is about two eagles and a vine. Whereas the allegory of the abandoned baby girl from the last chapter highlights the nation's spiritual and moral evils, this riddle tells of its political folly and wickedness.  Israel tried to compromise with Babylon and Egypt by looking to them instead of the Lord to restore national well being and fruitfulness. The riddle reveals  that the vine, the eagles, and everything else are within the Lord's power. Israel relied on the eagles to transplant their vine where it would flourish, but God's east wind found each new location, and the vine withered in spite of all attempts to maintain its life by false means. Spiritual unfaithfulness leads to looking for political saviors, which brings divine judgment. This chapter ends on the encouraging note of God's people restored, brought about not by human policy but by God's own power, expressing His never-failing grace. This chapter is full of light for statesmen and politicians if they will consider its teaching: God is sovereign and there is no escape from Him. Happy are they who frame their policies by consulting His Word, and ordering their lives accordingly.

Ezekiel 18:4 "Behold, all souls are Mine." This is God's immediate response to a false outlook that turned into a proverbial saying often repeated today: "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (verse 2). It is based on a one-sided philosophy of heredity. Evil, whether as a moral malady or personal experience with suffering, is blamed on the sins of the fathers. This proverb is a weak attempt to escape from responsibility for sin, and a protest against punishment. It may be true that in our physical being we have inherited tendencies to some forms of evil from our fathers, but by our essential relation to God as His creatures, He makes resources available to us more and mightier than all those tendencies. We ultimately live or die based on whether we avail ourselves of those resources or not. All souls belong to God, which means every soul is made for first-hand, personal dealing with Him. We see here inside His heart: "'Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked,' declares the Lord God, 'and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?'" (verse 23). Yet still people say, "The way of the Lord is not just," but the Lord answers back, "Is it not your ways that are not just?... Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and get a new heart and ... spirit. Why will you die ... for I have no pleasure in the death of anyone ... so turn and live!" (verses 29-32).
Ezekiel 19:14 "This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation." This lament speaks of the death of kings, pictured here as ill-fated lion cubs, and their nation as a shriveled vine. The lion cubs represent the captivity of Kings Jehoahaz (609 B.C.) and Jehoiachin (597 B.C.), and the collapse of the Davidic dynasty under Zedekiah (586 B.C.). Jehoahaz was deposed by Egypt's Pharaoh Necho after reigning only 3 months. Jehoiachin also reigned a mere 3 months, but was taken away in a cage in Babylon, where he remained behind bars for 37 years. Zedekiah was responsible for the burning of Jerusalem because of his treachery and faithlessness to God and man. The nation of Israel was a mother to those kings and the Lord their great Father, but these wicked kings left behind "no scepter for ruling" (verse 19). It goes ill with any state when it is thus  deprived of the blessings of government, for tyranny is the way to anarchy. When a government turns oppressive by neglecting God's holy laws, it is just for God to bring about its downfall.

Ezekiel 20:9 "I acted for the sake of My Name." This main reason for judgment from God is repeated 3 more times in this chapter (verses 14, 22, and 44). In that light Ezekiel reviews his nation's past (verses 5-26), examines its present state (verses 27-32), and tells of its future (verses 33-44). The Lord, for His name's sake, had miraculously delivered the Israelites from Egypt, had disciplined them in the wilderness, had showed mercy to their descendants, and was now dealing with them in judgment. As bad as their actual deeds of wickedness were, or any nation's now may be, it is of utmost evil to blaspheme the Name of the One we all have been created to extol and glorify. For God to have permitted Ezekiel's nation to remain as is would have been to perpetuate a misrepresentation of God among all other nations. This principle applies to all who receive privileges and blessings from God, for they are meant to be shared with others so He may be revealed to them.

