October 12, 2019
This week is the first of four studies from the book of Ezekiel. They are based on George’s messages of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel received visions from God. These are in 4 categories,
• A Vision of God – What is God Like? (Chap1 & 10)
• A Vision of Judgement – When God is Your Adversary! (Chap 6 & 7, 14, 23, 25-32)
• A Vision of Restoration – Death Precedes Life!(Chap 37)
• A Vision of Renewal – A Future That’s Coming (Chap 43)
2. The Setting.
At that time there were four deportations of Jews to Babylon.
a. In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon. I September of that year, he swept into Palestine and surrounded Jerusalem, making Judah his vassal state. He took many of Jerusalem’s wises men and most beautiful women to Babylon as captives. Daniel was among this group.
b. In 597 B.C. approximately 8 years later the Babylonians returned and attacked Jerusalem and carried off 10,000 exiles including Ezekiel back to back to Babylon.
c. In 586 B.C. the Babylonians returned a third time completely destroying Jerusalem, burning the Temple and deporting the rest of the people though some escaped to Egypt.
d. In 581 five years after the fall of Jerusalem in the twenty third year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Egypt was overthrown and the Jews that had fled there were taken away to Babylon. The Jewish exiles were located 80 Km, SE of Babylon, by the River Chebar.
3. The Jews in a foreign land.
How you think the Jews felt cut off from all that was familiar to them?
Read about how Ezekiel felt as one of the exiles and shared in their despair & discouragement. Ezekiel 3:14-15.
Read what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 137:1-4.
Consider and discuss in your group George’s words:
“God’s chosen people were exiled from their promised land, driven out of Zion the city of God & cut off from the Temple, the place of the presence of God.
God’s people had a loss of place, a loss of purpose, a loss of perspective, a loss of pride & a loss of peace.
It’s a dark time when God’s people have lost their song of joy in the Lord. There was good reason for this, their world had changed & God seemed to have lost His place in it. God’s ancient people were now in a society where God’s presence & influence were not acknowledged. God’s ancient people faced the uncertainty & fear of being a threatened minority.”
Is our country on the way to becoming (or already is) where we as Christians are a minority where God’s values and virtues are not the norm and even vehemently opposed?
How do we respond? How are you responding?
Discuss George’s words:
“The danger is that this hostile context will cause Christians to stop speaking about their faith at all. The danger is a loss of confidence in the message & music of joy, love, hope & peace in the Lord, which is the gospel that our society needs to hear.”
4. Ezekiel’s First Vision.
What did these exiles, God’s people need to restore their hope & joy to enable them to sing again?
Read Ezekiel 1:1. What does this verse tell us Ezekiel experienced? What words were used to explain what he saw? …………………..
What is a ‘vision of God’? Does God give different types of visions?
Consider and discuss in your group the following:
“God communicated to Ezekiel in visions. A vision is a miraculous revelation of God’s truth. These visions seem strange to us because they are apocalyptic. This means Ezekiel saw symbolic pictures that vividly conveyed an idea. Daniel and John were other Bible writers who used apocalyptic imagery….” # taken from ‘Life Application Study Bible.
What does the words “The Lord gave this message to Ezekiel…’ and “….. he felt the hand of the Lord take hold of him” say about Ezekiel’s real experience and very personal encounter with God.
What was the significance of this in the context of what we have just discussed in the previous questions: “The Jews in a foreign land”?
Let’s wade our way through Ezekiel’s first vision to see what we can glean from the symbolic pictures he saw and sought to communicate, their meaning to the original audience and to us today.
Read Ezekiel 1:1-28. What are the things Ezekiel saw in each of the five phases?
• Phase (1) in v4,
• Phase (2), in v5-14,
• Phase (3), v15-21,
• Phase (4), v22-24,
• Phase (5), v25-28,
What does all this mean? Below is George’s explanation from his message for you to read through and discuss your findings.
