Friday, August 29, 2014


For the week beginning Sunday August 31, 2014

(A call to be “watchmen” for our fellowman)
Ezekiel 1-3

In 605 B.C., after crushing combined Assyrian and Egyptian forces at Carchemish on the banks of the Euphrates River, Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army moved south and invaded Syria-Palestine. They later invaded Judah (on three separate occasions – 605, 597, & 586 B.C.), conquering it, and making it a “vassal state”, during the reign of King Jehoikim.
During the first invasion of Judah (605 B.C. – 2 Kings 24:1-7, 2 Chronicles 36:5-8), Nebuchadnezzar took a number of young Jewish nobles, including Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the future prophet Daniel (Daniel 1:1-7). Jehoikim surrendered and became a “puppet king”, or “vassal king” of Nebuchadnezzar, and he paid monetary tributes to the powerful king of Babylon for nearly three years.
After three years of submission, Jehoikim decided to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar, bringing about another invasion in early 597 B.C. At that time, he himself, was chained and carried off to Babylon after an eleven-year reign. His younger brother, Jehoiachin, took over his throne, but after only a three-month and ten day reign, he was summoned into Babylon, and then replaced with his uncle, Zedekiah, by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 36:9-16).
During this second invasion (597 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar deported an even larger group of Judah’s upper and middle class citizens to Babylon, and among this group was a young twenty-six year old priest in training named, Ezekiel. This group of Jewish captives was placed in the region of Tel Aviv, along a wide canal that links two branches of the Euphrates known as the Kebar River. There, they were treated more as colonists than slaves and enjoyed many privileges.
It was there on the banks of the Kebar River, that, in 593 B.C., a now thirty old Ezekiel received his calling from GOD (Ezekiel 1 & 2). Thirty years old is the minimum age that priests are actually allowed to begin serving in the temple (Numbers 4:1-3). And so, as the LORD would have it, it was from that place, that Ezekiel first served the LORD by delivering his first prophetic message to his fellow captives in Babylon.
The first half of the book of Ezekiel focuses on the LORD’s coming judgment of Judah. The prophet Ezekiel is given the task of explaining to the Israelites already in captivity, the details of GOD’s judgment against them, and why they were being judged. The account of Ezekiel’s calling is the most lengthy and detailed account of any prophet in Scripture, including Isaiah and Jeremiah. However, like those two men, Ezekiel is made aware of his calling by GOD through a vision of the glory and majesty of HIS being.
In Ezekiel chapter 1, the prophet gives us a vivid description of his, now famous, “vision of living beings”. It happened during the fifth year of King Jehoichin’s captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel tells us that he saw a great storm approaching from the north (where GOD is) driving a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone brilliantly. There was a fire inside the cloud that glowed like gleaming ember, and out of the center of the cloud came four living beings shaped like humans, only they had four faces, the four faces of perhaps the greatest of the GOD’s creation, and two pairs of wings. Here we see described, the faces of the human (the greatest of all GOD’s earthly creation), the lion (the king of the beast), the ox (the symbol of strength among domesticated animals), and the eagle (the king of the fowls of the air). The following is how Ezekiel described the beings that he saw:

·         The beings had four faces (human, lion, ox, and eagle) each looking in a different direction. (v.6)
·         Each being had two pairs of wings. (v.6)
·         They stood upright like humans, but they had calves feet that split the hoof, and were burnished like bronze. (v.7)
·         Beneath their wings were human hands. (v.8)
·         They were able to fly in any direction without turning. (v.9)
·         These living beings looked like bright coals of fire, or brilliant torches, and lightning flashed back and forth between them. (v.13)
·         The living beings darted to and fro like flashes of lightning. (v.14)  

