The Glory of the Lord

November Reading Tips
Nov. 1, 2020
Keith Phillips

Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord

Among the ten thousand Jews taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in his second invasion of Judah (597 B.C) was a man named Ezekiel, who’s name means “God strengthens”. This was the one whom God now chose to be His mouthpiece to the defeated and exiled nation. Ezekiel was to be God’s prophet to the exiles, while Daniel would serve as God’s ambassador to the court of the captor king. Ezekiel was the prophet of the captivity.

The book of Ezekiel underscores the essential truths concerning the glory of the Lord and His transcendent majesty (1:1b, 28b; 2:3; and 3:23). Whereas the prophet Isaiah stressed the salvation of the Lord, Jeremiah the judgment of the Lord, and Daniel the kingdom of the Lord—Ezekiel highlights the sovereignty and splendor of the Lord. And it is upon the glorious backdrop of God’s divine sovereignty that the people’s spiritual condition will exposed in its darkness and depravity.

So it is that Ezekiel’s purpose is twofold as evidenced by the two main divisions of the book itself: 1) To promote repentance and faith by warning of God’s imminent judgment upon Jerusalem and the nations; and 2) To stimulate hope and trust in God through a promised message of assurance and future restoration.

The first message was given during the first six years of Ezekiel’s ministry (ca. 592-586 B.C.), stressing that Jerusalem and the temple would be utterly destroyed. Its purpose was to warn a generation of obstinate and hardened Israelites of impending judgment (2:3-8), to underscore each generation’s accountability for sin (18:20), and to call those willing to heed the counsel to “repent and live” (18:21-23, 32). For this reason, Ezekiel has often been called, “the prophet of personal responsibility.”

After the fall and destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.), however, Ezekiel became the prophet of hope, foretelling of Israel’s final restoration. At this time, Ezekiel turned his attention to the nations surrounding Israel who had been active participants in or gleeful onlookers to the “day of Jacob’s trouble” (chaps. 25-32). In chapters 33-48 Ezekiel instills hope, among the captive Hebrew remnant, by encouraging them with the promise of a new “covenant of peace” superintended by the promised “Davidic shepherd” (34:20-31). In short, he provided them with a detailed picture of their future glory and holiness, lest they settle down in the prosperous ways of Babylon and forget the holy city, Jerusalem.

In many respects, one may consider Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry to be a bit unorthodox, or at the very least, odd. For example, we learn such facts from this book that Ezekiel was a recluse at times; he experienced temporary paralysis; he was mute for a period of time (3:26), he lay motionless on his side for months (4:4); he was bound by ropes in his own house (3:25); he was ordered not to mourn for his dead wife (24:16-17); and he packed all of his belongings and dug through the city walls.

To us, these actions likely sound rather bizarre.  But we must keep in mind that Ezekiel was dealing with a stubborn, stiff-necked people who continuously refuse to listen to the Word of the Lord through the mouth of the prophet. They had rejected numerous warnings given Jeremiah. They had ignored the cries of Zephaniah concerning the Day of the Lord. And they had disregarded the prophecies of Habakkuk that God would use Babylon as His instrument of their doom. Simply put, this rebellious people remained unmoved by every normal style of communication.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the book of Ezekiel abounds with numerous genres and styles including visions, parables, allegories, apocalyptic imagery, metaphor, dramatic action, sermon, rhetorical questions, argument, proverbs, riddles, and various symbolic acts. To be sure, no other prophet made such liberal use of pictorial language or visual aids than the prophet Ezekiel. In fact, this book is one of the richest anthologies or collections of Hebrew literary forms in the OT.

Specifically, Ezekiel is known as “the Prophet of Visions.” The very first verse of his book reads, “The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” A vision was a miraculous experience of a prophet of God, whereby God revealed truth to him in some pictorial and audible form. Visions could vary in kind, differing in such things as length, intensity, number of symbols, and whether the vision was perceived in the spirit, as in a dream, or by the conscious physical senses. There are six visions recorded in Ezekiel:
1.Vision of the Cherubim (1:4-28)
2.Vision of the Scroll (2:9―3:3)
3.Vision of the Plain (3:22-23)
4.Visions of Jerusalem
a) Four abominations in the Temple (8:1-18)
b) Inhabitants of the city slain (9:1-11)
c) City destroyed by fire (10:1-22)
d) Departure of God’s glory (11:1-25)
5.Vision of Dry Bones (37:1-10)
6.Vision of the New Temple and Associated Scenes (40:1―48:35)

Ezekiel, perhaps more than any other prophet, also taught by symbolic actions. In fact, God told Ezekiel, “I have set you as a sign to the house of Israel” (12:6). So his symbolic actions were, in reality revelatory signs that were intended to grab the attention of the bullish people. Following is a list of the main symbolic actions of the prophet Ezekiel:
Ezekiel’s descriptive words and symbolic actions served to underscore the urgency of this hour in Judah’s history as YHWH’s wrath was about to be unleashed against them. Further, it gave ‘shock’ value to a nation that was otherwise calloused by sin. His bold and provocative language was designed to captivate the attention of his listeners and impress God’s truth to their hard hearts, leading them to repentance and faith.