Ezekiel 21:27 "A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! The crown will not be restored until He to whom it rightfully belongs shall come; to Him I will give it." We see here God's wrath against those who have so relentlessly blasphemed His name. This chapter's central image is the Sword of the Lord: glittering, active, and terrifying (verses 8-17). The first paragraphs lead up to it and those after depend on it. The king of Babylon appears in a vision, halting at a crossroads to decide by divination whether to attack Judah or Ammon. God sees to it that he is pointed toward Jerusalem. At the end of the chapter we see the Ammonites drawing a sword against Jerusalem, but God orders them to put it in its sheath, for they themselves will soon receive final judgment as a nation. Israel, Babylon, Ammon—all nations—are made to accomplish the Lord's purposes. Civilizations, dynasties, and nations appear and disappear by God's power until at last He establishes His own Kingdom under His appointed King, known as the Messiah. 
Ezekiel 22:30 "I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before Me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one." This looks back to earlier prophecies God gave to Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah: "You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall ... that it might stand in battle" (Ezekiel 13:5). "Run to and from through the streets ... to see if you can find a man ... who does justice and seeks truth" (Jeremiah 5:1). "The Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede. Therefore His own arm brought salvation.... He put on righteousness as a breastplate and ... garments of vengeance" (Isaiah 59:15-17). In this chapter the Lord through Ezekiel describes the utter evil of Jerusalem in ways that are painful to read, giving us a sense of the Lord's anguish over sin and vindicating His righteous wrath. Sometimes in a nation's darkest hour, a particular man or woman shines brightly—someone of clear vision, pure life, and strong character who is able to halt the nation's downward spiral. In the national life of Ezekiel's people, there was neither priest, prophet, prince, nor ordinary citizen with enough spiritual discernment or moral passion to turn the thoughts and actions of the nation back toward God. In such an hour, methods of patience and mercy are useless. Only the fiery furnace of God's judgment will destroy the impurities and restore the corrupted metal.

Ezekiel 23:4 "As for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah." God uses many of the good things He invented as illustrations of important spiritual truths. In this chapter He uses sex to tell  a  tale about spiritual adultery with strong lessons today for God's people as they interact with world powers. In Ezekiel's day, two nations representing the Lord's people acted like wicked prostitute sisters among the political giants of their times: Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon. God had, in a sense, wedded the people of Israel, making them into a nation by delivering them from bondage and giving them a place and power. They needed no defense other than their Lord, and they owed everything to Him. Egypt might with propriety make an alliance with Assyria, or Babylon with either, but for Israel to follow policies of alliance with those powers was to be guilty of national adultery. This applies in a spiritual sense to God's people today, for the church (consisting of Jews and Gentiles) is called "a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9). Whenever she seeks enrichment or prominence through alliances with world powers, she is being unfaithful to God and guilty of spiritual adultery. That is the meaning of James 4:4: "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God?"
Ezekiel 24:1 "In the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month." Some dates fasten themselves on the mind without any effort. This was such a date since it was the beginning of the end for Jerusalem. For Ezekiel it was a date of double significance because that evening, his beloved wife suddenly died. God instructs him, "Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead" (verse 17). When the people ask Ezekiel to explain his unusual behavior, he tells them he is serving as a model of how they themselves will act in a state of numbed shock when judgment spills like a boiling pot over what and whom they love in Jerusalem. This was perhaps the darkest day for Ezekiel in all his ministry, yet notice the understanding heart of God in his telling Ezekiel to "sigh, but not aloud." He knew the sorrow of His servant's soul, both personal and public, and did not rebuke it. In days when public duties call us to rise higher than our private sorrows, it is good to know our Lord understands what we are going through, and does not forbid the sigh.

Ezekiel 25:5 "You shall know that I am the Lord." Ezekiel's prophecies now switch from the theme of Judgment to Restoration, starting with the reckoning coming to surrounding nations that mocked God's people in their sorrows. Chapters 25-32 deal mainly with 7 nations, starting east and going north to south: Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, and Egypt. The highlighted explanation from the Lord's lips, "You shall know that I am the Lord," is repeated multiple times throughout this section: Ezekiel 25:5, 7, 11, 14, 17; Ezekiel 26:6; Ezekiel 28:22-26; Ezekiel 29:6, 9, 16, 21; Ezekiel 30:8, 19, 25-26; Ezekiel 32:15. Taking the time to read each one reveals a very important truth: Nations and individuals who fail to find the Lord through His works and Word will know Him through His judgment.

