Ezekiel Points Forward to Jesus Christ, the Ultimate
from some well-known verses that clearly predict Jesus, the Old Testament
prophets remain largely unchartered territory for most of us. When we open
Ezekiel, we found that it contains a mix of oral discourses, visions, symbolic
actions, allegories and apocalyptic. The visions in chapter 1 have already made
us dizzy. The country, culture, and chronology gaps are huge and seem to be
unbridgeable. Many of us wonder, is it worth the effort? Some of us take
Ezekiel as a book with high level theology. They would like to study it in
Sunday class or in seminar for increasing their knowledge on Bible. But they
don’t think, from bottom of their hearts, the message of Ezekiel as relevant to
their daily Christian life. But is the
message of Ezekiel too old to be relevant to the twenty-first-century
In fact, the prophets reveal
Jesus and they do so in many varies and remarkable ways. Every Old Testament
prophet points forward to Jesus Christ, the ultimate Prophet, from many
perspectives such as our needs, to the divine calling, varied descriptions,
divine revelations, covenantal role and even the rejection from congregation. Ezekiel is not an exemption. I would like to invite you to discover Jesus
Christ from these passages with me together. At the end of this study, I am
sure, you would find out that our study is very rewarding.
In the first chapter of book of Ezekiel, we can see “the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of
Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand (also
translated as Spirit)of the LORD was upon him there.”(Ezek. 1:3). The Lord
spoke to Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28). Then he was able to see the Kingdom (Ezek. 1:1-28). Once Ezekiel had been humbled by the
vision of God (ch. 1), he was prepared to hear the voice of God (ch.2-3).
The demand to eat
the scroll immediately tests Ezekiel’s obedience, a matter of contrast with the
rebelliousness of his compatriots. The progression from command to compliance
moves through three moments of speech and response (2:8–10; 3:1–2; 3:3).
God gave him contained messages of “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” This is a bitter message. This symbolized the
message that Ezekiel was to deliver in the early part of his ministry and also
spoke of the effect it would have on sensitive hearers. They would have to hear
that the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity are necessary measures
for the God of grace to employ if He is to correct His disobedient people and
draw them back from complete and permanent apostasy. It would make them lament,
mourn and cry out “Woe, woe!”
God directed Ezekiel to eat what he saw before him.
He must make God’s word part of himself before he tried to share it with the
house of Israel. The preacher must digest and assimilate the message he
proclaims so that it becomes, as it
were, a very part of his being (cf. Jer. 15:16).
Since it was God’s word, Ezekiel found the scroll
sweet to his taste, just like the poet experienced “how sweet are your words to
my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”(Ps. 119:103). This symbolized the
message of hope that Ezekiel was to deliver in the later part of his ministry. Jehovah
will restore a repentant remnant of His chastened people and establish them in
a glorious latter-day theocracy with a new temple. This is a sweet
message! The purpose of Ezekiel’s
ministry is to encourage the exiles to remain faithful to the Lord so that he
would fulfil his offer to restore them to the promised land and rebuild the
temple and Jerusalem to new heights of glory.
As we all know, every Old Testament prophet points
forward to Jesus Christ, the Prophet, eating the scroll, the learning process of Ezekiel, can be also
seen in Jesus’ early life. Even Jesus himself has to grow in knowledge. He learned
his past, his purpose, his principle, and his people from Scripture, and his
learning source is just the scroll Ezekiel ate.
The prophet received divine
revelations. The prophet's message was the result not of his own reasoning,
insight, or observations but of divine revelation. God said, "(I) will put
My words in His mouth ... He shall speak to them all that I command Him."
The prophet had a strict concern to communicate the exact words spoken to him
-the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The carefulness and
faithfulness with which the prophets heard and spoke the exact words of God, no
more and no less, build expectation of the supreme carefulness and faithfulness
with which Jesus Christ, the Prophet, heard and spoke what God revealed to Him. Jesus
claimed that “my teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is
to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am
speaking on my own authority”(John 7:16-17).
and His Congregation (3:1-11)
The divine calling and commissioning of every Old
Testament prophet point toward the divine calling and commissioning of Jesus
Christ, the Prophet. Ezekiel was called to be prophet for the same purpose.
Ezekiel’s obedient response, the emphasis shifts from prophet to people, though
both remain in view. The command to eat is now combined with the commission to
go and speak. The command to go and speak is repeated in v. 11, framing this
second speech. While the first speech emphasized divine sending (2:3–4), here
the focus is on the prophet’s going.
