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!