Ezekiel 26:3 "Thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre.'"  Exceptionally detailed prophecies concerning the doom of Tyre occupy nearly 3 chapters in Ezekiel 26-28. Among them we find the most graphic and illuminating description of Satan to be found in the entire Bible. Tyre's strength and influence were commercial rather than military; the renowned Phoenician sailors dominated sea trade with their superior nautical technology. God reveals in this chapter that He is against them. Here is why: "Because Tyre said concerning Jerusalem, 'Aha, the gate of the peoples is broken; it has swung open to me. I shall be replenished, now that she is laid waste'" (verse 2). Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah lay across the great trade routes by which people from Egypt and the south lands traveled north to Tyre, which inevitably put some restriction on the commercial enterprise of Tyre. When Jerusalem fell to Babylon, the only thing that interested Tyre was that an obstacle to her commercial activities was removed. It was their base exultation over Jerusalem's downfall that led God to say by name, "Behold, I am against you, O Tyre." God is against any nation whose life has become so materialized by prosperity that it rejoices over the calamities of other nations when those disasters increase its opportunities for barter and amassing wealth. Any nation today that gauges its attitude towards other nations by what their rise or fall may contribute to its wealth has God against it.

Ezekiel 27:2 "A lamentation for Tyre." Lamentation does not mean sorrow here, but a poetic description of the tragedy that came upon a city boasting, "I am perfect in beauty" (verse 3). Because of Tyre's domination of the sea, Ezekiel uses the figure of a ship to personify the life of the city. She is first described in the splendor of her making (verses 1-11), then in the variety and richness of her cargoes (verses 12-25), and finally in her wreckage and the shock it gives other seafaring peoples and trade partners (verses 26-36). The theme of this tragic poem is commercialism: commercial supremacy, commercial enterprises, and commercial ruin. The message now and then is this: perpetually strong is the temptation for material gain from commercial enterprise, but it always leads to ruin when it becomes all-consuming, overshadowing all other blessings in life. Material prosperity inevitably destroys a city or nation when that becomes its first priority.

Ezekiel 28:12 "A lamentation for the king of Tyre." This marks a dramatic shift in this chapter. The first 11 verses describe the downfall of a mere man, the arrogant prince of Tyre, but the verses that follow give an unparalleled account of Satan, the kingly demonic being who feeds the pride of wicked rulers. The prince of Tyre was the reigning monarch at the time, but this king of Tyre was the awful and sinister power behind the throne, promoting not only pride of heart, but also deification of self. Ezekiel sets forth his original wisdom, beauty, and exalted position. Then the secret of his fall is declared without explanation: "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, until unrighteousness was found in you" (verse 15). No details are given. Perhaps here we have the sentence that takes us further back than any other on the mysterious origin of evil in the universe. We must leave it there. Ezekiel does explain God's dealing with this fallen one: he was cast out from his exalted position, and from of the midst of his own being a fire emerges that ultimately destroys him. Although cast out and cast down, the devil uses what seductive beauty and power he has left to drag down as many creatures as he can with him into the same pride and self will that damned him. But his end is certain. God reigns over all and will finally destroy this king of evil kings, involving even those duped rulers in the ruin of the one to whom they have yielded themselves.

Ezekiel 29:3 "Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lies in the midst of his streams, saying, 'The river Nile is my own; I made it for myself.'" Thus begins the last of Ezekiel's prophecies against the nations. The prophesy against Egypt occupies 4 chapters (29-32), and consists of 7 messages dated in relation to the first captives being taken to Babylon along with Ezekiel and the fall of Jerusalem. As both Jeremiah and Ezekiel make clear, one main reason for the downfall of Jerusalem was the people's reliance on Egypt to solve their political problems. That accounts for the length of this prophesy against Egypt. In this chapter we have the Lord's message to Ezekiel concerning Pharaoh, representing the power of Egypt (verses 1-16). God's words highlighted above lay bare the central sin of Pharaoh and Egypt. The Nile River then and now is the key to the wealth and power of the land. Here Pharaoh is represented not as worshiping the Nile, but as possessing and even creating it. That looks back to the self-deification of Satan in the previous chapter. It is the sin of every ruler and people who fail to recognize God and submit willingly to Him.

