Ezekiel chapter 1. There were a group of researchers who were doing a study on how different people would react to a test. They wanted to find out just how different people in different occupations think. So they brought the first man in the room. He was an architect and they gave him this simple test. They said, what does 2 plus 2 equal? And the architect, or excuse me-- it was an engineer. The engineer said, well, you're thinking in absolute terms. So 2 plus 2 equals 4. The researchers took their notes, thanked the man, dismissed him, and he left.
Next they brought an architect in the room and said same question, what does 2 plus 2 equal? The architect said, well, you have several options. Yes, 2 plus 2 equals 4, but 3 plus 1 also equals 4. 2 and 1/2 plus 1 and 1/2 also equals 4. So it's all a matter of choosing the right options. They took their notes, dismissed the man, thanked him.
The third fellow they brought in was an attorney.
And they gave him this simple question, what does 2 plus 2 equal? The attorney looked around the room furtively, asked if he could close the door. Once he did, he leaned in toward the panel and said, well, tell me. What would you like it to be?
You'll remember that when Jeremiah was prophesying in Judah, there were a group of prophets that were like that. They were finger to the wind prophets. They would speak depending on which way the wind of popular opinion was blowing. The popular opinion was that Babylon would not overtake Judah, and those that had been captive would soon return. Jeremiah said, not going to happen. Jeremiah wrote a letter to the captives already in Babylon saying, get used to it. You're going to be there.
Now we come to the captivity itself, where we find the prophet Ezekiel. He's there in Babylon with the people in the refugee camp where they have settled by the Chebar River. And there he is to basically say, what Jeremiah told you was correct. The false prophets were false. Jeremiah is right. Babylon will come and destroy the city of Jerusalem.
One third of the Bible is prophecy. That's a significant amount. A third of the Bible is considered to be prophetic literature. There are prophecies about nations, about individuals, about cities. But most prophecy centers around one person, the Lord Jesus Christ. As it says in the Book of Revelation so clearly, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. And we find in all of prophecy, Christ at the center, notwithstanding the prophet Ezekiel as we'll see in this book.
Ezekiel has one main theme, God is in charge. If I were to subdivide it, I would say it's the rule of God, the restoration of the people of Israel, and the reign of Jesus Christ. Those three main themes you find in this book. The rule of God, he is sovereign even in judgment, even in captivity. He will restore his people to the land, the geographic place of Israel. And eventually the ultimate pinnacle of all of prophetic literature, all of the Bible, is that Jesus Christ will rule and reign as their messiah.
A little review. Three times the Babylonians came against Judah. We read that. We saw that already in Jeremiah and lamentations. The dates were 605 BC, then 597 BC, and then 586 BC when they eventually destroyed the city altogether. The first time they came against the city, they took captive some of the people and brought them to Babylon. A young man named Daniel was part of that deportation and was already in exile.
By the second deportation, Ezekiel the prophet was taken. So they were in Babylon together at the same time doing ministry together, though there's no record that they knew each other or interfaced with each other. Probably they knew Jeremiah, they'd heard him at least. And then they were taken captive to this place in Babylon. So while Jeremiah's ministering in Judah, Ezekiel is by the Chebar river with the captives and Daniel will be in the court of Nebuchanezzar.
You're going to find this prophet very interesting. Not only in what he says, but in how he acts. God will call upon him to do some pretty strange things to get the attention of the people. We already saw that he did that with Jeremiah, and we're going to see that he does that with Ezekiel. Like Ezekiel will be called upon to play war, and another time to flee as if from a battle. On another occasion, to lie on his side for a long period of time, several days, and then on the other side.
Then at another occasion, he'll have to shave his whole head, his hair, and his beard. All sorts of different lifestyle pictures to get the attention of the people to reinforce the message he's going to give. The theologians call that a pedagogy in biography. In other words, you've got a guy acting out a lifestyle that embodies the message that he preaches to the people of Judah.
Chapters 1 through 24 are written before the siege of Jerusalem. Chapter 25 through 32 are written during the siege of Jerusalem, and the rest of the book is written after the siege of Jerusalem. Some of the most fascinating part of it will be the nine chapters that deal with the millennial reign of Christ. It will be an awesome time.
But chapter 1, verse 1. Now it came to pass in the 30th year, in the fourth month on the fifth day of the month, I was among the captives by the river Chebar. This was a canal, really. It was a shipping lane that connected the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers together. Ships could go on them. A refugee camp of sorts was established there. And that's where the captives were taken.
