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God on His throne August 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezekiel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Chronological Note: According to Ezekiel 1:1-3 Ezekiel dates his call to the ministry when he is thirty years old, five years after the deportation of King Jehoiachin, which is the fifth year of King Zedekiah in Judah.

When God Shows Up

Have you suffered some injustice in your life or been persecuted? Are you sick of the evil in our nation and the world? When will God show up and do something about this? Is He with us or not? The truth is, we do not know when God will show up, but this one thing we do know—He will show up and do something about it! In today's Bible reading we have an appearance of God. He shows up!

In Ezekiel 1-2 and Ezekiel 10 the prophet describes in the best way he can an appearance of God in all His glory, majesty, holiness, and power. John8thirtytwo publishing co. made a video of it, trying to capture what Ezekiel saw. You may wish to take a look at it here.

Why does God show up at this time? He showed up in a similar fashion in Isaiah's time, just before He judged Israel (more...). He used Assyria to destroy Israel because of her extreme wickedness. Now the Sovereign LORD shows up in Ezekiel's time.

There are a couple of things we can observe from today's Bible reading. First, although we may not see Him, God is with us in our trials as He was with the disobedient exiles. Second, He cares enough to do something; He assigns Ezekiel to be a watchman over the people.

What is a watchman? In Bible times, watchmen were stationed in the towers above the city walls. From that vantage point, they could see the whole countryside and warn the city of approaching invaders. Although we have not seen visions of God, He has given most of us responsibilities as parents, leaders, or teachers. What dangers do we see which threaten those under our care?

Ezekiel is a priest and prophet of the LORD. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian general captured him in the second raid of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Ezekiel now ministers among the Jewish exiles in Babylon, close to the Euphrates River in Kebar. Meanwhile, Jeremiah still remains as a prophet in Jerusalem.

One day, as the video shows, Ezekiel sees a vision of God with four strange looking creatures (“cherubim” according to Ezekiel 10:2). They are attending the throne of the Almighty God. The LORD is present with His people even in their difficulties and disobedience, and Ezekiel is awestruck at the site. God then gives Ezekiel his commission, his assignment.

Christians also have a commission to watch over people. To be an effective minister of Jesus Christ, however, we do not necessarily have to see a vision of Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe” John 20:29 (NIV). Even so, we do need a personal and real relationship with Him to be his watchmen. When we believe and receive Jesus as our Savior from sin, we receive forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). At this moment, God's Holy Spirit enters and gives us the power and grace to fulfill our mission.

Ezekiel’s assignment as a watchman is to minister to the exiled Israelites, a people who will not listen to him. This is certainly not an enviable task, but we can sympathize with him. Many of us are also called to teach or help rebellious children, youth, or adults who do not and will not listen. What do we do? Sometimes God calls us to stay with the task. The Scriptures say, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

You may say, “what if they won’t listen to our words?” Try God’s words.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).

Ezekiel is given the Word of God to eat (spiritually speaking) and proclaim it to the exiles. The Spirit of the LORD is on Ezekiel, and like God, Ezekiel is filled with anger and bitterness over the sins of Israel. His word from the LORD is judgment for the exiles' extreme wickedness. The Word of God is powerful and convicting to people who will listen. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV). Hard hearts need the hammer of God to break their rock-like will to pieces.

We still do not know, however (as in Ezekiel’s case), if God’s Word will break through hard hearts. What do we do if God’s words are not heeded? The answer is that we are not responsible for the outcome. But, like Ezekiel, we must courageously and faithfully proclaim the Word of God and persevere. This is our responsibility as spiritual watchmen. When we do that, God is pleased regardless of the outcome.

What if we consistently present God’s word and persevere, and it still does not work? God may lead us, like Ezekiel, to try object lessons to get their attention. We may recall that He did this with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13, 24).

Sometimes prophets were instructed to do some strange things. Ezekiel is told to draw the city of Jerusalem on a slate and then build siegeworks against it (a picture of the current Babylonian siege). Afterward, he is instructed to set up an iron pan like an iron wall that Jerusalem cannot break (perhaps this refers to the siege—it is impenetrable, or perhaps it refers to desperate prayers which will not be heeded because of their sins (Isaiah 59:2; Lamentations 3:44, The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.1235).

When Ezekiel is finished making a model of the siege works, he is then told to lie on one side for 390 days, one day for each year for the sins of Israel. Afterward, he is to lie 40 days on his other side, one day for each year of Judah’s sins. Scholars are not sure when the years of the sins of Israel and Judah were counted. Before lying on his side, each day he is given time to make preparations for scanty meals to eat, symbolizing the famine Jerusalem endures (Ezekiel 4:16-17).

Afterward, God instructs Ezekiel,

Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber's razor to shave your head and your beard [a sign of humility and mourning]. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair.

When the days of your siege come to an end [the siege he illustrated by laying on his side, eating poor, scanty meals], burn a third of the hair with fire inside the city [symbolizing death by famine and plague]. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city [symbolizing death by the sword for all those who fled the city]. And scatter a third to the wind [symbolizing exile of a third of the people]. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. But take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment [God will preserve a remnant of the people]. Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up [yet even some of these will not escape death in exile, Ezekiel 6:6-12, 7:15]. A fire will spread from there to the whole house of Israel [persecution will affect both those in Jerusalem and those exiled elsewhere, (Ezekiel 5:1-4, NIV; The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., pp.1236-7).

In future lessons, we will see Ezekiel do even more strange things. He will do them because the LORD is trying to get the attention of the Jewish exiles. The Israelites will not listen. Nevertheless, God still loves them and goes to great lengths to try to restore them. Because of our love for individuals, we also go to great lengths to get their attention. We are watchmen over their souls—we care about them and love them.

Footnote: there are other times God shows up: God sends His own Son to this earth to die in our place and offer us peace, forgiveness and spiritual life (more..). Jesus also shows up at the end of the age to conquer the world, bring peace, and rule and reign on this earth (see Revelation 19:11-21).

Lessons to Live By

  • We don't know when God will show up, but He will show up.
  • The LORD is present with us in our difficult circumstances, even when we are disobedient.
  • God has assigned Christians with spiritual responsibilities and holds them accountable for those under their charge.
  • It takes courage to proclaim God’s Word to those who are not listening. We need to pray for it.
  • God’s words are powerful and penetrating—much more than our reason and arguments—so it is wise to use them.
  • Object lessons are helpful to get peoples’ attention, when words alone may not suffice.
  • It is not loving to allow those under our influence to deceive themselves without intervening.
  • The LORD loves us enough to confront us when we are wrong.
  • If any of us do not know God, He offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more... ). Through his Spirit, we can have the power to endure tough times and fulfill our mission.

Focus Verse

Ezekiel 2:7a (NIV) “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen…”

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

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A Look Ahead: After sending prophets and using illustrations, God comes to The End of Talking. Read more in our Next Lesson.

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