Ezekiel 30:25 "I will hold up the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down." This is the Lord speaking, making it clear that those mighty rulers were in His hands—like all other rulers are. Their apparent successes and failures resulted from His actions. The uplifted arms of the one were uplifted by God, and the helpless arms of the others were made so by the act of God. Jeremiah 37:5-10 explains the historical situation: while the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem, Pharaoh marched out with an army that drew away the Babylonians from the siege, but only temporarily. Egypt's days as a world power were over. Ezekiel was a prophet in the truest sense, for he interpreted current events in the light of eternal and unchanging facts. False prophets then and now instead attempt to interpret situations by current events. Ezekiel reminds us to look to God's Word for depth and perspective in all we seek to understand.

Ezekiel 31:18 "To which of the trees in Eden will you then be likened in glory and greatness?" In this chapter the Lord describes and personifies a magnificent cedar tree brought low because of its arrogance. Just as God used Babylon to topple Assyria as a world power, so He would do to Egypt. Pharaoh comes crashing down from the top of the tree while nations flee from under its shadow. The proud king is seen passing to the underworld, where commotion is stirred at his coming by other fallen ones finding satisfaction  that he too is humbled. The highlighted question, asked at the close of the chapter, points back to the dread being described as "the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God" (Ezekiel 28:12-13). It reminds us that behind the mighty tyrants of earth is the same sinister and awful personality. Although he and they, in their various manifestations, oppose themselves to the will and purpose of God, it was no use; it is no use; it never will be. God has cast Satan out, and every successive representative of his revolt will be cast down.

Ezekiel 32:3 "I will throw My net over you with a host of many peoples, and ... haul you up in My dragnet." This chapter has the final messages against Egypt. It returns to the last chapter's picture of the underworld, adding terrifying detail as a help to the living. Kings and nations are gathered there, broken and at the end of activity. They are conscious, for they speak to Pharaoh when he arrives, and are filled with shame. Their defeat and distress is meant to stir us to avoid their fate. Evil rulers and nations may trouble the seas of this world, but over and around them all is the dragnet of God. At His will they are drawn up from the waters and cast to die upon land, but the good are preserved. Jesus used this same illustration in His Parable of the Dragnet.  The Kingdom of God, which is the Lord's rule over human affairs, is a dragnet swaying to the tides. When He wills, He is able to draw that net in, and separate between the good and the bad.

Ezekiel 33:7 "I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel, so hear the Word I speak and give them warning from Me." Having delivered his messages concerning the doom of the nations opposed to Israel, as necessary to her restoration, Ezekiel turns to the nation itself. Jerusalem has fallen. Ezekiel remains with the exiles in Babylon, and perhaps Jeremiah has been taken down to Egypt with the rebellious remnant. The people are asking, "How shall we then live?" (verse 10). Their desolation is complete, but now there are messages of hope. God sets His prophet as a watchman with the responsibility of hearing and speaking: he must hear the Word of the Lord and proclaim it. If he does that, he has no further responsibility. If he fails, he is accountable to God. The moral intention of the prophetic ministry is to encourage the righteous to stay on the right path, and persuade the wicked to turn from the wrong path in order that both might live. The will of God is life, which is ensured by following our Creator's instructions. Listen to His heart here: "As I live," declares the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?" (verse 11).

