INTRODUCTION TO AUGUST LESSONS
The major prophetic book of Ezekiel is the Judges of the exile. It is the Dark Ages of captivity for Israel. This prophet-priest had to announce that sin came with consequences. Idolatry caused a downward spiral for Israel. Students will learn that when God’s people (and her leaders) are rebellious and sinful, God’s glory will depart from them. Ezekiel proclaimed judgment to Judah and the nations around her (chapters 1-32), but he also proclaimed restoration (chapters 33-48). When God restores people, he always does so for the glory of his own name (a concept that appears 60 times in Ezekiel).
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Unit: Ezekiel (Part 1)
Theme: Sin & Consequences
Lesson Text: Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2:1–3:3
Supplemental Text: Revelation 10:2, 9-10; Matthew 10:24-33; 2 Timothy 2:15
Aim: Take in God’s Word so you do not rebel against him and so you can speak up for him.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Micah Odor): LOOKOUT_August 7_2022.
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By Mark Scott
One of the toughest jobs in the Bible was being a prophet. Even though prophets brought God’s Word to God’s people, they were reviled, misunderstood, and persecuted. One did not go shopping for a prophetic mantle; it was given by the call of God.
Ezekiel suffered just like the other prophet-priests, Jeremiah and Zechariah. Ezekiel’s message was inextricably linked to his person. Two facts about Ezekiel stand out in this regard: (1) three chapters are devoted to his call—more than any other prophet), and (2) his prophecy is written in first-person singular. For Ezekiel, the message was intensely personal.
The Setting of the Messenger
Ezekiel began his prophetic work by announcing his age. Ezekiel was 30 years old when he began his earthly ministry, just like Jesus. During that thirtieth year, Ezekiel was living among the exiles (captives). He had been hauled off to Babylonian captivity with King Jehoiachin in 597 BC. He was living near the Kebar River (a canal of the Euphrates River). He was identified as a priest, and his father (Buzi) was named.
Three things identified Ezekiel as a prophet of God: (1) The heavens were opened, and he saw visions of God. These phrases indicate divine inspiration. (2) The word of the Lord came to him. This phrase (so prominent in Jeremiah) indicates revelation. (3) The hand of the Lord was on him. This phrase indicates God’s providence on his ministry (similar to that of Ezra and Nehemiah).
The Calling of the Messenger
The passage missing from our lesson text is Ezekiel’s first vision (Ezekiel 1:4-28, which actually is part of his calling). He had a vision of four living creatures (cf. Revelation 4) and four wheels. This vision took place in the contexts of a storm and angels and a throne. All of it served to underline the glory of the Lord. This glory would keep Ezekiel in the fight of his prophetic work, when otherwise he would have given up.
God addressed Ezekiel as Son of man. This phrase is used more than 90 times in Ezekiel and 6 times in this lesson text. It means “special human” (cf. Psalm 8) and would be Jesus’ favorite self-designation. For Jesus it also became a divine title (Daniel 7:13-14). Ezekiel had to stand up and give God his undivided attention. The Holy Spirit came into Ezekiel, which allowed him to speak God’s message by divine inspiration.
Ezekiel’s calling would not be an easy walk. God sent him to a rebellious nation (a form of these two words occurs six times in this lesson text out of 25 times in the entire Old Testament). Ezekiel’s audience would be like their forefathers—obstinate (impudent and stiff-necked) and stubborn (strong). They were figuratively spoken of as briers and thorns and scorpions. They just weren’t nice people. But at least they would know that a prophet [was] among them.
Ezekiel’s calling consisted of three challenges from the Sovereign Lord: (1) His audience would resist his message; most likely they would not even listen—mentioned twice in this text. (2) He was told three times in this section not to be afraid of them or their words. He was in no way to be terrified (dismayed) by them. (3) He was not to join in their rebellion. He would need to be sure he was influencing them and that they were not influencing him.
The Internalizing of the Message
Another part of Ezekiel’s call concerned a scroll. He had seen creatures and wheels, and now he saw a hand stretched out to him. No doubt this was the same hand of providence that was on him earlier (1:3)—the hand of God. In God’s hand was a scroll (roll or book). The message on the scroll was full since it contained writing on both sides (Revelation 5:1).
The content of the message was depressing. The scroll contained words of lament (like a dirge or elegy) and mourning and woe (no doubt a reference to the judgments on Israel and the nations in Ezekiel 4–32). God told Ezekiel to consume the scroll (cf. Revelation 10:2, 9-10). Like a small child being spoon-fed, Ezekiel opened his mouth and God had him eat the scroll. The scroll was intended to make the prophet bloated. It would fill his stomach. Ezekiel noticed that it tasted as sweet as honey in his mouth. Even if God’s Word is sometimes bitter to hear, it is likened to honey (Psalm 19:10).