It was during that time, it says, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. And boy, did he. And they were visions of God. This wasn't a spicy falafel that he ate the night before. God spoke to him and he saw the glory of God appear to him.
The name Ezekiel means God or the Lord strengthens. And that's really the secret of his ministry. God strengthened him in an unusual way to fulfill and perform the ministry to these people. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel was a priest. However, Ezekiel was taken captive when he was probably 25 years of age. He was there five years before he went and started his ministry among the captives.
It says in the 30th year-- now most take that to mean the 30th year of his life. Priests began their ministry at age 30. Now he had been working his way into the priesthood. He'd been training there in Jerusalem. He was a priest. But he never got to enjoy his ministry in the temple. The temple wasn't yet destroyed when he was taken captive, but the point is he was taken captive before reaching age 30, never able to enjoy serving in the temple.
It would sort of be like if you were 16 years of age or almost 16, you're 15 and 3/4. You can't wait till tomorrow, it's your birthday. You're going to turn 16. You're going to go right down and get your driver's license. You're excited, you've been ready for it, you've read the manual. Your dad took you out, went around the block several times. You're ready. But the night before your birthday, Governor Schwarzenegger announces that he is changing the legal limit to age 18, which I think would be a great idea actually.
But you hear the news and you think, oh no, that which I have feared has come upon me. I've been ready for this moment and it's gone. It was there, away from the temple by the Chebar river, unable to enjoy that priestly ministry, that God calls him as a prophet and he sees visions of God's glory.
On the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of King Jehoiakim's captivity-- remember this, Jehoiakim, this Jeconiah, had been taken captive in Babylon-- the word of the Lord came. Get used to that phrase, you'll read it 50 times in this book. The word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar. And the hand of the Lord was upon him there.
Now we mentioned that Ezekiel was a contemporary with Daniel and with Jeremiah. Jeremiah at this time was old. Daniel was young. Daniel was over in the court of Nebuchanezzar. And we mentioned that they probably didn't interface. They may have, there is just no record of it. It was actually quite far from this settlement, this refugee camp by the Chebar River, to the palace in central downtown Babylon. And besides that, there was never access to the court of a king of Babylon if you were a refugee.
So there was probably no time when Ezekiel came and hung out in the court. But what's great is that God has his ambassadors, one in the royal court and one in the refugee camp. God is doing a work. God will speak to Nebuchanezzar through Daniel. God will speak to these captives through Ezekiel while God is speaking over in Judah through Jeremiah.
They all witness the same thing, basically. Judah falls to the Babylonians. But in seeing that, and being used by God to write a book of the Bible, all three of them wrote a book, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. All of them have three different emphases. Jeremiah's emphasis is the judgment of God. Daniel's emphasis is the Kingdom of God. Ezekiel's emphasis is the glory of God. And you're about to read at least in part of one of the visions that he sees of the glory of God by the Chebar River.
"Then I looked and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north. A great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself. And brightness was all around and radiating out of the mist like the color of amber out of the midst of the fire." This was symbolic. Ezekiel finds that out, that just as this interesting storm cloud with lightning comes from the north, so the storm cloud of judgment through the people called the Babylonian Army would sweep into Judah and overtake Jerusalem.
Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. Now our interest is piqued because we've read four living creatures before in the Book of Revelation. And this was their appearance. They had the likeness of a man. This brilliant vision, as we'll see, is of the glory of God. It is not unlikely, when people in the scripture saw a vision, especially of God, for it to be accompanied with this brightness, this bright light.
When John, on the island of Patmos, had a vision of Jesus Christ, it was this bright sun-like image of hair white as wool and eyes like a flaming fire brighter than the sun. Saul of Tarsus falls off his horse or whatever animal he was riding and gets a vision. It's the Lord speaking to him. It was bright. He said brighter than the noonday sun. It was blinding. So this bright vision of God.
Each one had four faces and each one had four wings. Their legs were straight. The soles of their feet were like the soles of calves' feet. They sparkle like the color of burnished bronze. The hands of a man were under their wings. And on their four sides, each of the four had faces and wings. Wild.
What are these four creatures? Well, chapter 10 will tell us later on that these were cherubim. Cherubs, plural is cherubim. These were some angelic being. And Ezekiel sees this glorious image. And as the image goes on, as the vision goes on, it's a picture of the glory of God.
We're familiar in reading the Bible with cherubim. Way back in Genesis after the fall in the Garden of Eden, God stationed two cherubim outside the Garden of Eden with a flaming sword. It was a precautionary measure. It was to keep the banished couple from entering back into the Garden of Eden and eating of the tree of life, lest they live forever in their sin. That's where cherubim first appear.