Ezekiel 34:11 "Behold, I Myself, even I, will search for My sheep and seek them out." The good shepherd is the consistent picture the Lord uses to describe the kind of leader He wants over His sheep. Because Israel's leaders were fleecing their flock rather than feeding it (verses 1-10), the Lord Himself intervenes. Included in this chapter is an important messianic prophecy: "I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and He shall feed them.... I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be Prince among them....  I will make with them a covenant of peace (verses 23-25). This refers to the New Covenant established by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David, when He voluntarily laid down His life for His sheep and then took it up again (John 10:17-18). As Jesus proclaimed the coming New Covenant and healed the multitudes, "He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). His order to all the shepherds under Him is to feed His lambs with gentleness and diligence (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Ezekiel 35:10 "Because you have said, 'These two nations ... will be mine, and we will possess them,' although the Lord was there." The Lord is speaking here to a neighbor nation completely unaware of His promise to shepherd His people. Edom, described in verse 5 as cherishing perpetual enmity against Israel, rejoiced at its internal struggles when it divided into two nations, and then treacherously aided the powers that conquered them. The highlighted verse reveals why: Edom's lust for territory. In their calculations the politicians of Edom had made the mistake so many politicians have made since: they failed to see, disregarded the fact, or considered it of no significance that "the Lord was there." Yet this was the only fact that mattered. Here the very spirit of Edom's earthly minded founder, Esau, reveals itself: they ignored or deliberately set aside divine purposes for the sake of material advantage (Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16). If the Edoms of this world forget that the Lord is with His people, they will soon find out otherwise, and may find themselves eliminated as a nation, as Edom soon was after this prophecy.

Ezekiel 36:23 "The nations will know that I am the Lord ... when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight." The high point of Ezekiel, and one of the most important passages in the Bible, is this promise from God:  "I will ... gather you ... and ... sprinkle clean water on you to ... cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of fleshI will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.  You ... shall be My people, and I will be your God. (verses 24-28). This new birth or regeneration demonstrates the holiness of God to the nations. Jesus referred to this very passage when speaking to the chief teacher in Israel about the necessity of being born again to see the Kingdom of God (John 3). This is good news for the nations since by this new birth, God's people are no longer limited to a geographical location. As the New Testament explains, "You are ... a holy nation, God's own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. You once were not a people but are now the people of God" (1 Peter 2:9-10). Entrance to this community comes "not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to God's mercy ... through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit," which comes through faith in Christ as Savior and Lord (Titus 3:5-6).

Ezekiel 37:11 "They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.'" Answering that complaint is an extraordinary vision of a Valley of Dry Bones That Live, which further illustrates the last chapter's crucial theme of spiritual regeneration. Ezekiel's people were feeling despondent since their nation was like a scattered skeleton. To prepare Ezekiel to help  them, the Lord causes his prophet to see a valley full of dry bones and asks, "Can these bones live?" (verse 3). Ezekiel's answer is characteristic of his loyalty and faith: "Oh Lord God, You know!" Before his eyes hope is reborn as both the Word and the Spirit of God turn those bones into living, breathing people ready to serve at the Lord's command. Then another sign is given: two sticks bound into one.  God's people, at their worst, divided into two separate nations, but God would bind them together with people from other nations under one Shepherd King. This obviously applies far beyond Israel, for it is the story of humanity. Through sin the whole earth has become a valley of dry bones. There is no hope for humanity in man, but through the Word and the Spirit, people from all nations can be reborn, healed of their separations, and united under one King. Here is the New Testament fulfillment: "You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world.... But God, being rich in mercy ... made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:1-5).

Ezekiel 38:2 "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog." This and the next chapter describe a massive invasion of Israel "in the latter years" (verse 8) during a time of peace and prosperity that has yet to occur. Ezekiel is describing a final manifestation of antagonism against the Lord and His people that is similarly described by the apostle John in Revelation 20:7-8. Both of those godly men make it clear God is in charge, drawing out Gog with his armies and compelling them to express their antagonism. Despite wishful thinking about the speedy elimination of evil from human affairs, the Bible has no such teaching. The process is long, measured by human lives and calendars, but God is never defeated. He restrains evil within limits while also compelling it to its fullest expression so its defeat will be complete and final.