After eating the scroll, Ezekiel was now equipped
to go to the house of Israel and speak the word of God. Strength and courage
were necessary equipment for a prophet, especially when preaching judgment.
Jeremiah was similarly equipped (see Jer 1:18; cf. Isa 50:7). As there were no
linguistic, cultural or geographical obstacles, the people should listen to
him. Sadly the reverse was true. The untaught heathen would have responded to
his message better than Israel. However he should not take rejection
personally. Because the messenger is the representative of the sender, to
reject the messenger is to reject the sender. The Lord identifies His
messengers with Himself (v. 7; cf. Luke 10:16; John. 8:42, 47; 13:20).
Early in chapter 2, to prepare him for his mission
God first strengthened Ezekiel. The Lord addressed Ezekiel as “son of man” more
than 90 times. The phrase emphasized Ezekiel’s humanity and frailty, especially
in contrast with his recent vision of the glory of God. Most of the time the
phrase “son of man” precedes a direct command of God. The first command that
God gave to Ezekiel was: “Stand upon they feet, and I will speak unto thee”
(2:1). Service, not servility, was what God required. With the command came the
inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit.
The varied representations of the prophets revealed
the varied dimensions of their ministries. For example, the Hebrew word for
prophet means "a called person." Its Greek translation can mean
"to tell forth (preach) or foretell (predict)." Other designations
include a seer (of visions), a servant, a messenger, a watchman, or simply the
man of God. Ezekiel almost has all of these designations.
Every designation or description of a prophet
reveals a little about the one Prophet who fitted these designations perfectly,
God wants Ezekiel to be prepared for disappointment
(2: 3-5). He warned Ezekiel that his congregation would be “rebellious,”
“impudent,” and “stiff hearted.” Their hard faces revealed their hard hearts!
Whether or not they listened, he was to preach with authority so that they
would know that a prophet has been among them (2:5). The converted would know
this by the comfort of his ministry; the unconverted would know it by the
convictions of his ministry.
God want Ezekiel to be fearless despite
intimidation (2: 6-7). Four times the Lord told his messenger that he must not
fear his audience, who are compared to thorns, thistles and scorpions. You can
tell from this how terrible his congregation is. Ezekiel must expect to be
pierced through on many occasions and stung by their criticism and personal
attacks. As God’s representative, however, Ezekiel must not be intimidated,
neither by their fierce looks nor threatening words (Matt. 23:29-31, 34, 37).
Ezekiel’s congregation, the rebellious house, was
illustrated as an image of “dry bones” later in the chapter 37. The dry bones symbolized spiritually dead
people. In order to have them revived,
Ezekiel is instructed to preach the words to the bones and “preach” to the wind
(or “Spirit”) (Ezek. 37:4-10). This speaks the primacy of preaching. Because
that’s the only way to convert sinner and sanctify saints. Ministers must
preach the Word only and trust that God’s Word would not return to Him void
(Isa. 55:10–11). That is why apostles understood that they needed to devote
themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word”(Acts 6:4). If you want
me summarize Jesus’s earthly ministry with one verse, I would choose Matthew
9:35:“Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their
synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease
and every affliction.” It’s all about preaching! God’s minister has to preach God’s Word in a
very bold manner. This is summarized by the Apostles with a Greek word parrēsia(Acts 4:13, 29, 31; 2Cor.3:12; 7:4;Eph.
6:19; 1Tim. 3:13; John 7:26). It means
to preach God’s Word boldly, openly, plainly, with confidence and liberty. It usually used on Godly men in the New Testament.
But before preaching, a preacher has
to listen carefully and take
to heart. The prophet is to stand in marked contrast to the people, who do not
A Voice of a Great Earthquake (3:12-15)
than once describes his visionary experiences in terms of transport by the
Spirit (3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 40:1 -3; 43:5). Simultaneous events are being
described: Ezekiel is being taken away, but at the same time the throne of the
Lord is departing. The departure of the glory of God is accompanied by the same
sensory experiences as its approach (cf. 1:24). There is ambiguity in the
Hebrew ruakh: “Spirit” implies the
divine spirit, but, given the stormy setting, “wind” or the Spirit manifested
in the form of wind is also possible. However, there is a tacit “transportation”
here (see 3:15), and the parallels in 8:3 and 37:1 point toward this certainly
being the divine Spirit in action in some form. In the audience with God, the
living creatures have been momentarily forgotten, but their movement brings
them dramatically into focus once more. They want Ezekiel to pay attention on
the the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its
place!” (3:12) This verse touches the theme of Ezekiel: God’s glorious presence
departs in justice and returns in mercy.
