Bible Reading for: August 29
Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel were contemporaries calling the people of Israel to repentance and return to right relationship with God.
We finish Lamentations today and begin Ezekiel, so let’s take a look at this prophet and his book. Ezekiel was supposed to be a priest, but he was one of the “elite” taken into captivity by the Babylonians during the reign of King Jehoiachin and never got the chance to serve in his priestly office. The Babylonian exile took place in waves. The prophet Daniel was taken captive in the first wave during the reign of the previous king, Jehoiakim. The subsequent king, Jehoiachin, only sat on the throne for 3 months and it was during this brief period that Ezekiel followed Daniel in a second wave to Babylon.
So, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jeremiah, whose lamentations we just finished reading, were all contemporaries. As I mentioned yesterday, Jeremiah began his ministry as a young man during the reign of King Josiah. When others were taken into captivity, Jeremiah was forced to join a remnant that ran off to Egypt and thus his ministry was restricted to that group. Daniel, if you’ll recall, was one of the young men that was taken to the king’s court in Babylon and eventually rose to the level of “prime minister”. As for Ezekiel, he was taken to the rivers of Babylon where, as slave labor, he and his fellow captives dug and maintained the canals branching off the Euphrates River. This was several miles from Babylon itself and it is here where Ezekiel performed his ministry.
Each of these men were prophets, but they each had specific ministries to specific groups of people. It doesn’t appear that they came into contact with each other, although the Book of Daniel tells us that Daniel was aware of his people down by the river, had great concern for them and defended them. We don’t have any clear indication that Daniel knew Jeremiah, although Scripture shows us that Daniel was aware of Jeremiah’s prophecies. It is possible that in their youth, prior to being taken into captivity, Daniel and Ezekiel heard Jeremiah preach. There is no indication, however, that Ezekiel was ever acquainted with Daniel.
Ezekiel focuses a good deal of his attention on the Person of God. It has been said that Ezekiel is the prophet of the Spirit, as Isaiah is the prophet of the Son, and Jeremiah the prophet of the Father. As I mentioned earlier, the Babylonian captivity, or exile, took place in waves, and during this time there were many false prophets telling folks that Jerusalem was not going to be destroyed and that they were all going to return soon. Well, the city wasn’t destroyed in the first wave nor the second. The third time Nebuchadnezzar came to town, however, he left it in ruin. So, there was about a ten-year period where these false prophets spread their lies. Ezekiel, however, confirmed a message that Jeremiah had sent to Babylon that Jerusalem would be destroyed. He told them they must return to God before they would be able to return to Jerusalem. Eventually a time came when a small remnant did return to God, and it was they who finally did return to Jerusalem.
The prophet Ezekiel was taken in slavery to the rivers of Babylon around the age of thirty, but he didn’t begin his ministry for another five years. Those were surely the darkest days of the nation up until that time. From the pit of slavery in a foreign land Ezekiel had to fight against the false hope spewed by the false prophets. He had to fight the depression and desperation that gripped the hearts of his people. He had to fight their self-centeredness and reluctance to accept their own responsibility for their current condition. At the start, he was losing the fight. The people didn’t want to hear his message, so he had to come at the problem in a different way.
Ezekiel decided he would deliver his message in parables, but rather than simply speak these parables he would act them out. He pulled some attention-grabbing stunts in the process. In Ezekiel 24:24 we read, “Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do. When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD.” Since the people wouldn’t listen to his words, Ezekiel would act them out for them in a way that would get their attention.
You know, people today in America do all kinds of things just to draw attention to their cause. A while back the news was all abuzz with the story of a football player who refused to stand and participate in the national anthem at a game because he didn’t want to show solidarity with a nation that he feels oppresses black people. He drew a lot more attention to his cause by his actions that he probably ever would with his words. In one instance, Ezekiel locked himself into a house and then dug himself out, coming out in the middle of the street. Well needless to say he literally stopped traffic. He got people asking him why he did it and what it was all about.
There are three Israelite prophets in the Bible who prophesied from outside the nation. One was Daniel in Babylon and a second was the Apostle John when he wrote the book of Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos. The third was Ezekiel prophesying from the banks of the Euphrates River in what is today Iraq. Each wrote with highly symbolic language to describe the coming “apocalypse”, and yet they also possessed the brightest hope of all the prophets. Ezekiel shows us the glory of the Lord. He saw the Shekinah glory of God as He left Solomon’s temple and he saw the future coming of the glory of God when Christ returns.
The purpose of this Scripture in Ezekiel is found in this coming glory of God when the end finally comes. Beyond the suffering of Christ is found the glory that will follow. The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:10-11 that the prophets foresaw the suffering of Christ and the glory that would follow. It is possible Ezekiel saw it all better than any of them.
Well, to me the moral of this story of Judah’s captivity is that even though God would punish the people of Judah, He never stopped calling for them to repent and return to Him, not before punishment and not after. His love never fails! That’s what I have taken from the writings of these prophets. I wonder, what are you getting from them?
Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!