Ezekiel -- The Lord
set Jeremiah to be an iron pillar in the land of Judah. In the same way,
He set Ezekiel for a pillar among his own captive people by the river
Chebar, in the land of the Chaldeans, and told him that as an adamant,
harder than flint, had He made his forehead (Eze 3:9). Strength
characterized the ministry of the prophet whose name means ''God will
For a time, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporary; for the latter began
his prophecy in the fifth year of [Jehoiachin's] captivity and prosecuted
it for twenty-two years at least [Jer 1:1-3] (Eze 1:1,2; 29:17). He took
up the theme of Jeremiah, concerning the future of his people, and
Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet, and in all
probability the ''thirtieth year,'' of which he speaks in the first verse,
was the thirtieth year of his own age-- the age when the priests entered
upon their sacred duties. God withdrew His presence from His sanctuary at
Jerusalem, and His chosen people were henceforth represented by the
captives in Babylon. To these He promised to be ''as a little sanctuary''
in the land of their captivity, indicating that He would not confine His
glory to any particular spot. Ezekiel was called to be a sort of
ministering priest to his people in this spiritual sanctuary.
This book may be divided into three parts--
Chapters 1 - 24. Testimonies from God against Israel in general and
against Jerusalem in particular.
Chapters 25 - 32. Judgments denounced against surrounding nations.
Chapters 33 - 48. The subject of Israel is resumed, and their restoration
and blessing foretold.
divides his prophecies into fourteen parts, which may be traced by his
prefixing the date to each. The main object of his message seems to be to
comfort the exiles in their desolation, to fortify them against the
idolatry by which they were surrounded, and to inspire them with the
glorious prospect the future held in store for them if, with true hearts,
they would turn to their God.
[Ezekiel's] wealth of imagery imparts a singular beauty to his prophecies.
They glow with life and action and brilliant coloring, and for this very
reason are more difficult to understand. But with the assurance that
''whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning''
[Rom 15:4], we may count on the Holy Spirit to unfold their teaching to
Vision of the
Ezekiel stands out as a man entirely abandoned to God's use. To prepare
him for service, the Lord granted him a double vision. In the vision of
the cherubim, Ezekiel saw four living creatures which were absolutely at
God's disposal. ''They went every one straight forward: whither the Spirit
was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went'' (Eze 1:12).
Such unswerving following the Lord expected from His prophet, and such He
expects from us. The lion, the strongest animal; the ox, the most
enduring; the eagle, the highest soaring; man, made in the image of God --
these four bring before us the highest forms of natural life. These four
living ones, with their wings and their wheels full of eyes, moving with
the symmetry of one organism, and the rapidity of lightning in the midst
of ''the enfolding fire,'' give us a picture of God's will perfectly
executed, as His redeemed saints will be enabled to fulfill it when they
see Him as He is, and as they should aim at fulfilling it here below.
Vision of the
We have not far to seek to find ''Christ in Ezekiel.'' The prophet beholds
him, in vision, in the very first chapter. For surely the ''Man'' upon the
throne [Eze 1:26] can be none other than the only-begotten Son, the
representative of the invisible God. We recognize, in this vision, the
prophetic announcement of the Holy Incarnation. The details of the vision
seen by the captive on the banks of the Chebar correspond minutely with
the details of the vision of the captive in the isle called Patmos [Rev
1:9]. Over eighty points of contact may be found between the two books. As
there is no doubt who is designated by John, we cannot but recognize, in
the vision of Ezekiel, the Glory of God in the person of our Lord Jesus
Ezekiel saw ''a
throne as an appearance of a sapphire stone, and the likeness as the
appearance of a Man above upon it.'' John saw ''a throne set in heaven,
and One sat on the throne'' [Rev 4:2-4].
They both saw the rainbow, the token of the covenant;
They both saw ''the
terrible crystal'' of the purity of God's presence, which nothing can
evade. To Ezekiel, it appeared as a firmament; to John as a sea of glass.
They both had a
vision of burning lamps of the fire of God's Spirit, and of the four
living creatures, whose sound was as the sound of many waters (Eze 1:24;
To both was given,
by the One encircled by the rainbow, the roll of a book, which he was
commanded to eat, and then go and prophesy (Eze 1:28; 2:1,8-10; 3:1-4; Rev
Ezekiel, ''was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord''
(Eze 1:28). When we read of the ''glory of the Lord'' in this book, we see
in it the manifested presence of God as revealed in the Eternal Son, who,
in the fullness of time, ''became flesh, and dwelt amongst us, and we
beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father'' [John
The sight of Christ upon the Cross-- bearing our sin-- brings us
salvation. The sight of Christ upon the Throne-- baptizing with the Holy
Ghost-- sets us free for service. Ezekiel says that the Spirit entered
into him, and that then he heard Him that spake unto him [Eze 2:1,2]. The
personality of the Holy Spirit finds frequent expression in this book.