The temple and city of Jerusalem had
become so defiled by sin, especially idols in the sanctuary, that God's
glorious presence could no longer stay there. The glory of God rises up and
away from the cherubim in the Most Holy place (9:3). It then moves to the
threshold of the temple (9:3: 10:4) and pauses. The glory next
"whirls" (10:13) away from the doorstep of the temple and rests for a
time above the cherubim on the divine throne chariot (10:18). God was mounting
His throne-chariot to ride out of His temple and city. Before God left both the
temple and the city, there was a final pause. Finally the glory leaves the city
and stands on the mountain overlooking Jerusalem (11:22-23) and
"Ichabod" can be written over it.
Have you observed how many stops and pauses
God departs? What those stops and pauses
tell you? They tell us that he was
reluctant to depart. He was looking for someone who would intercede with him to
return. None of the priests in the inner
court, between the temple and the altar, would court his stay; therefore he
leaves their court, and stands at the east gate, which led into the court of
the people, to see if any of them would yet at length stand in the gap. That’s
what God wants Ezekiel to do. God called him to stand between an angry God and
a sinful people. Ezekiel reminds us of
our need for a prophetic mediator and anticipates God's provision of Jesus
Christ, the Prophet.
The preacher must know two things. The first priority
of any preacher is to be attuned to God’s word. So Ezekiel was told to take
into his heart “all my words which I shall speak unto thee.” He must “listen
closely” whenever God spoke to him (3. 10). A good preacher must first be a
good listener. Secondly, the preacher must also be attuned to the needs of his
audience. For this reason God commissioned Ezekiel to go to the captives (3:11).
He sat with them near the river Chebar for seven days. This was a time of
reflection and observation as he pondered God’s word and the people’s needs.
language echoing 1:1–3, Ezekiel’s visionary encounter with the Spirit draws to
an end. It is tempting to think of going in bitterness in the heat of my spirit
simply as a state of agitation following this traumatic encounter, and the
translation “in the heat” leaves open this possibility. But this idiom appears
30 times in the OT, and the ESV generally translates it “in wrath” or “in fury”
or the like. Probably this nuance also applies here. Ezekiel has gained a
divine perspective on his people’s sin, and his anger reflects that shared
viewpoint. His bitterness of spirit may have been reluctance to go, or it may
have been that he was filled with righteous anger over the sin of Israel. We
can imaging nobody would like to go to that kind of congregation without any
hesitation and every preacher “dwells” in such a rebellious house would be
“overwhelmed” as Ezekiel experienced. In
any case, he was very conscious that “the hand of the Lord was strong” on him.
He felt God’s power filling him (3:14).
The picture that Ezekiel dwelt among his fellow captured people and preached God’s words
to them (Ezek. 3:1-27) reminds us Jesus Christ. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”(John 1:14). We also read “when he went ashore he saw a
great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep
without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things”(Mark 6:34) .
Who Was Warned to Warn (3:16–21)
The phrase “The Word of the Lord came” (3:16)
occurs more than 50 times in Ezekiel, more than any other prophetic book. Ezekiel is assigned duty as an early warning system for Judah. This
role is rehearsed and elaborated in 33:1-9, the passage introducing the second
phase of Ezekiel’s ministry.
Ezekiel’s appointment to serve
as a “watchman” for Israel- a metaphor drawn from urban life. His special task
as watchman is spelled out here; its urgency is more fully elaborated in ch.
18. In ancient Israel, watchmen were stationed on city walls to serve as the
eyes of the city (see 2Sa 18:24–27; 2Ki 9:17–20; SS 3:3; 5:7; Isa 52:8; 62:6),
especially to warn of approaching danger (see 33:2–3, 6; Ps 127:1; Isa 21:6;
56:10; Jer. 6:17; Hos 9:8).
This role entailed responsibility for those to whom
he ministered and a duty to warn them of an impending threat. He was warned to
warn the citizens in the city. Failure to issue the warning would make him
accountable for the deaths that resulted; if the warning went unheeded, Ezekiel
would be exonerated. It was unthinkable that the residents of a city would
ignore the warning cry of a watchman, but Ezekiel’s word was largely
disregarded. Many people are puzzled wonder why such a strange thing would
happen, just as many people are puzzled by what Jesus quoted the prophecy of
Isaiah “lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and
understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Matt. 13:15; John
The picture of city’s watchman is clearly
illustrated as a trumpet man in chapter 33, where the same message is uttered.