What do you take away from the above? Has this been helpful? Share with your group.
6. (Part of) George’s Message.
1. In Ezek 3:15, the effect of seeing what God is like leaves Ezekiel astonished, traumatized & completely overwhelmed for the whole of the following week. In the vision passage we read, there are actually 5 phases to the vision of God that Ezekiel experienced:-
• Phase (1) in v4, approaching wind/fire storm
• Phase (2), in v5-14, emerging out of the wind/fire storm are 4 heavenly beings, later identified as Cherubim [Cherubim first seen in Gen 3:24, at the Fall, where they guard human access to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden]
• Phase (3), v15-21, is the appearance of 4 wheels alongside the 4 Cherubim
• Phase (4), v22-25, an awesome crystal “platform” separates the Cherubim below from what is above
• Phase (5), v25-28, is the climax of the vision as Ezekiel sees that above the crystal platform is what appears to be a throne, on which “there was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God”
2. The reality is that God is a spiritual being; His shape & form are not & cannot be physically defined. See Ex 33:18-20, where there is an interesting exchange between Moses & God on this matter
3. Ezekiel described what he experienced as “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord”. Hebrew scholars say the word “glory” in Ezek 1:28, is the “weight or substance of God’s presence”. God’s Glory is not some ethereal after-glow or light-show. God’s Glory is the substance of His reality
4. Anyone who chooses to dismiss or diminish an awareness of God’s Glory, is choosing to live in a reality that does not exist. God’s Word comes to us through Ezekiel with the message not to choose such a false reality
5. Through Ezekiel, God tells us that all of His actions in Israel’s history are so that “You will know that I am the LORD”. The phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD” occurs over 70X in Ezekiel to be one of the key ideas in the Book. This recognition-formula brings into focus God’s great desire that all of us know Him… And that this knowledge embraces the fullness of His majestic person & His overwhelming power
6. The purpose of the symbolism in Ezekiel’s vision of the Cherubim & the wheels is to convey to us that Yahweh is the God who is real & who inhabits the spiritual dimension of the reality in which we exist. There are two questions we can ask about the vision of God that Ezekiel saw
• Firstly, “What did it mean for Ezekiel?
• Secondly, “What does it mean for you & me?”
7. For Ezekiel, the vision was a game changer. Ezekiel’s vision of God was a game-changer for him because what he saw showed him that
• Yahweh was not in defeat & decline, He was actually in ascendancy
• Yahweh wasn’t trampled underfoot, He was transcendent overhead.
• Yahweh wasn’t static, lifeless & earthbound, He was mobile, dynamic & spiritually superior & supreme
• Yahweh was the God to be reckoned
8. However, of even greater impact for Ezekiel, was the realization that the vision showed him that God, was with His exiled people in Babylon.
9. “What does Ezekiel’s vision of God mean for you & me?” 5 take-aways are suggested:-
10. The vision of God we see through the eyes of Ezekiel, tells us:-
i. This is a God you have to take seriously
ii. This is a God who is worth believing in
iii. This is a God who is worthy of your faith & trust
iv. This is a God whose presence makes a difference
v. This is a God you do not want as your adversary
11. The God of Ezekiel’s vision is not a God that you want to have as your adversary. Yet, this was exactly what God had become for Israel. Ezek 5:8, “Thus says the Lord God, indeed, I, even I, am against you & will execute judgements in your midst in the sight of the nations.”
12. Israel’s sin/unbelief had positioned God as their adversary. Sin & unbelief are still doing this with people today. It doesn’t have to be this way
13. Hear God’s heart when He makes His appeal in Ezekiel 33:11, “Thus says the LORD God, I have no pleasure in the death of sinners, but (My pleasure is) that sinners would turn from their sinful ways & live”. This is God’s appeal to you if you remain outside of His forgiveness & distant from His fellowship. Will you hear God’s heart – it is a heart that longs to show you mercy, lovingkindness & forgiveness to YOU!