A Man at God's
The Lord sent Ezekiel to be a prophet. Whether they accepted or rejected
him, they could not but ''know that there had been a prophet among them''
[Eze 2:5]. Often, we read ''the hand of the Lord was upon me,'' and often
such words as ''the Spirit took me up.'' Do we, as workers, know what it
is to have the Lord's hand so strong upon us that His Spirit can take us
up and wield us as He wills? Ezekiel was a faithful and obedient prophet;
he spoke when the Lord opened his mouth, and was willing to be dumb when
the Lord closed it, and therefore ''they knew that it was the Word of the
Ezekiel was sent to his own people. It may be easier to some to go as a
missionary to India or China than to speak the Lord's message to their own
relations, or the members of their own church; but perhaps He is saying to
them as He said to Ezekiel: ''Thou are not sent to many people of a hard
language, whose words thou canst not understand. . . go, get thee unto the
children of thy people, and speak to them'' (Eze 3:5,11). Ezekiel had to
give the Lord's message to very difficult people: to the prophets, the
elders, the shepherds, the princes; to Jerusalem and the land of Israel;
to the leading heathen nations; to inanimate objects-- dry bones, fowls,
The Lord sent Ezekiel to be a watchman. He told him not to be afraid of
the people, but to give them warning, and that if he did not do so, He
would require their blood at his hands (chapters 3 and 33). These chapters
set before us very plainly our personal responsibility in giving the
Lord's message and warning men of sin. Paul was so faithful in doing this
that he was able to say, ''I am pure from the blood of all men'' (Acts
The Lord sent Ezekiel to be a sign. ''Ezekiel is unto you a sign'' (Eze
24:24; 4:3; 12:11). The portrayal of the imaginary siege of Jerusalem was
no doubt exactly calculated to make the men of those times think; for God
fits His signs to the times. In the British Museum, part of a similar tile
of the same date may be seen, with a plan of Babylon drawn upon it. To be
God's sign to the people, Ezekiel willingly sacrificed all his private
interests. He was willing to lie in any position God told him; to smite
with his hand or strike with his foot; to go forth into the plain, or shut
himself up within his house; to sacrifice his personal appearance (5:1);
to eat his food by weight, or move house at a day's notice. The severest
test of all was when God took away the desire of his eyes [ie., his wife]
and commanded him not to weep. He who wept by the grave of Lazarus
understands the sorrow of our human hearts, and does not rebuke us for it.
But He needed Ezekiel as a sign, and so He commanded him not to weep for
his own private grief, but to weep betterly for the sins of his people
(Eze 24:15-18; 21:6,7).
The Lord will not ask the same extraordinary things of us that He asked of
Ezekiel, but the line [ie., the path] of following Him, who was despised
and rejected of men, is certain to lie across the will of nature, right
athwart the course of this world. Does the Lord find in us those who are
absolutely pliant in His hands, as Ezekiel was? He is seeking such. ''I
sought for a man to stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should
not destroy it; but I found none'' (Eze 22:30; 13:5).
The Glory of the
The Key-note of the book of Ezekiel is The Glory of the Lord, that is, His
manifested presence. It occurs twelve times in the first eleven chapters.
Then, there is a great gap, and we do not meet with it again till the
forty-third chapter. The glory of the Lord was grieved away from the
Temple at Jerusalem by the idolatry of the people, and not till the city
had been overturned to the uttermost could the glory come back and take up
its abode in the new Temple. The message was, ''Ye have defiled My
sanctuary''; therefore ''I will make thee waste'' [Eze 5:11]. Through
several chapters, the prophet is commanded to declare the judgments that
were coming on the land on account of the ''detestable things'' and ''the
abominations'' which the people had introduced into the sanctuary. In the
eighth chapter, Ezekiel is spiritually transported from the land of the
Chaldeans to Jerusalem, and in a vision sees the four kinds of grievous
idolatries which were practised in the courts of the Lord's house, even to
the worshipping of the sun with their faces to the east and their backs to
We see the glory of the Lord gradually removing. Grieved away from the
inner sanctuary by the sin of idolatry, the brightness fills the court.
Then it departed from the threshold and rested over the cherubim, those
beings who perfectly fulfilled God's will and responded to His power. As
the cherubim mounted [up] from the earth, the glory of the Lord abode
above their free pinions [ie., wings] and mounted [up] with them,
forsaking the city and removing to the mountains [chapters 8 - 10]. In the
same way, it is possible for a Christian so to provoke, resist, grieve,
straiten, limit, vex, quench the Holy Spirit, that the heart may become
like a ruined temple bereft of the glory.