Then we read about cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant, that golden lid on top of that chest, that Ark of the Covenant these cherubim whose wingspans touched each other. Embroidered on the veil in the Tabernacle and the temple where this image of these cherubim, angels of God's presence, embodying all of the attributes of God's animate creation. A symbol of God's presence among his people, God said, between the cherubim, there I will meet with thee.
So Ezekiel sees this incredible image of these beings, their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward. Now the Hebrews call this the Merkabah, which means a chariot car or a throne chariot. Because we're going to see on it the glory of God and a man that appears, I believe, a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. But this divine chariot car that is carried about by angelic beings, these cherubim with wheels, we'll see in a minute, has been-- and I'm just using this as a side note-- has been the basis of all Jewish Talmudic mysticism.
So when people go and study the Kabbalah, like Madonna and some of the stars in Hollywood, at the central core of their theological teaching is this vision. And it's pretty simple what it is, but they take and attribute all sorts of fanciful interpretations to it. In fact, they go outside the bounds of scripture and they will say that instead of four faces, that each of these creatures had four faces in every direction.
So each creature had 16 faces and each face had four wings. so in total that there were 64 faces and 265 wings. They go on and on, attributing symbolism to all of these different designations and it's the basis of Jewish mysticism. It's very simple. These are angelic beings that have the ability to travel in any direction to do the bidding of God at any moment, and they're carrying around the glory of God's presence.
As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man. Each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side. Each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side. Each of the four had the face of an eagle. Thus, were their faces. Their wings stretched upward, two wings of each, one touched one another. And two covered their bodies, and each one went straight forward. They went wherever the spirit wanted to go and they did not turn when they went.
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like the burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches going back and forth among the living creatures. The fire was bright. And out of the fire went lightning. And the living creatures ran back and forth in appearance like a flash of lightning.
Let your mind go back to the time the children of Israel camped in the wilderness. There were 12 tribes. The 12 tribes encamped around the Tabernacle in four sections. Four sides of the Tabernacle, three tribes per side, all gathering under the banner of one tribe. One of the camps was the camp of Judah. It was the symbol of a lion that was over on that banner. Another was the tribe of Ephraim, and that standard was a symbol of an ox. The other side was the tribe of Reuben, and on his was the image of a man. And finally, the last camp was the camp of Dan, whose standard was the image of an eagle.
Now as we go through the scripture, we understand that the Tabernacle, and later on the temple, was a very crude form of the throne room of God. And so we get to the Book of Revelation and we find four living creatures with like faces. That's what John sees, four living creatures, this huge sea of glass here. We have an expanse of crystal, as we'll see. There's a rainbow around the throne. You'll read of a rainbow here. All of these were images, in crude form, of what is going on in the heavenly realms in God's glory.
All of that in the Old Testament, all of that in the Book of Revelation in the future, again centers on the Lord Jesus Christ. It's interesting that we have in the New Testament not a single gospel, but four gospels. And each of them have a different emphasis. So we go through the gospel of Matthew. And Matthew emphasizes the kingdom. There's kingdom parables. There's the Sermon on the Mount, which is the ethics of the kingdom. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven is the emphasis of Matthew as he describes the fulfillment of Jesus from the Old Testament in the New Testament. He's the lion of the tribe of Judah, fulfilling messianic prophecy.
We get to the gospel of Mark, and Mark writes entirely different than Matthew. Words like "immediately." And immediately, we see this incredible, swift moving version of Jesus Christ acting as the perfect servant of his Father, the ox.
Then we get to Luke. And Luke was written by a Gentile doctor named Luke, who uses the term "Son of Man" more than any other gospel writer. And the emphasis of Luke is on the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ, the man.
But John is altogether different. Like the eagle soaring, the deity of Christ is in purview in that book. And we see these four faces as they describe an aspect of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth besides each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of burl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel within or in the middle of a wheel."
There was a time when commentators, a few of them, said that this was a prophecy of the propeller airplane. Seriously. As time went on, they did away with that. And it became popular to say that this was predictive of UFOs. Alien spacecraft, the wheel within the wheel and on, and the light flashing. And some have made and still make a big deal out of this being a prediction of UFOs.
And those who are into UFO sightings, say well, it's right there in the Bible. And they'll point to Ezekiel, this portion of scripture as their text. Did you know that 14% of Americans claim to have a UFO sighting? Listen, about the same amount claim to have had an Elvis sighting. So it's not that impressive.