Ezekiel 39:8 "'Behold, it is coming and it shall be done,' declares the Lord God. 'That is the day I have spoken of.'" These words emphasize God's determination to complete the destruction of evil. In the final antagonism to the purpose and people of God depicted in Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20, the Lord reveals His active antagonism towards evil and evil people. Ezekiel 39 focuses on the aftermath of this great battle with the imagery of an ancient slaughter. God's people are completely cleansing their land, persevering until not a bone is left above the ground to pollute it. In addition to the dead bodies, all the vast quantities of war implements are fuel for a mighty fire, illustrating the final destruction of everything in which foolish men and women trusted in their opposition to the will of God. This end is long in coming, but it will come. Within the span of our lives, the highest of all honors is by our faith and patience to have some part with God in the work that brings the glorious end. In that sense we join the apostle John in being a "partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus" (Revelation 1:9).
Ezekiel 40:4 "Declare to the house of Israel all that you see." We come now to the final section of Ezekiel. The visions that follow were the last given to the prophet, all using priestly symbols of Ezekiel's profession and culture to communicate vivid and concrete hope of heavenly realities yet future to us. In this chapter the faithful prophet and priest is set on a great height, where he observes all the people of God (past, present, and future) spiritually, morally, and physically restored in a place that looks like Israel, but on a much grander scale. Ezekiel 40-48  has challenged the minds of many through the centuries by merging things that are distinctly and definitely material with elements of heavenly conditions and spiritual experiences, yet this is the essence of God's revelation here. The earth separated from heaven—or heaven separated from earth—is not the original divine order. That sad division resulted from human sin. When God has thoroughly uprooted the deep root of that evil, the communication between heaven and earth will be by sight and sense, not by faith, as it is now. The first phase of what Ezekiel sees about this restored order pictures an enormous Temple at the center of the people's life. In this chapter we have a description of the gates and courts around the Temple complex, and of the porch leading to the main structure within.

Ezekiel 41:18 "The walls were decorated with carvings of cherubim ... and there was a carving of a palm tree between each of the cherubim." This chapter describes the symbolic Temple itself, first its general structure and then its ornamentation. Some of the dimensions and details, such as the distinction between the holy place and most holy place, are similar or identical to those of the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple, whereas the buildings round about are large additions. When Ezekiel sees the beautiful decorations, he is reminded of the first great vision he saw of angelic beings called cherubim with four faces; here he sees them carved with two faces (Ezekiel 41:18-19; 1:10). The carved faces are of a man and a lion. They look upon carved palm trees, which symbolize God's people in perfect peace and plenty. The God-man Jesus Christ, who is described as "the lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5) gazes upon His people with satisfaction in all His sovereign power and glory. Ezekiel saw these carved symbols upon the wall of the Temple and the folding doors leading to it. At the very heart of this vision we see life in full fruition, watched over by God in love and authority.

Ezekiel 42:20 "It had a wall around it ... to separate the holy from the common." This chapter describes the buildings surrounding the Temple or Sanctuary, but all within the sacred precincts. These buildings are for the use of the priests while engaged in the sacred service of the Temple. Finally the measurement of the great wall surrounding the whole Temple area is given, with the wall's function specified above: separating the holy from the common. The word common can mean inferior or less worthy, but that is not the meaning here. It is rather a distinction between man in relation to God, and man in relation to man. It is the difference between worship and social interaction. The first is the highest activity of which men and women are capable, and is offered to God alone. The second is a blessed activity among joyful family members in the household of God—the happy subjects of the one true King. Since this distinction is to be maintained in our perfect heavenly state, how much more should we carefully observe it now?

Ezekiel 43:10 "Son of man, describe the Temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins." Having completed the description of the new Temple, Ezekiel tells breathlessly about seeing the glory of God enter it. That clear manifestation of God's presence is what constituted the real value of the Tabernacle when Moses completed it, and of Solomon's Temple as well. The beauty of these structures points to the worthiness of the divine occupant. Ezekiel had seen the glory of God depart (Ezekiel 10:19; 11:22-23), and now he sees it return! God tells him in the highlighted verse that the purpose behind these visions of the future Temple is so His people will mourn over what they lost because of their sin. These visions also reinforce the great central hope of Ezekiel's prophecy, fulfilled in Jesus's first coming and completely realized in His second: "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your sins.... I will remove your heart of stone ... 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. You ... shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Ezekiel 36:25-28).