Ezekiel was called by God (v. 7) and called by the people (v. 2) to be a
watchman, who hears God’s word of warning (v. 7). He warns as a trumpet man who
blows truthfully (v. 8), clearly, loudly, constantly, compassionately (v. 10).
He has to be an accountable man. If he does not blow, he will be damned (v. 6)
and he will be judged (v. 6,8). But he is also a limited man. Because he blows
but no one listens (v. 4) but he is not to be blamed (v. 9).
This speaks about the necessity of preaching.
Puritans had a profound sense on this. They considered preaching as God’s great
“converting ordinance,” they said. Seldom would anyone be converted apart from
it. William Ames wrote, “Preaching is the ordinance of God, sanctified for the
begetting of faith, for the opening of the understanding, for the drawing of
the will and affections to Christ.” Not
surprisingly, therefore, they were experientially acquainted with Paul’s
statement, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16), and
loved to quote it. Paul also echoed Ezekiel’s message to remind Timothy “devote
yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. …….
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a
close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing
you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1Tim. 4:13-16). Thomas Hall put
it this way: “Ministers must be preachers. They not only may but they must
preach. There is a necessity backed with a woe (1 Cor. 9:16). So that they must
either preach or perish: this must be done or they are undone.”
A Stumbling Stone (3:20)
One of the most important
principles of biblical interpretation is that Scripture interprets Scripture.
This means that the best way to discover what a problem passage means is to see
what other verses dealing with the same theme say. Scripture always illuminates
Scripture, and the comparison of Scripture with Scripture is the only sure way
to study the Bible accurately.
When Paul talks about Israel’s unbelief in Romans 9:32-33, he says “…
They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion
a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one
who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’”
Paul introduces an image to illustrate what he has been saying in the
earlier half of the paragraph of chapter 9 in Romans, namely, that Israel had not
obtained salvation because the people as a whole had been offended by Jesus,
rather than believing him or placing their faith in him. His image is of a
“stumbling stone,” which is what he calls Jesus, drawing on two passages in
Isaiah for the illustration. Yet these are not the only places in the Bible
where we find this image, and a careful study of the many passages there are
shows how rich a theme this was, not only for Paul but for many of the New
Testament figures, including Jesus. This image of “stumbling stone” is also
shown in the
passage we are studying (Ezek. 3:30).
Israelites in Jerusalem “pursued a law that would lead to
righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not
pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over
the stumbling stone (Rom. 9:31-32).
Paul spoke about this in an autobiographical way in 1 Corinthians 1:22–25,
27–29, saying that the gospel of Jesus and his cross was “weakness” to the
Romans, “foolishness” to the Greeks, but a cause of “stumbling” to the Jews.
They did not believe that Judah and Jerusalem deserved the
judgment of total destruction and exile.
A very interesting example appears in
chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John, where the discipleship was tested by
the doctrine. The Lord Jesus Christ had been popular. Many had followed him.
Then, as he began to teach, his doctrine became the measure of his followers’
discipleship, and most dropped away.
John says, “On hearing it, many of his disciples
said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ ” And he adds, “Aware that
his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this ensnare
you?’ ” (John 6:60–61). The reason lies in the fact that Christ’s teachings
were “hard” to accept. The Greek word is sklēros,
and it clearly does not mean “hard to understand.” It means “hard to tolerate.”
So long as Christ’s followers could not understand him, they stayed around and
asked questions. It was when they did understand him that they went elsewhere. They
left because what they heard was so contrary to their own views that they would
not accept it.
When interpreting “The verb translated ensnare (σκανδαλίζει from σκάνδαλον, the
bait-stick in a trap or snare; this crooked stick springs the trap)”, William
Hendriksen says “it does not merely signify offend, nor, on the other hand,
does it mean kill; it means: cause to fall into a trap, here in the figurative
sense; hence, cause to sin. Jesus, therefore, is asking whether by his sermon
these hearers have actually been seduced or led into sin.” Subsequently, they
would despise and reject the preacher due to his message (Isa. 53:3; John 6:6
is how “stumbling stone” works.
Just as Jesus “came to his own, and his own people
did not receive him”(John1:11), Ezekiel would be opposed and rejected by his
with the first false prophet's "Has God said?" in the garden of Eden,
all of God's prophets have been contradicted in the ongoing spiritual battle
with the father of lies and his mouthpieces. The rejection of God's messengers
and their messages prefigured the rejection of God's greatest Messenger and
Message, Jesus Christ.
This applies to our own day and to ourselves.