This has nothing to do with an unidentified flying object. Ezekiel has no problem identifying exactly what this is and who it is, that it's the glory of God. This is not an alien-powered spacecraft or a horse-powered. It has no horsepower, it's angel power. It's angelic beings doing God's bidding. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions. They did not turn when they went. As for their rims, interesting. God has mag wheels on this thing.
[CHUCKLING] They were so high they were awesome. And their rims were full of eyes. See? All around the four of them. When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them. And when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went because their spirit went. And the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
When those went, these went. When those stood, these stood. When those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. It was a wheel in the midst of a wheel. Not parallel, but juxtaposed, a cross-section like a gyroscope at right angles to each other so that it could go in any one of these directions instantaneously.
Full of eyes. Eyes were, and are, a symbol of life, perception, and intelligence. The Bible says in Proverbs, "The eyes of the Lord go to and fro--" no, that's another scripture. The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire earth. Proverbs 15 is, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding good and evil." So these wheels full of eyes, being able to see and know all in every place that they go.
Now till now, Ezekiel has been looking at this strange chariot, this throne car. He's been looking under the hood, so to speak. Now he gets to the body and the chassis. "The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of awesome crystal stretched out over their heads, or this expanse kind of like a flooring."
And under the firmament, their wings spread out straight one toward another. Each one had two, which covered one side. Each one had two, which covered the other side of the body." In other words, their outstretched wings didn't go up and into where the expanse or the firmament was. They were below them. So they were under it, and above it was this area, this expanse, this firmament that housed the throne.
"When they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of many waters." Think Niagara Falls. "Like the voice of the Almighty, a tumult like the noise of an army. And when they stood still, they let down their wings. A voice came from above the firmament that was over their heads. Whenever they stood, they let down their wings. And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone. On the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it.
Now again, I believe this is a pre-incarnate vision of Jesus Christ. Jesus is in the driver's seat in this vehicle. "Also from the appearance of his waist and upward, I saw as it were the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it. And from the appearance of his waist downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire with brightness all around."
So can you picture it? Above the wheels, above the creatures, this expanse, this crystal-like expanse, a platform containing the throne of God. It's always important to remember, no matter what is going on around you on earth, God is still on his throne, very much in control, able to move anywhere at any time, and do absolutely anything. He knows all. He is all powerful.
And so often, we forget who's in control of the universe. Oh, but our world is falling apart. Isaiah had a vision of God. He didn't see the cherubim. He saw seraphim, a different kind of angelic being, crying out holy, holy, holy, that tremendous vision. And again, the vision was the whole earth was full of his glory. Isaiah didn't see that. Isaiah saw trouble on the earth, heartache on the earth, potential problems on his earth. But he saw a vision of God and it changed his perspective.
This vision, for Ezekiel, will change his perspective and the way he does ministry. "Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so is the appearance of the brightness all around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face and I heard a voice of one speaking."
So there above the expanse, the throne-- it's like he's looking in the inside the car now, inside the cab. Bluish headliner, the sapphire, this beautiful rainbow color like it says, after a rainy day. What a wonderful vehicle. I don't know if it's possible, but I sort of have an inkling that when I get to heaven, I'm going to ask God for the keys to this family vehicle, just spin around the universe a little bit in it.
It sounds fun, doesn't it? What a treat for Ezekiel to have a vision from God, to have the heavens open and see a vision of the glory of God. He saw something that few ever saw. Every person deep within all of us have a longing to see the Lord. That longing will be fulfilled one day. No matter how well-informed or spiritually sophisticated we are at our root, at our basic nature, we want to see God.
Moses did. He saw lots of miracles. He saw lots of effects of the glory of God. But one day he said, Lord, show me your glory. He wasn't satisfied. He wanted to see more. I think if I would have seen a sea open up, if I would have seen the kind of miracles that Moses saw, I'd have probably said, you know, Lord I'm pretty satisfied. But once he's tasted the power and the glory, he wanted more. I want to see your face, Lord. Well, God said, no man can see my face and live.
Philip one day said to Jesus, Jesus show us the Father, and I'll be happy. Well, who wouldn't? Of course he would be. That'll be enough. It will suffice thus. Philip, have I been so long a time with you, you don't know who I am? If you've seen me, you have seen the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father. Until you see God face to face, you will never be totally satisfied. And let me just say, you and I were created that way. We were created, in a sense, to live with a holy dissatisfaction.
