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Ezekiel

God's Story in Scripture  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:26
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What’s in a name?

In Act II, Scene II of Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers have this encounter:
Juliet:
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I'll no longer be a Capulet
Romeo:
[Aside] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?
Juliet:
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself.
What is in a name? For Romeo - his name was scarred by his family name - for he was a Montague and his lover Juliet was from the hated Capulet family. They didn’t know they were enemies until their names were fully known.
But think about this phrase -
“what’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;”
We only know what a rose is because someone declared it so. But a name is an identifying marker. A name gives us a category. A name gives us some description. A name creates something upon which we can note a reputation. There is a lot in a name.
We only know about the Montague and Capulet families because of a fictitious play. But what about real life. If I say some names, you might immediately pair that name with some act or characteristic that both reveals some truth or perceived truth and reveals some knowledge.
For example
The New England Patriots - If you’re a fan of the Patriots, this name might make you think “most super bowl appearances” or one of the winningest teams of all time. But if you’re not a fan - you might think “cheaters.”
or let’s consider some presidents. If I say...
Donald Trump - certain words/phrases might come to mind. Whether these thoughts are true or not - they reveal something about his reputation or your knowledge of him.
or what about
Barak Obama - again - our natural biases, political leanings, and interpretation of news and history reveal what words we might attach to President Obama.
or what about...
God - when you think about God, what comes to your mind? What is his reputation? How did you come to that conclusion? Was it revealed by Him or interpreted by other influencers?
While God has revealed certain things about Himself in His creation and more specific things in His Word, one of the most influential ways that God’s reputation is established is through His people. How we live, how we speak, how we act in some ways establishes a reputation for God. I think this is true today and it was true back in the historical era of the Bible.
When we accurately reflect God’s character and reputation in our lives, He is honored. But when we are inaccurate - others can get the wrong impression about God. When we get so far out of sync with God’s true name and his reputation, then God sometimes has to act in extraordinary ways to defend his name and to disclose the truth about who He is. Which is what brings us to our study today as we look at the book of Ezekiel.

Background

The book of Ezekiel was authored by a man who had the role of both prophet and priest. He was trained as a priest in Judah. He was likely carried off into exile toward Babylon in his twenties in one of the first waves of exiles being removed from Jerusalem. He was called into ministry at the age of 30 and it seems like his teaching and prophecy lasted for a little over 20 years.
Like the other major prophets, the book of Ezekiel has a generally simple structure. The first half largely deals with messages for the people of Jerusalem regarding the coming judgment. The middle section contains some messages that focus on some of the surrounding nations. The final portion of the book deals with the coming restoration.
God seems to have gifted Ezekiel with an amazing means of communicating. He was called to used his body and his life as an object lesson on multiple occasions - the seige of Jerusalem, the length of the punishment, even the destruction of the temple as his wife dies - the “delight of [his] eyes.” What’s more, some of his sermons are filled with graphic details that depict the depth of Israel’s rebellion (ch. 16).
Where Ezekiel differs from Isaiah and Jeremiah is that his material seems to be centered largely around three sets of fantastic visions.

Three Visions

The Vision of the Glory of God - Ch. 1-3

This first vision seems to be indescribable. Ezekiel seems to be doing his best to describe what he is seeing - but to picture what he sees creates some odd images in our minds. Consider a bit of what he saw:
Ezekiel 1:4–14 ESV
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.
The vision continues - but you can kind of get the picture. In these first chapters, Ezekiel not only sees this vision, but then receives his commission from God to be a prophet. In his commission, he ingests the word of God on a scroll (3:1-3) and then is called to be a watchman for the people (3:16ff). As the watchman, Ezekiel would be held responsible in the event that he received a word from God but did not pass it along. He is placed with a heavy burden.
Mark Dever notes that this vision seems to communicate that God is unlike us. He is unlike anything that we can fully understand or know. He is holy and wholly different. And yet it is this great, “all-powerful,” “all-wise” God (who can see in all directions at all times) who “takes the initiative” and “communicates” to His people (p. 639-641). God is the one who is revealing himself to Ezekiel. God is the one who is giving Ezekiel the message to share.
Romans 1 tells us that God has been communicating through His creation from the beginning of time.
Romans 1:19–20 ESV
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
But not only has God communicated through his creation, but he has communicated through His Word - granting us more specific understanding of who he is.
He has even taken the initiative to provide a means of reconciliation for our sins, even before we recognized we had sin - “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Just as we can’t fully comprehend or imagine Ezekiel’s vision, God is incomprehensible and grand.
In many ways, this opening vision lays the foundation for two primary messages that we see throughout the book:
the name of God - or his reputation
the knowledge of the true God
We will consider those in a few moments.
The second vision that marks Ezekiel is...

