“Don’t worry,” Danny chided his friends. “I can get away with anything. I’m my father’s favorite.” Danny’s dad had gone out of town, leaving his new sports car in the garage. Danny was allowed to drive the family van, but not the sports car. “Come on, you guys,” he continued, “Dad will never even know.” The drive to the movie was great. Girls honked and guys stared. “See,” Danny said. “No problem. It sure beats the old van!” His friends had to agree. After the movie, they headed to the car. It was late, and the parking lot was no longer full. “Danny! Danny!” one of his friends suddenly yelled when he reached the car. “Oh no!” There was a broken window and wires dangled where the stereo used to be. “What are we going to do?” another friend asked. “Your father will kill us!” Danny smiled weakly. “Hey, I’m my dad’s favorite. No sweat!” Israel reacted like Danny. They thought they could get away with anything. The book of Ezekiel was written to Jews who were captives in Babylon. They were “God’s favorites.” Surely Jerusalem (their capital) would not be harmed, and they would return home very soon. Ezekiel corrected their thinking: they were captives in Babylon because they had disobeyed God. Though they were his chosen people, God could not overlook sin. Ezekiel reminds us that no one can sin without punishment. Just as God loves us, he also loves justice. As you read Ezekiel, stand in awe of the God who judges all sin. Then thank Him for providing a way (through Jesus) to escape the judgment that we all deserve for our sins. Thank Him for a giving us a new heart to desire living for Him.
Ezekiel’s life spanned a period of significant political upheaval in the world. He lived through the decline of Assyrian domination only to see the rise of the all-powerful Babylonian Empire. When God called him to be a prophet, Ezekiel was 30 years old and had been an exile in Babylon for five long, difficult years. The new prophet was already a leader among the exiles, and their hardships and sufferings weighed heavily upon him. From a human perspective, they were in a hopeless situation, and it looked as though their sad circumstances were not going to change. Ezekiel saw nothing on the horizon that would offer the exiles any hope that they would be set free from their captivity. Yet as a prophet, he had to make sure that they remained strong under the weight of their horrible suffering.
Unknown to Ezekiel was the fact that his entire life would be spent as an exile in Babylon. Thus his prophetic ministry was to be under the most difficult, trying circumstances imaginable, for he would never be freed from the hardships and pain of exile. Furthermore Ezekiel would suffer the additional pain of being continually rejected by the exiles who rebelled against the Lord and His Holy Word.
Purpose: To announce God’s judgment on Israel and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people
Original Audience: The Jews in captivity in Babylonia
Date Written: Approximately 571 B.C.
Setting: Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoiachin. He was taken there in 597 B.C.
Key Verse: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:26).
- God’s Holiness
Ezekiel saw a vision that revealed God’s absolute moral perfection. God was spiritually and morally superior to members of Israel’s corrupt and compromising society. Ezekiel wrote to let the people know that God in his holiness was also present in Babylon, not just in Jerusalem. Because God is morally perfect, he can help us live above our tendency to compromise with this world. When we focus on his greatness, he gives us the power to overcome sin and to reflect his holiness.
God’s people had sinned, and God’s punishment came. The fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile were used by God to correct the rebels and draw them back from their sinful way of life. Ezekiel warned them that not only was the nation responsible for sin but each individual was also accountable to God. We cannot excuse ourselves from our responsibilities before God. We are accountable to God for our choices. Rather than neglect him, we must recognize sin for what it is—rebellion against God—and choose to follow him instead.
Ezekiel consoles the people by telling them that the day will come when God will restore those who turn from sin. God will be their King and shepherd. He will give his people a new heart to worship him, and he will establish a new government and a new Temple. The certainty of future restoration encourages believers in times of trial. But we must be faithful to God because we love him, not merely for what he can do for us. Is our faith in him or merely in our future benefits?
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