I've had many wonderful times of worship in my life. I can think of times where it was as if God was palpable in the room. It was a moment where God was so near, so close. It was so wonderful. But I never remember walking away from such an experience saying, I've had enough. I'll never need that again. That one time experience is all I'll ever require.
No, I was thinking, oh, I want to experience that again. Ooh, I can't wait for that to happen again. I can't wait to get to heaven and experience that total intimacy of satisfaction. And all of the worship experiences that we ever have, were never meant to totally satisfy us, but rather to whet our appetite for glory, for heaven.
When I travel, I take a picture of my wife and my son, especially if I'm overseas for two or three weeks. And I'll prop it up by my bedside, and I'll look at it every day and every night. I see that image and I'm not satisfied. It's great as a reminder, I need more. I don't say, well, I've seen them. I can be away for another few weeks, maybe six months. I got the picture.
If I get the opportunity to get them on the phone and hear their voices, it's wonderful, but it's frustrating. It's still not enough. I'm not totally satisfied until at the airport, I see my wife's face. And one day, you'll see the face of the Lord. You'll be transformed and you'll be able to see his face. Therein, there you'll be satisfied.
All of the worship now was meant to whet our appetite for that. Well, he saw this vision. It says, he fell on his face. Doesn't mean he was slain in the Spirit. This was a voluntary humility before God. He recognized he's dealing with God, like Isaiah who said, "Woe is me." Or like Peter who said, "Depart from me Lord, I'm a sinful man." This was simply that exercise of voluntary humility because he knew he was dealing with a vision of the glory of God. And he said to me, Son of Man, stand on your feet and I will speak to you.
There is another mark of this book. The term "Son of Man" is mentioned in Ezekiel about 100 times. It's one of the frequent phrases that describe Ezekiel the prophet. He's the prophet called the Son of Man. The term "Son of Man" is a Hebraism, a Hebrew phrase to describe or emphasize human nature. It's as if God is saying, I'm God, you're not. He's a prophet, he's exalted in that he saw visions of God, but he's still just a man.
And that's why we don't pray to Ezekiel. We don't worship Ezekiel. We don't pray to Peter, We don't pray to Paul, we don't pray to Mary-- and I don't mean Peter, Paul, and Mary the band.
We don't pray to them either. Nobody is to receive prayer and worship except God. Everyone else is a Son of Man. This prophet, Son of Man, now Jesus, will be called by Luke and in the New Testament Son of Man. And he'll refer to himself as the Son of Man. He is referring to his human nature. It's not that he was just a man.
And some people make the mistake that Jesus Christ had this nature where he was half God and half man. That's incorrect. Jesus Christ was fully 100% God, while at the same time 100% man, Without sin, absolutely perfect. He had that dual nature, the theanthropic nature of God. Fully God, fully man, in one. Son of Man, Jesus will use to refer to himself.
"Then the spirit entered me when he spoke to me and he set me on my feet. And I heard him who spoke to me. And he said to me, "Son of Man, I am sending you to the children of Israel to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. And their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day." Get used to the phrase, "The spirit entered me." You'll read that a few times in this book.
And I can say that that is the only explanation for Ezekiel's survival, the spirit of God entered him, filled him, enabled him. What else could explain this guy putting up with these rebellious people? lying on his side for hundreds of days, then on the other side? Doing the kinds of things he did, saying the kinds of messages he said. The answer is simple. The spirit of God entered him.
There is a place, a sphere of influence for every one of you. God has called you not only to be saved, but to serve. And in that area of service, God wants to use you mightily, but the secret is when you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You're going to fall and you'll fall hard if you try to do anything in the energy of your flesh. It comes by being filled with the spirit, as Ezekiel was filled or the spirit entered me.
You notice something about biblical ambassadors, whether prophet or priest, anyone used by God in the Bible. They recognize they couldn't do it on their own. In fact, some of them tried to run from the call. Jeremiah said, I'm just a kid. God said, don't say you're just a child. I'm going to use you. I'm going to empower you. You never read that Jeremiah said, well, it's about time you chose me, God. Because I'm qualified, I'm wonderful. I'm such an important vessel, I'm surprised you didn't pick me two years ago. It was always this humility, I can't believe I'm being used by God.
Moses had to get to that point. At first, he wasn't there. At first, he tried to do it on his own. He thought, I'll deliver the children of Israel myself. He killed an Egyptian, hid him in the sand, thought by his own strength he was something. God spent the next 40 years taking him to the back side of the desert herding sheep to show this man who thought he was something that he was nothing.
