Summary: Ezekiel is not an easy book to read. This sermon deals with how to read Ezekiel and applies some of the main themes
Ezekiel August 11, 2002
There are parts of the United States, namely the Midwest that some people call “fly over country.” They call it that because they do not see the area as very exciting and you have to “fly over” it to get to other, more exciting places.
I think that there are some portions of the Bible that we might call “read over passages.” People like to read the stories in Genesis, and I & II Samuel, they like the Psalms and Proverbs, they might get into Isaiah because of his prophesies of the Messiah, but then we get into some very difficult prophetic books like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the shorter prophetic books. These are the fly over books. We don’t read them because they are difficult to understand and seem to have very little to do with our lives. So we fly over them and get right to the New Testament.
But… 2Ti 3:16 & 17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for doctrine, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness, so that God’s servant may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
If these books are God breathed, and useful, we need to learn how to read them. So today’s message is all about how to read Ezekiel.
The Historical Situation of Ezekiel
Much of the Old Testament is about the relationship between God and the Jewish people. When God rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery, after 40 years in the wilderness, God brought them to the land that we now know as Israel. They were to come in, clear the land of the wicked people that lived there, move in and serve God in the promised land. The difficult is that they had a habit of obeying God only partially, so Some of the people and many of the Idols were left in the land. And the Israelites relationship with God became one of struggling with worshipping and serving only him and Serving the local gods as well.
When the people beg for God to give them a king, he finally gives them Saul who starts well but ends really poorly. Then comes that glory years with David and Solomon as kings. Solomon’s son Rehoboam’s poor leadership splits the country between Judah in the South ruled by descendants of David, and Israel in the north ruled by Jeroboham and his descendants.
There is a long list of kings that do not serve God and a few who do. Israel worship the idol gods of the land from day one, and they commit all sorts of atrocities. They set up places of Worship for Ashera, and Ba’al, institute temple prostitution, have fertility orgies under oak trees, sacrifice their first born, and reject God’s moral and economic laws. We in North America are not that different with promiscuity, abortion and oppression of the poor. We’ve secularized all the sins that Israel committed in their religious practices.
In Deuteronomy 28-29 God tells the people of the amazing blessings they will receive if they stay close to him, worship him only and follow his law, He also lays out the curses that they will receive if they reject him and his ways. By Ezekiel’s time Israel has already reaped the curses for their deep sin and disobedience. The Assyrians came in 722 BC and carried the nation off in captivity.
Judah was spared because of the influence of righteous men like Isaiah. King Hezekiah brought spiritual renewal to Judah, but his son Manasseh and grandson Amon were such wicked kings that it took only two generations for the Jewish people to forget that God had even given them the law. Like children from Christian families who rebel and become worse than many who have grown up with no faith, these two kings led Judah into religious orgies, human sacrifice, and terrible oppression of the poor and weak in society.
Ezekiel tells them that they are worse than their sister cities of Sodom in the south and Samaria in the north
When Josiah, the son of Amon becomes king, he rebuilds Gods temple and they discover the books of the law that has been buried for two generations. He weeps and repents over what he reads and how different it is from the way Judah has been living. Josiah tries to lead the people back to God, but they refuse. They are happy to add God and his rituals to their religious pudding, but they do not want to follow the law, and they do not want to worship him alone.
Although it was the Assyrians that destroyed Israel, it is the Babylonians that invade Judah – three times. In the wars between Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt, Judah kept picking the wrong side. The first time Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon took a group of young nobles back to Babylon with him. This group included Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abenego. When Israel rebelled again Babylon took a larger group into exile, this group included Ezekiel. Finally, in 588 BC, God has had enough of Judah’s rebellion, and so has Babylon, and they invade, destroy all the outposts, lay siege to Jerusalem and finally destroy it, killing many inhabitants and sending most of the rest into exile. It is out of this destruction and exile that the Jewish people finally turn their hearts to God and learn to serve him and him alone.