In verses 15-21 Ezekiel describes “GOD’s Throne-Chariot”, an image that depicts the sovereignty of GOD in all things. The visions which Ezekiel says looked like living beings are the same as those seen by the Apostle John in Revelations 4, and are of the same order of angels called “Cherubim”. The wheels and the rapid movement of the large structures under the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, which were described by Ezekiel, depict the universal movement and freedom of GOD.
Brightness has always been associated with GOD’s holiness and glory. In verse 22, Ezekiel describes a surface that is spread out over the sky that sparkled bright like crystal. Beneath that surface, the wings of each being stretched out to touch each other’s, and with their remaining pair of wings, they covered their own bodies. When they flew, their wings roared like waves of water crashing against the seashore, symbolizing the sound of the almighty GOD as HE spoke.
And at this point the LORD did speak from beyond that crystal sky, and above the heads of the angelic beings, appeared a majestic Throne made of blue sapphire. High above this throne was a figure shaped like a man, who, from the waist up, looked like gleaming, flickering amber. From the waist down, he looked like a burning flame, shining with splendor. All around him appeared a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining through the clouds.
This is how Ezekiel says the glory of GOD appeared to him, and when he saw it, he fell face down to the ground as he heard a voice speaking to him from Heaven (v.28). It was at this point that the voice commanded him to “Stand up”. The HOLY SPIRIT of GOD then entered into young Ezekiel and set him on his feet. He listened carefully as the LORD gave him his calling and commission to speak to the, still rebellious people, of Israel (Ezekiel 2:1-5).
In the book of Ezekiel the term “son of man” is used 90 times by GOD to address HIS servant Ezekiel. It is most likely used by GOD to remind Ezekiel of his human frailty, and his connection to the people that he was being commissioned to prophesy to. In the New Testament, the term “SON of man” is given to JESUS to emphasize HIS humanity, and HIS dependence on the HOLY SPIRIT of HIS FATHER GOD.
True prophets of GOD are called to demonstrate HIS message with their whole life and body, and only to a lesser degree, with their mouth. This is because the LORD knows that people will not listen to HIS prophets any more than they are willing to listen to HIM, through the reading of HIS Word. And so GOD makes HIS prophet just as hard and stubborn as the people whom HE sends them to communicate with (Ezekiel 3:6-9). GOD commands that HIS true prophets be willing to demonstrate HIS message to the people through physical acts, rather than words, most of the time (Ezekiel 3:24-27 & Ezekiel  chapters 4-5).
In the biblical Greek, the word used to describe “the goodness of GOD’s discipline”, or “righteous judgment”, is “dikaiosune” (dik-ah-yos-oo-nay). It is a term that explains how the object of GOD’s judgment is always for the promotion of HIS plan for us, and the building of our character so that we may be effective in carrying out HIS plan for us, HIS way, not ours, throughout the world.
The role of the “watchman” is to always remain at his post, keeping alert for the event of any danger that might threaten the security of that, or those which he is assigned to protect. His duty was limited, but it was extremely important. He was responsible to give an alarm to make those whom he was duty-bound to protect, aware of their impending, and immediate danger. However, if those whom he sought to protect did not take heed to his warning, he could not be held responsible for their injury or demise.
In Ezekiel chapter 3, verses 16-27, GOD tells Ezekiel that HE has appointed him as a “watchman” over Israel, and whenever he received a message from GOD, he was responsible to pass it on to the people immediately. Here the LORD tells Ezekiel that;

“If I warn the wicked saying, “You are under penalty of death, but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs. If you warn them and they keep on sinning and refuse to repent, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved your life because you did what you were told to do. If good people turn bad and don’t listen to MY warning, they will die. If you did not warn them of the consequences, then they will die in their sins. Their previous good deeds won’t help them, and I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs. But if you warn them and they repent, they will live, and you will have saved your own life too”.

It is a powerful warning to those who say they were called to teach and preach the Word of GOD. The LORD will not hold blameless, those who block others from salvation through false teaching, and disobedience to the GOD they say they believe and hold dear to their hearts.
True men of GOD talk only when GOD tells them to speak, that way, they are never in danger of “making stuff up”, saying the LORD told them something, and the LORD “hasn’t said anything”. The LORD probably restrains men of GOD just as much as HE tells them to act, or speak (Vs. 24-26). And most of the time, when HE does let us speak, most people will ignore us anyway (v.27), just like they ignored all of GOD’s prophets, including the greatest ONE of all, JESUS CHRIST.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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