The Vision of God’s Glory Departing from the Temple (ch. 8-11)

As Ezekiel is sitting in his home near Babylon with some of the elders of Judah, he gets a second vision. Here is some of what he saw:
Ezekiel 8:2–4 ESV
Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the gateway of the inner court that faces north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the valley.
He even references the previous vision as a depiction of the glory of God as he is transported in the vision several hundred miles to view the temple and Jerusalem.
In this vision, Ezekiel observes the abominations that the people of Judah are committing in the temple. There was idolatry in God’s temple and the people assumed that God could not see them (8:10-12).
As a sign that God had rejected the people of Judah, just as they had rejected him, God’s glory departs from the temple.
Ezekiel 10:18–19 ESV
Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.
God’s glory partially left. It’s still in town - for now.
But even in this departure, there is a sense of hope. You see, just as God had communicated through Jeremiah a few years earlier (Jer. 32:29), God reiterates His plan to Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 11:16–21 ESV
Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.”
God’s glory had been protecting them. The result will be the exile. And yet this exile will result in a change of heart for some of the people as He gives them a new heart to love, honor, and worship Him.
The vision concludes with God’s glory completely departing:
Ezekiel 11:22–23 ESV
Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, with the wheels beside them, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.
The people had traded the indescribable glory of God’s presence for the temporary pleasure of man-made idols and humanistic worship practices. It didn’t seem to matter to them that God’s presence had left them.
One of the joys that we have of being called to be God’s people is that we have His Spirit within us. He resides or dwells with us. I do wonder if we notice? Do I notice? When we pray, do we recognize that we are communicating with our great and awesome God who sees all things, from the beginning to the end? Do we believe that he is able to accomplish what he says he will? When we worship Him - in whatever way we worship - song, reading, prayer, fellowship, listening - do we worship Him for who he really is - or are we simply fulfilling a habit or getting a God fix?
Following this vision - Ezekiel preaches in practical and powerful ways to the people of Judah and to the nations surrounding Jerusalem.
The final vision that Ezekiel sees is one that we might be tempted to zoom past because it’s a detailed...

Vision of the New Temple and Israel’s restoration(ch. 40-48)

God gives Ezekiel a vision, again, of what will happen as he gets to see the a new temple. His vision happens about 25 years after he was initially exiled, and roughly 14 years after the temple had been destroyed (ESVSB, p. 1564). As in the first vision where Ezekiel saw the temple and the abominations of the people of Judah, so this time, he gets to see a new temple.
In this vision, Ezekiel sees a man measuring every detail of the temple and displaying its grandeur and splendor. Every detail is addressed.
But the best part of this temple is not the temple itself, its the presence of God.
Ezekiel 43:1–5 ESV
Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.
Whether this temple and its specifications are real or symbolic, the message is clear - that God will again dwell with His people. God will restore Judah after the exile.
Even though God dwells within us now by His Spirit, the Apostle Paul appropriately reflects on the fact that we see and experience now, pales in comparison to when we will truly be with God and He with us.
1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
What a joy that will be when we will see God face to face and more fully know and understand Him!
Which brings us to our final point of consideration.

Why did God do the things He did?

Why did God go through all of the trouble of bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt, dealing with their rebellion in the wilderness and their wanderings during the time of the judges? Why did God allow them to set up Kings who would lead them astray? Why did God appoint pagan kingdoms to conquer His people and take them off to exile? Why does God promise to bring them back and restore them? Why does He love us enough to deal with our sin by placing the consequence for our sin on His Son? Why does He patiently wait for us to respond?
The book of Ezekiel seems to tell us that there are two primary reasons - God is defending his name and disclosing Himself to humanity so that we will know He is the one true God.
God does what he does because...