Then he was 80-years-old, 80 years young, because that's when his ministry began. God spent the next 40 years showing that God could take nothing and make something out of him. And in that place where when God called him the second time, five excuses why he can't be used of God. I can't speak, send somebody else. They're not going to listen to me. In that place of humility, recognizing I can't do it apart from God's strength. [SIGHING] He was ready to be used. And God used him mightily.
Now God says in verse 3 that Israel is a rebellious nation. Notice that term because it is an unusual one. The Hebrew word is goy. It's ha-goyim in the Bible when God speaks of other nations that are non-Jewish. He calls them ha-goyim, the pagan nations. Here God refers to his own people, a word that is reserved for the contrast of other pagan nations to His holy nation. He calls His people, the children of Israel, those of Judah, ha-goyim. It's a rebellious nation.
In other words, my people are acting no better than pagan nations. They went through that sin cycle we talked about, where they walked with God, they rebelled against God, they served other gods, they went into captivity, they cried out to God. God delivered them. In that deliverance, for a while, they served God. Then they lusted after other gods, and the cycle began again and again. They acted like pagans.
So God uses this unusual term to refer to his own people, goy. "For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them. You shall say to them, thus says the Lord God. He was to speak with authority, confidence. This is God's message. As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are a rebellious house, yet they will know that a prophet has been among them."
You see how much God loves people? That God would devise a plan, execute a plan to get his word out to people. It's as if God is saying, I love them. I'm not going to let them go. I'm going to make sure that I have a representative among them.
So he had a representative, Jeremiah and Judah. He has a representative in the Babylonian court. And here among the exiles who are forlorn, despondent, God sends Ezekiel who will, like Jeremiah, decry the sins of Jerusalem, proclaim the judgment that is coming. But more than Jeremiah, replenish their hopes, saying hey, the past has been bad. The future is going to be bad. But the best is yet to be your future will never be brighter than what God will do with the Jews in the latter days. And nine chapters will speak of the millennial reign of Christ.
"And you, Son of Man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words. Though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions, do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house." If I were Ezekiel the prophet, I wouldn't be too thrilled at my calling. You see, the people that he spoke to weren't the wonderful people like you are tonight. They didn't come with their Bibles, they didn't come with smiles on their faces there to worship God. His audience had scowls, frowns. They didn't like what he had to say. It was a difficult ministry.
Any public speaker knows what body language is. You know that if people are in the pews and they have their heads bowed and they're snoring, or they're looking at their watch, you know that's a problem. You're not connecting. Or if they're scowling. And so God knows that the people's body language could influence this prophet. So he tells them in advance, don't sweat that stuff. Even if there's briers, thorns, scorpions, speak to them. They're going to know that a prophet was among them.
It sounds, as I am reading through this, that it's a real mess. The condition of the people in not only Judah, but right there at the Chebar River in Babylon. It's a real mess, rebellious people hating this prophet as they hated Jeremiah. And because it's a real mess, it's a perfect time for a revival.
Pastor Chuck used to always say that light shines in the darkest places. That the darker it gets, the best opportunity for the Lord to work is in the darkest of times. And he used to mention, I remember, how in World War II that it was so dark in Europe that people on the ground or people in airplanes could see a cigarette being lit from 11 miles away. The darker it is, the brighter the light shines.
For there to be a revival, you need a few things. You need a messenger, you need a message, and you need a mess. And all three were present. You see, the idea of reviving means something's dead, needs to be awakened. There has to be a mess. Revivalists, let's hang a sign on a church that says revival this week from 7:30 to 9:00. It's an indictment because it indicates something is dead that needs to be brought back to life.
So it was a perfect condition. And I would say we're living in a day and age, it is dark. America has turned away from God. It's perfect for a revival. And I suggest you pray for one. Revive us again, oh Lord.
67% of the American public say there's no such thing as right and wrong, no moral standards. Public schools will allow the passing out of condoms in certain places, but not the hanging up of 10 commandments. Students are allowed to engage in any possible exercise except one, you can't pray. Oh, I can't believe this person prayed. Expel him, he can do anything else.
US News and World Report had an interesting article of a six-year-old who was caught stealing in his public school. The parents went to the teacher to say that stealing is unacceptable and the student should be dealt with properly. And the teacher said, well, we don't call it stealing. We simply refer to it as uncooperative behavior. Just watering down any kind of moral standard. We look at that and we decry the darkness. I say, let's pray in that mess that God will send messengers with a message because revival is ripe for that to happen.