Often, when professing Christians criticize a true servant of God, one who is
really giving out God’s truth, and complain that his teachings are “hard,” the
real cause is not the difficulty of the doctrine but rather the unwillingness
of the people involved to accept what they hear. Perhaps it conflicts with
their own views. Perhaps it is different from the traditions of their fathers.
Many of these persons also copy the men of Christ’s day in another way, for
they grumble among themselves as they drop away rather than coming directly to
Jesus Christ to state their difficulties.
A Prophet in whom the Spirit of
When Jesus talked about regeneration to Nicodemus, he
clearly referred to Ezekiel 36:24-27, indicating that regeneration is resulted
from water (God’s words) and Holy Spirit. Anyone who has the Spirit of Christ
can see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) and can enter the kingdom of God (John
3:5). The regeneration of Ezekiel himself serves as a perfect example for it. We can see “the word of the LORD came
to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the
Chebar canal, and the hand (also translated as Spirit) of the LORD was upon him
there.”(Ezek. 1:3). The Lord spoke to Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28;2:1-8; 3:1-11,16-21)
and the Spirit dwelt in him and lifted him up (Ezek. 3:12-14; 22-24). Then he was
able to see the Kingdom (Ezek. 1:28; 3:23) and enter the kingdom (Ezek. 1:28;
3:1-3, 15,23). He is the one who has been delivered from one realm,
the realm of sin and death, and has been transferred to the realm of Christ’s
Spirit, which is life. When he saw the kingdom, he fell on his face and started
eat the scroll, he was humbled and ready to serve as a suffering prophet. He
saw the King, son of God, would leave his heavenly throne, which is mobile,
moving with lightning speed across the sky, and come down to the earth as son
of man dwelling in his captured people, give up his freedom for the freedom of
the chosen people who are bonded with sin, serve them as a suffering prophet
(John1:14, Phl. 2:6-11). Since the Spirit of Christ dwelt in him and lifted him
up, he was able to be imitator of Christ. He was a new creature in Christ’s
image. He stood in the gap between an angry God and a sinful people as Christ
did. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”(John 1:14).
Ezekiel dwelt among his fellow captured people and preached God’s words to them
(Ezek 3:1-27) . The audience of Christ in in the synagogue in Capernaum took
offensive on his teaching and did not follow him any longer(John 6:17-71),
Ezekiel experienced the same as Christ did (Ezek. 2:4-7; 3:4-11, 17-21). Just like “the light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”(John 1:5), when the
light shines on preacher’s face, he will be persecuted, while the prophet has
to be bold in preaching. “He came to his own, and his own people did not
receive him” (John1:11, Ezek. 2:3-7;3:4-11). He would come to the earth, not as
earthly conquering king, but as a prophet, to preach the words from heavenly
Father boldly, which looks foolish to those perished ones(1Cor. 1:18), but the
true wisdom for believer. Ezekiel did the same thing as Christ did. He spoke
prophecies to the dry bones (preaching God’s words to spiritual dead people) and
the wind (prayer to Holy Spirit) (Ezek. 37:3-14). Christ made warning as “Repent, for the kingdom of
heaven is near.”(Matt. 2:2), while Ezekiel made warning as “Turn back, turn
back from your evil deeds! Why should you die, O house of Israel?”(Ezek.
33:11). ………so on and so on. All of these indicate the presence of Spirit of
Christ in Ezekiel. His eyes were opened and he got the same experience as
Isaiah’s “I saw the Lord” (Isa.6).
Have you seen the
Paul says: “Those who
live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature
desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set
on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind
controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God.
It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the
sinful nature cannot please God”(Rom. 8:5-8).
lived in accordance with the Spirit and he had his mind set on what the Spirit
desires. He is a real Christian. He is
not a “carnal Christian” who is apart from the regenerating and
transforming work of the Holy Spirit of God in salvation.
How to differentiate these two classes of people?
Ezekiel could be a good example. Have you seen the Lord as he had? Are
you obedient as he was in learning the biblical truth? Is God’s words really
sweet to your taste? Are you bold in preaching as he was? Do you earnestly
intercede for your brothers and sisters? Are you willing to “dwell” in the
congregation who is hostile to you? …….
If you do not know the answer to those question, do not let the matter
rest until you know that you really are in Christ. Nothing in all life comes
close to that matter in importance. Pursue it with all your strength. And if by
the grace of God - perhaps through the application of his Word to your heart
through this study - you realize that you are not yet a new creature in Christ,
call out for salvation. Trust that, as God has been gracious in opening your
eyes to your true condition, he will also work in grace to bring you out of
death into the utter newness of the Christian life.