Ezekiel 44:3 "As for the Prince, He shall sit in it as Prince to eat bread before the Lord." In the last chapter Ezekiel saw the glory of God enter by the east gate of the future Temple. In honor of that illustrious entry, the eastern gate will remain closed and another illustrious Person, the Prince, will sit in the gateway and have close fellowship with the Lord. The place of this Prince or Ruler, at all times, is in willing submission to the Lord God. Ezekiel speaks symbolically about the end of this age and the beginning of the Kingdom, but the New Testament speaks concretely: "Here is the order of events. Christ is the first of those who rise from the dead. When He comes back, those who belong to Him will be raised. Then the end will come. Christ will destroy all rule, authority, and power. He will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father. Christ must rule until He has put all His enemies under His control. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.... Then, when all things are under His authority, the Son will put Himself under God's authority, so that God the Father, who gave His Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere" (1 Corinthians 15:23-28). His people, who will rule under Him, Ezekiel pictures as being characterized by holy service. As Ezekiel 34:24 records 10 chapters earlier, "I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be Prince among them."  The first verse of the New Testament describes that Prince as "Jesus the Messiah, the son of David" (Matthew 1:1).

Ezekiel 45:16-17 "All the people of the land shall give to this offering for the Prince in Israel. It shall be the Prince's part to provide the burnt offerings." Ezekiel the priest represents the Prince receiving offerings from His people, and He Himself providing the sacrifice, setting forth the truth that the relationship of the people to God is based on redemption. In the old order of Ezekiel's day, every person was responsible for bringing offerings to the priests. Now all these are brought to the Prince, and He provides what is necessary. This Prince is more than a Ruler, for He is also a supreme Priest. The apostle Peter speaks of Ezekiel's Prince as "the Prince of life," explaining that heaven received Him after His resurrection from the dead, but that He will return from there for "the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets" (Acts 3:15, 21). On another occasion Peter tells the Jewish council, "God has exalted Him to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31). The risen Christ further clarifies that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations" (Luke 24:47). We see in Ezekiel's vision the Prince and Savior ruling over all of God's restored people in fellowship with Him on the basis of the perfect redemption He provided.

Ezekiel 46:2 "The Prince ... shall worship at the threshold of the gate." The description of the new order continues with a discussion of Sabbath observances. All the symbolism remains earthly in the neutral sense of life as lived in this world. Here we see people employed in earthly vocations and participating in a day of rest. In this time of restoration, sacrifices are observed with this difference: until Christ came, they were prophetic and anticipatory. Here they are memorial and symbolic rather than actual. Most arresting is the the Prince of Ezekiel 46. The people worship the Lord in the presence of this Prince who has opened the way for them. He is pictured worshiping with them, perhaps in the New Testament sense represented here: Jesus said, "'Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God'.... By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:9-10; Psalm 40:6-8). The Prince is associated with His people in their worship. In this worship He is first alone at the threshold of the gate, and then in the company of His people, whatever direction they pass. One truth that stands out is the complete identification of this majestic Prince and Savior with those over whom He rules as Redeemer.

Ezekiel 47:9 "Swarms of living creatures will thrive wherever the river flows." This river has its origin in the new Temple, and streams on down through the land, bringing life wherever it flows. Jesus pointed backwards to Ezekiel's prophesy and forward to its fulfillment when He said, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37-38). The apostle John speaks further about this river of living water in the last chapter of the Bible, virtually quoting Ezekiel 47:12: "He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:1-2). "Times of restoration" (Acts 3:21) are indeed coming!

Ezekiel 48:35 "The name of the city from that time on shall be, 'The Lord is there.'" This is the last sentence of Ezekiel's prophetic Book. Imagine Ezekiel's joy in receiving this comfort from the Lord as he and those he ministered to lived in exile from Jerusalem, their beloved city recently destroyed by their captors! God's message is He will not only restore His people, but also will add to their numbers and redeem them in a way they will never fall from again. The heavenly City with its twelve gates is Ezekiel's final vision (verses 30-34), similar to John's final vision in the Book of Revelation (21:10-21). "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God" (Revelation 21:3). That heavenly announcement echoes Ezekiel's conclusion: the Lord is indeed there, and God's people will enjoy His presence forever.

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