"You shall speak my words to them whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. But you, Son of Man, hear when I say to you, do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I give you. Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me and there was writing on the inside and the outside. And written on it were lamentation and mourning and woe, the judgments that were to come. Moreover, he said to me, Son of Man, eat what you find, eat this scroll. Go and speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth and he caused me to eat that scroll."
This is the message he's going to give him. Any preacher, any teacher, any Christian who gives out the word of God must first internalize the scripture, the truth, to himself or herself. It has to live within you. Jeremiah said in chapter 15, I believe, "Your words were found and I did eat them. And they were to me the joy and the rejoicing of my heart."
Job said, "I've esteemed the words of thy mouth more than my necessary food." So he is eating this. It's becoming a part of him and then he'll share the distressful news. He said to me, Son of Man, feed your belly. Fill your stomach with this scroll that I have given you. So I ate. And it was in my mouth like honey and sweetness. And he said to me, Son of Man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel. You can speak Hebrew to these people. You're not sent to the Babylonians.
Now Daniel was, but not Ezekiel. Not too many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language whose words you cannot understand, surely I sent you to them. They would have listened to you." Interesting. "If I'd have sent you to the Babylonians, they would have listened. They listened to Daniel. Even Nebuchadnezzar, eventually, will bow before the king of kings and declare him as the only God. But the house of Israel will not listen to you because they will not listen to me, for all the house of Israel are imputed and hard hearted.
Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone harder than flint, I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house." How different from the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the prophet of the broken heart. Ezekiel is the prophet of the hard head.
In a good way, God stiffens his outlook, his posture before the rebellious children of Israel. I'm going to make you adamant. The word "adamant" in Hebrew is shamir. And it describes a substance that is almost indestructible. In fact, Jeremiah 17 translates the same word diamond. I'm going to make you tough to handle this kind of stuff, this abuse.
Somebody once said that the qualifications of any preacher is that he should have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, but the hide of a rhinoceros. Good advice, and Ezekiel will have that kind of posture before these people. "Moreover he said to me, Son of Man, receive into your heart all my words that I speak to you and hear with your ears. And go get to the captives, to the children of your people and speak to them, and tell them thus says the Lord whether they hear or whether they refuse.
Then the spirit lifted me up and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice. Blessed is the glory of the Lord from his place. I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise. So the spirit lifted me up, took me away, and I went in bitterness." He's in distress because of the message of calamity.
"And in the heat of my spirit, this state of exaltation from seeing the vision, but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me. Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib." This is not Tel Aviv in Israel. We're now 600 miles to the east. "Who dwelt by the river Chebar. And I sat where they sat and remained there astonished among them seven days.
Tel Abib means the hill of the corn ears. It's thought to be just this sandy dune between these two rivers by this canal. The wind was blowing through. But maybe a place where the husks, the ears of the corn were stacked up for threshing. We don't know. But Tel Abib means the hill of the corn ears. So for you into trivia, that's what it means.
"Now it came to pass at the end of seven days, the word of the Lord came to me saying, Son of Man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Therefore, hear a word from my mouth and give them warning from me." In ancient times, watchmen on the walls of a city were vital. Cities were different than they are today. We don't need walls. We feel relatively safe. We're not worried that the people of Arizona are going to attack us in the middle of the night.
We have a good understanding with our neighbors. But in those days, protection was vital. And walls were important. And watchtowers with men who could see shadows at night and hear noises, and interpret if it's danger or if it's friendly, were very important to warn the people of impending danger. Originally, prophets were not called prophets, they were called seers.
In the book of first Samuel, chapter 9, seer, the Hebrew roeh, one who sees a vision or God's revelation. Eventually they become came called in Hebrew nabi, which is a spokesperson, one who articulates a message, one who sees, hears, and speaks to the people from God. And so these watchmen would see and hear. And Ezekiel could see what was coming, hear of the message of judgment, and was called, in this descriptive term, a watchman to the people.
"When I say to the wicked, you will surely die, and you give him no warning nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity. But his blood, I will require at your hand. Yet if you warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your soul."
So as a prophet, he was to warn. He was to comfort the afflicted. He was also to afflict the comfortable. To say God will restore, the future is glorious. However, judgment will come over in Judah. We're not going back, we're going to stay here. He was called to be a watchman. He was called to warn people to turn from their iniquity or God said, I will require their blood at your hands.
When I look at the role of a prophet, or for that matter, a preacher, a minister, or teacher of the gospel, I would certainly hate to stand in the role or the place of a minister who didn't speak the truth. I'd sure hate to be in that man's shoes come judgment day. That's why James says, "Be not many masters. They will receive the greater condemnation."
