For the first-time reader of the Bible, the book of Ezekiel is mostly  a perplexing maze of incoherent visions, a kaleidoscope of whirling wheels  (chapter 1) and dry bones (chapter 37) that defy interpretation. This impression  often causes readers to shy away from studying the book and miss one of the  great literary and spiritual portions of the Old Testament. The book is named  after the author, Ezekiel, whose name means “strengthened by God.” As you read  and study this amazing book, draw strength as Ezekiel did from the One who is  Himself strength.

Ezekiel grew up in Jerusalem, served as a priest in  the temple and was among the second group of captives taken to Babylon along  with King Jehoiachin. While in Babylon he became a prophet of God, and his  ministry began with condemnation and judgment of the nation Judah. After the  destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel’s perspective changed to a glimmer of hope  shining through for the future. Ezekiel wanted to help the people learn from  their failures and announced impending judgment upon the nations that surrounded  Judah and reestablished hope for the restoration of Israel. His vision of the  valley of dry bones pictures new life being breathed into the nation which will  occur in the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth.

Ezekiel continues to  have detailed visions of the New Temple (chapters 40-43), the New Jerusalem (Ezekiel  48:30-35), the Millennium (chapter 44) and the new land in which the people  will reside (Ezekiel  47:13-23). Israel and Judah will once again be restored to unity from the  ends of the earth as God’s glory also returns and God dwells among His people.  These beautiful and unusual visions of Ezekiel concern both the immediate and  the long-term plans of God. They help to establish Ezekiel as watchman (chapter  33), not only to warn the people but to be an encouragement. He minces no words  and he delivers God’s messages with straightforward language that everyone could  understand, whether they listened or not (Ezekiel  2:7). Ezekiel himself received a warning from God that if he did not tell  everyone he was sent to about the punishment for not following God, he would be  held accountable for the blood of those who died in their sins (Ezekiel 33:8-9). He did  not hesitate in his mission and is the one man in the Bible in whom we can find  no fault as he steadfastly followed God’s instructions. He had a passionate view  of judgment and hope and displayed his closeness to God’s own sorrow over the  people’s sins.

The prophet experienced considerable opposition during  his own lifetime, yet he doggedly expressed God’s desire that the wicked not die  but turn from their wicked ways and live. His periodic speechlessness during his  early years was broken when God empowered him to speak, and his tongue was  loosened to speak the longest passage of sustained hope in the Bible. The  burning, chopping and scattering of his hair represented the fall of Jerusalem  and the bringing back of God’s remnant (chapter 5). The hopeful words climax in  the promise of everlasting possession of the land, an everlasting Davidic  prince, an everlasting covenant, and an everlasting sanctuary in Israel (Ezekiel  11:16-21). He leaps ahead to a time after Israel has been restored to the  mysterious invasion from the north which will be brought by Yahweh against  Israel, but then will be utterly defeated. This demonstrates that no enemy  nation will ever invade the Holy Land again with success, and the glory of the  God of Israel returns, entering through the east gate of the temple Ezekiel  envisions.

Ezekiel has shown all Christians that we are to be watchmen  on this earth, speaking the truth of the gospel to everyone we meet. We cannot  possibly turn our backs on the perishing and go our own righteous way without  being held accountable for those who die in sin that we could have reached. God  told Ezekiel to groan with a broken heart and bitter grief for the coming  judgment, and through his dramatic book, Ezekiel is telling us the very same  thing. This judgment is coming! It will surely take place, declares the  Sovereign Lord!