There is many a blighted life from which the early glow has departed
through simple disobedience-- refusing to give the Lord's message, it may
be. ''God can do so much with a spark, and it is dreadful when He cannot
get a conductor of it'' (Bramwell Booth). We grieve the Holy Spirit when
we do not allow ourselves time for communion with God; we limit Him by
doubting His power to cleanse and keep and fill. We vex the Holy Spirit by
our rebellion, by not really saying in very truth ''Thy will be done.''
And if rebellion is persisted in, the Holy Spirit may be quenched. [cp.
Eph 4:30; Isa 50:2; 63:10; 1The 5:19]
The spirit of worldliness is one of the chief idols that is grieving the
Holy Spirit away from His temple. It is sapping the very life of the
Church today. How much of the worldly spirit of utter selfishness there is
in the business life, in the undue estimation of wealth and position, in
love of display, and in friendships made with people of the world,
forgetting that ''whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of
God'' [James 4:4]. Christians conform to the world's ways, and read the
world's books, and dress in the world's fashions, instead of being a
people separated unto the Lord. The real cure for this worldliness is such
a vision of Christ Jesus as shall make the earthly lights pale before the
splendor of it. If our hearts are satisfied with Him, the world will have
no hold upon us. He said: ''The Prince of this world cometh and hath
nothing in Me'' [John 14:30]. Are we able to say: ''The world knoweth us
not, because it knew Him not''? [1Joh 3:1].
Chapter 34 contains a warning to the false shepherds who feed themselves
and feed not the flock. It closes with a most beautiful prophecy of Christ
as the Good Shepherd, which our Lord evidently applies to Himself in the
tenth chapter of John. His promise of searching out His sheep, and
bringing them back to their own land, is primarily for the Jews; but Jesus
Himself spoke of His ''other sheep,'' which are not of the Jewish fold,
which should also hear His voice, and that all should ultimately be
gathered in one fold with one Shepherd [John 10:16].
A Clean Heart.
Chapter 36 is also first for Israel, and points forward to the time of the
restoration of God's chosen people, when they shall be gathered out of all
the countries and brought into their own land, and there cleansed from all
their iniquities, and become God's witnesses among the nations.
But it contains also a glorious picture of the Gospel and of Christ's
power to cleanse and save to the uttermost. Verses 16-28 show the deep and
universal defilement of sin and God's judgment of it. They show that there
is nothing in us, as sinners, to commend us to God; that the salvation
which is in Christ Jesus is all of His free grace and for the honor of His
Holy Name, which we have profaned by our iniquities. The cleansing from
all sin is promised, and with it, the corresponding promise of the new
heart; that He will take away our stony heart, and give us a heart of
flesh, and put His Spirit within us to enable us to walk so as to please
Chapter 37 again refers primarily to the Jews. ''Son of man, these bones
are the whole house of Israel.'' It is again a promise of salvation and
restoration to God's chosen people. But it contains a beautiful Gospel
picture of God's power to raise those who are dead in trespasses and sins.
It corresponds with His words to Nicodemus about the necessity of the new
birth, and the mighty action of the Holy Spirit, coming unseen as the
wind, to quicken the dead [Eph 2:1,2; John 3:3-8]. The chapter closes with
the renewed promise of the future David to be the Shepherd-King of God's
Ezek 38 and Ezek 39 contain an account of the judgment that the Lord will
bring upon His people through the instrumentality of Gog and his northern
army. This is thought to be the final terrible trial of the chosen people,
known as the time of Jacob's trouble. In chapter 21, the Lord says He will
send a sword against Jerusalem, and ''I will overturn, overturn, overturn
it: and it shall be no more, until He comes whose right it is; and I will
give it Him'' [Eze 21:27]. In chapter 22, after speaking of Israel's
dispersion, He says He will gather them together into the midst of
Jerusalem as they gather metal into the midst of a furnace to melt it, so
will He gather His people and melt them in the fire of His wrath [Eze
22:15-22]. These terrible final judgments will be blessed to the
conversion of the Jewish people and their restoration to the Divine favor.
The last nine chapters contain Ezekiel's vision of the New Temple. This
vision has never yet been fulfilled. The Temple built by Zerubbabel, and
that by Herod, fell far short of the size of the New Temple of which
Ezekiel was given the plan by the angel. ''Just what the meaning of this
vision is, it is by no means easy to determine. . . The new distribution
of the land according to the twelve tribes and the prince and his portion,
and the suburbs; the new city and the immense Temple area, -- all combine
to point to a future re-establishment of Israel and to the millenial
glory. It has never yet had its appropriate fulfilment. To spiritualize
it, as some do, exhausting all its splendors and hopes in the Christian
dispensation, is to mistake its meaning and [to] dwarf its magnificent
proportions. For unmistakably, the vision has to do with Israel in the
last and glorious days when all God hath promised for that people shall
have its accomplishment.'' [Outline Studies in the Books of the Old
Testament, p.274, Moorehead.]