If you're going to proport to speak for God and give people eternal directions, make sure they're right. By the way, many ministers in pulpits across this country aren't even saved. I'm going to bore you or save you from boring you with statistics of how many people deny the vicarious atonement or the deity of Christ or the bodily Resurrection, but it's significant.
A man in the church I previously served at in Albuquerque wrote a brilliant little paper on the inerrancy of the scriptures. It was great, it was glorious, precise. He was on an airplane-- this was years ago. And he sat next to a guy who said, I'm a pastor. I'm a minister. And this guy from our church got excited and said, oh, tell me, when did you get saved? How did you come to Christ? And the man got angry with that question. He said, well, and he kind of bristled a little bit. And he said, I've always prided myself at being liberal.
And he on to say that the idea of a born-again experience had really no place in his thinking. Now I hear that. And I think, why is he in the ministry? Go sell shoes or something. No offense if you're a shoe salesman.
He has no business to proclaim to speak for God, but not speak the truth. Ezekiel warned them, "Again when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin. And his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered. But his blood I will require at your hand nevertheless. If you warn a righteous man, that righteous man should not sin. And does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning. Also you shall have delivered your soul."
Now before you walk away feeling guilty that you failed to share with the bag boy at bonds this week when you had that window of opportunity and now you're going to be cut off, keep in mind who this is written to. It is written to Ezekiel the prophet who is dealing with the people of Israel under the old covenant, who are a rebellious people. And there is no one else in that settlement to give the message. Old covenant, rebellious people of Israel, and this prophet.
It's not like you're going to lose your salvation if you fail to witness to every person that you come in contact with every day. Now having said that, let's frame it this way. We have the message of truth, do we not? We know the way to heaven. They don't. If they don't hear it from us, they're not going to hear it. And because we know the truth and we have the gospel message, I would say it is wrong, ludicrous, and even sinful not to share it when we know the truth and we have a God-given opportunity.
Go home tonight and read second Kings chapter 7, of those four lepers at the gate of Samaria who looked at each other and said, why do we sit here till we die? We're lepers, we're going to die anyway. If we go into the city of Samaria, there's a famine. We'll die there. If we go into the Syrian camp, they may kill us, but who cares? We're going to die anyway. Let's go to the camp, see what happens.
They went to the Syrian camp, everybody had left. There was all sorts of food and all sorts of provisions. And they started enjoying it. And one of them said, hey, this isn't good. This is a day of good news and yet we remain silent. They knew that they had to get out and tell people the good news. There were provisions in the camp.
So we have the truth. Look for those opportunities to tell somebody about Jesus Christ this week. Invite them to church. Invite them to know Christ. Do the work of an evangelist. "Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there and he said to me, "Arise. Go into the plain and there I will talk with you." So I arose. I went into the plain and behold the glory of the Lord stood there like the glory which I saw by the river Chebar, and I fell on my face." He does that a lot doesn't he? Ouch.
"Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet and spoke with me and said to me, go shut yourself inside your house. And you, O Son of Man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them so that you cannot go out among them. I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, thus says the Lord God. He who hears, let him hear. He who refuses, let him refuse for they are a rebellious house."
Our world is in a mess. You've got the message, become a messenger. As dark as it gets, it's perfect time for revival. But you see, before revival can happen out there, it has to happen in here.
Back in the 1800s, a man was born in a gypsy camp. Over in England, he became known as Gypsy Smith, an evangelist. He believed in revival, prayed for it, preached on it. He was asked, what's the secret of seeing revival start? He said, I'll tell you what you do. Go home, go to your house, close the door, kneel on the floor, and draw a circle with chalk around you on the floor. And pray for revival on the inside of the circle. He says, and you pray for that. And when God answers your prayer, revival is on.
Let's pray that God would revive our hearts, that we will be his watchmen, or the politically correct term, watch people. Watchman on the wall, sounding the warning, and telling people how to get from earth to heaven. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we look at our world, it's a mess. But when we get our vision of heaven and you speak to us, we see what is coming. Our heart is so glad, what you have prepared for those who love you. And I pray it would motivate us, Lord, to bring others by your grace to heaven with us.
Lord, use us this week. Give us those opportunities, may we look for them. Open our mouth to speak your words and open the hearts of those that are around us. Thank you, Lord for hungry hearts, hungry people, those who love you and love your word. And thank you, Lord, for these great lessons we've learned tonight. As we go from here Lord, revive us again in Jesus' name. Amen.