By Wendy Wippel
The Book of Ezekiel, though considered one of the most difficult (and therefore least-read) books in the Old Testament) is really an amazing book, providing (albeit sometimes in fairly confusing imagery) a pretty straightforward timeline of Biblical prophecy starting with the nation’s being taken to Babylon in chains and ending with its future restoration. You might wanna read it now. Because Israel’s already busy fulfilling Ezekiel’s visions.
The prophet Ezekiel was part of the second group of captives taken to Babylon (members of the Royal family, including Daniel were first, and priests and skilled laborers were second).
Chapter one describes an event shortly after his arrival in Babylon:
1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. 2 On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, 3 the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there. (Ezekiel 1:1-3)
The River Chevar was near current day Nippur in Iraq.
It was at this place and time, that God began to show Ezekiel His plans for him. The fact that Ezekiel points out that he arrived in Babylon in his thirtieth year confirms that he recognized the significance of God’s timing.
Ezekiel was a priest, the son of a priest, and at thirty, he should be starting his priestly duties. But he had a problem. The Temple was a pile of rubble.
But God had a different priesthood in mind for Ezekiel. He was called to act as priest to all of future Israel, by faithfully reporting to God’s people what lay in their future and faithfully reporting what God would show him.
The first vision was God in His glory: (Notice that Ezekiel says that on this day he saw visions of God).
4 Then I looked, and behold, a whirlwind was coming out of the north, a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. 6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings. 7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze. 8 The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. 9 Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward….As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. 11 Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies. 12 And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went.13 As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.
The four living creatures appear surrounding God’s throne in Isaiah, here presented in the rolling consuming fire that represents his justice. (Hebrews 12:29)
15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. 16 The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. 17 When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. 18 As for their rims, they were so high they were awesome; and their rims were full of eyes, all around the four of them. 19 When the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. 20 Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, because there the spirit went; and the wheels were lifted together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures[c] was in the wheels. 21 When those went, these went; when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up together with them, for the spirit of the living creatures[d] was in the wheels. …26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; …. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
This passage, though the imagery is difficult to process, clearly means to represent to us earth-dwellers the unfathomable glory of His presence.
But it’s only difficult because we get lost and fail to realize the significance of the final sentence, which summarizes for us:
“It was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”
Then Ezekiel gets his marching orders:
And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” 2 Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me. 3 And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. 4 For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.
So he does.
For six years he prophesies against Judah. (This takes us through chapter 24.)
For the next two he concentrates on God’s judgment of the nations who gloat over Judah’s troubles.(Chapter 25-32.) And finally he comforts God’s people by reminding them that God has promised that he would never forsake, and uses Chapters 33-39 to affirm to Israel that their land would be reclaimed, the temple would be rebuilt, and God’s people, ultimately, would return to their God.
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit[a] of grace and supplication. They will look on[b] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, 13 the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, 14 and all the rest of the clans and their wives.(Zech 12:10)
The whole nation (what remains) will grieve for their sin and not realizing who He was.
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,And declare it in the isles afar off, and say,
‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’
11 For the Lord has redeemed Jacob… …. 14 I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:10-11, 14)
“I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance.”
God will again win the heart of his priests.
`For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved,[g] as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”[h]
God will cleanse His people, inside and out. Because that is the covenant He made with them.
And All Israel will be saved.
The thing is, that Ezekiel defines a timeline portrayed in a metaphor of bones:
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. 9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
What exactly is this metaphor supposed to describe?
Fortunately, God explains: 11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
The bones represent Israel’s history. The bones were scattered over a very large valley (the entire world), and they were very dry (they had been there quite a long time.)
Then the bones speak: Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’
After 2000 years of dispersal since their exile from their native land, they are a fragmented people. Scattered through every nation of the world.
Ezekiel then speaks to the bones, and the bones stir, then come together, bone to bone, to make a whole man. Followed by sinews, and then skin. Finally, the newly formed body began to breathe.
In case we missed the analogy, God makes it clear. in verse 11: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
Scattered throughout all the world, their “body dead” for 200 years, the nation of Israel was literally resurrected in 1948, as promised: I will bring you back to the land. (Ezekiel 37:12-14)
He would make them one permanently one country. (Ezekiel 38:1)
A coalition called Gog and Magog would come against that fledgling country. (Ezekiel 38:22)
God’s destruction of His people’s enemies sanctifies Himself in the sight of the nations and they will know that He is Lord. (Ezekiel 38:23)
And, finally, So the house of Israel that I am the Lord their God from that day forward. (Ezekiel 38:22)
And, it would seem, the firstfruits of that redemption may be accumulating right under our noses. The combined efforts of Christian and Messianic Jewish ministries are yielding significant fruit, particularly a Messianic movement that provides free videos to Israelis interested in knowing more about Jesus, “I met Messiah”.
One for Israel reports that 14 million video testimonies were viewed by seeking Jews just last year. And estimates are that upwards of 500 Jews did meet their Messiah just over one Feast of the Tabernacles event.
The Lord is calling His Chosen people to return: Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; For the Lord has redeemed Jacob And in Israel He shows forth His glory.
And that can only mean one thing. He’s about to call us graftees home.
Wait for the Lord!