When the Temple was complete [in his vision], Ezekiel saw the glory of the
Lord returning by the way of the east gate-- the direction in which it had
left the city-- and filling the house of the Lord [Eze 11:23; 43:2,4].
- - [The primary
picture here is of the Lord Jesus Christ, who likewise departed in
rejection via the Mount of Olives, but who someday will return to reign
from the same direction (cp. the references above with Mat 26:27-31; Joh
14:28-31; 18:1; Zech 14:4; Rev 1:15; 14:2; 18:1; 19:1,6).
- - However, there
are also lessons here which we may apply to the Christian life.] If we
have grieved the Spirit of the Lord away from our hearts, we must expect
His return by the way that He went. That is to say, we must come back to
the very point where we failed, and confess that particular sin to the
Lord, and obey Him on that point, before we can expect Him to return.
''The Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him'' [Acts 5:32].
In this chapter, we read of the glory definitely coming back, and taking
up its abode in the Temple, and continuing to fill it. This is what God
expects shall be the normal condition of every Christian. ''Be filled with
the Spirit'' (Eph 5:18).
If we are filled with the Spirit, there must be an overflow to others; and
this brings us to the vision of the river (chapter 47). Whatever is the
future application of this chapter to Israel [see Zech 14:8,9; Rev
22:1,2], its spiritual application to us today is clear. The Lord wants to
make His rivers of blessing flow out though every saved soul (Joh
7:37-39). Are we, as workers for Christ, ''ministering the Spirit'' to
The rivers issued
out from the sanctuary. It is only from the presence of the Lord that we
can go forth to bless others.
It was from the
south side of the altar-- pointing again to the place of sacrifice as the
source of blessing. ''A pure river of water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb''; ''A Lamb as it had
been slain'' [Rev 22:1; 5:6].
The river rose to
the ankles, to the knees, to the loins, for the Lord means His power in us
to increase till it becomes ''waters to swim in, a river that I could not
pass over'' --self lost in the fulness of the Spirit.
Wherever the river
came the fish lived, the banks grew green, clothed with trees, bearing
fruit for meat and leaves for medicine. God wants to use us wherever we go
to bring life to dead souls, and blessing and healing to all around us.
- - The only places
that were not healed were the marshes. They were given up to salt. A marsh
is something that is always taking in and never giving out. Unless we are
giving out, in some way, to others, we shall become stagnant and useless.
''Rivers of living
water.'' This is God's purpose for us. Do not let us reason from our old
past experience of failure, nor from the parched condition of the Church
around us. God says He will do a new thing: ''Behold, I will do a new
thing: now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a
way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert -- viz. in the most
unlikely places -- to give drink to My people, My chosen'' [Isa 43:19,20].
Throughout the Book of Ezekiel, we see Christ as the Giver of Life.
The cherubim, in the
vision of the first chapter, were illustrations of the aboundant life of
The Man clothed in
linen, who is thought by many to be the Angel of the Covenant, our Great
High Priest, set the mark of life upon God's faithful ones, that their
lives should be spared in the destruction of the city (Eze 9:2).
His first word to
the out-cast babe-- which represented Israel, and became ''perfect through
His comeliness,'' which He had put upon it-- was Live (Eze 16:6).
His word through the
watchman was: ''I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked. . . turn
ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel? (33:11).
His care as a
Shepherd is over the life of His sheep (ch. 34).
He answered His own
question, ''Can these dry bones live?'' with the words, ''Behold, I will
cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live'' (Ezek 37:3,5).
Finally, as we have
seen, His promise was,
''Everything shall live whither the river cometh.'' [Ezek 47:9].
''Son of Man.''
[eg., Eze 2:1,3,6,8; etc.]
Throughout the book, God addresses Ezekiel as the ''Son of man.''
It is part of His wondrous grace that He has chosen man to be His
messenger to his fellow-men, instead of choosing angels. The greatest
exhibition of this grace is the fact that the Son of God became the Son of
Man to fit Him to be God's messenger to us. ''For verily, He took not on
Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham''; in all
things made like unto His brethren, that He might be able to succour [ie.,
to come to the aid of, to help] and to save us [Heb 2:16-18].
The book closes with the promise of God's continued presence. ''The name
of the city from that day shall be Jehovah-shammah, The Lord is there.''
[Eze 48:35; cp. Jer 3:17; Zech 2:10; Rev 21:3; 22:3]