He is defending His holy name (ch. 36:16ff)

There are 12 different times throughout the book that God says he acted for the sake of His name.
What is His name?
Let’s go back for a moment to consider what God revealed about Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai as He constituted the nation as a people for Himself.
Exodus 34:5–7 ESV
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
You see, God revealed at the outset that He is merciful, patient, and loving. He also revealed that He is just - which speaks to His holiness and perfection.
In Ezekiel 36, God reveals clearly to Ezekiel why he did what he did. You see, they dishonored the name of the Lord in the land in which He provided for them.
Ezekiel 36:16–19 ESV
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them.
But it didn’t only affect them. They were representing God to the nations.
Ezekiel 36:20 ESV
But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’
And so, when his own people refused defend his holy name, God stepped up.
Ezekiel 36:21 ESV
But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.
God goes on to communicate through Ezekiel
Ezekiel 36:22–28 ESV
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Beloved, how often have we misrepresented the holy name of God? How often have we spoken in judgment of someone else, only to be guilty of a more heinous sin in secret? In doing that, I think, we dishonor the holy name of God.
What things do we need to confess before the Lord that contain abominations toward Him?
You see, as God’s ambassadors, we represent Him to the world around us. How well are we doing that?
But finally, there is another reason that God acts the way that He does throughout Israel’s history and into our history.

He is disclosing Himself to the world

There are 72 different times in the book of Ezekiel that God communicates that He does what he does so that people will “know that I am the Lord.”
When he punishes his people - it is so that they will know that He is God. In his discipline, He demonstrates his holiness and justice. He has been patient long enough.
Ezekiel 5:13 ESV
“Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the Lord—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them.
There are many more verses that we can look at in this category - but as with defending the honor of His name, God acts in this way toward his people so that they will know Him.
You see, if God was only ever patient - they would never turn. If all he ever did was speak, but never acted, they would see Him as fraud and a liar.
But when God acts in decisive judgment, the people get a clearer picture of who God is.
Beyond simply acting toward His people this way...
When He punishes the nations - it is so that they will know that He is God. He will not have His people treated the way that they have treated Israel. The gods they serve are no match for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the one true God. He is the one who is incomparable to all others. As we’ve already seen, He’s practically indescribable.
Consider what He says toward the region of Sidon:
Ezekiel 28:22–23 ESV
and say, Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will manifest my glory in your midst. And they shall know that I am the Lord when I execute judgments in her and manifest my holiness in her; for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in her midst, by the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the Lord.
But not only is God disclosing him self through punishment and discipline..
When God restores His people - it is so that they will know that He is God. He demonstrates His steadfast love and faithfulness. He demonstrates His forgiveness. He proves His covenantal love.
Ezekiel 36:32–36 ESV
It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. “Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.
When God disclosed His glory to Ezekiel - He helped Ezekiel see that He is unique and different.
When God showed Ezekiel the picture of His glory departing, God disclosed that He is still holy and just and is taking action - bringing his justice.
When God forgives the sin of the Israelites and restores them - He is disclosing His forgiving nature.
When God sent his son into the world, He disclosed the depth of His love toward us.
John 3:16–17 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Friend - if you are not yet a follower Jesus - repent of your sin, acknowledge your fallenness and receive His forgiveness.
Beloved - we are God’s ambassadors. We represent Him to this world. Our actions either bring Him honor or dishonor. Stand in awe of our great God. Relish his dwelling presence in us. Express gratitude for the grace that He bestows on us, each and every day.
References:
Craigie, Peter C., The Old Testament: It’s Background, Growth, and Content (Abington, Nashville, 1987)
Dever, Mark, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made, (Crossway, Wheaton, 2006)
Longman III, Tremper; Raymond B. Dillard; An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd Ed. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2006)
McConville, Gordon. Exploring the Old Testament: The Prophets. Vol. 4. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2002
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