Ezekiel lived as a captive in Babylon, yet God had this prophet priest in His hand. Like Isaiah, Ezekiel lived as a mouthpiece for God, and in this deep intimacy, Ezekiel was required to prophecy many harsh and difficult realities to the nations.
In Ezekiel’s time in history, the globe was under war, a time like no other. The God of the Universe was deeply engaged in His world and having suffered long decades of sin and oppression, a Holy housecleaning was coming to the earth. Like Christ in the temple, upending the long tables of greed and corruption with one furious toss, so the God of nations, was turning over nations, ending long centuries of pride, sin, murder and corruption with one massive shift across the globe.
Every nation was judged in Ezekiel’s day. From Mount Seir to Assyria to Egypt to Tyre, the nations surrounding Israel were called to account for their grotesque sin, through the word of Ezekiel. Global powers were silenced, other nations were reduced to a smoldering assortment of burning villages. The enemies and co-conspirators who celebrated Israel’s takeover by Babylon would face justice. God was using Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army to end a whole season of injustice but this brutal takeover would cost most with their lives and their nation.
If you struggled through these long passages of sin reviewed and judgment decreed, you are not alone. Ezekiel suffered a most difficult life as a prophet, somehow staying faithful to his God, even as his own wife’s death was used as a sermon illustration, a living object lesson, each day of his life.
When God had reframed Ezekiel from priest to prophet, God gave him a clear job description: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.”(Ezek 3:17, NKJV)
Over a decade later, God further clarified high responsibility and crucial role to speak a turning word of warning to the nation of Israel:
Son of man, speak to the sons of your people, and say to them: When I bring the sword on it, on a land, and take one man from the people of the land, of their borders, and set him for their watchman; if, when he sees the sword come on the land, he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword does come and take him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning. His blood shall be on himself. But he who takes warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman sees the sword coming, and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned; if the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity. But I will require his blood at the watchman’s hand. And you, son of man, I have set you a watchman to the house of Israel. Therefore you shall hear the Word from My mouth, and warn them from Me. (Ezek. 33:2-7, MKJV)
In God’s economy, if people hear a warning and repent, then life in God will come regardless of global politics, national choices or religious positions. In a similar way, for those who hear God’s warning and continue in sin, then judgement and death will come. Consider how crucial the watchmen are to God’s justice, to offer mercy through warning, to Israel, to Judah, to the neighboring nations?
Despite the bloody warnings of the judgement coming to the nations, God had no desire for people to suffer. God cried out to Ezekiel,
As I live, says the Lord Jehovah, I have no delight in the death of the wicked, except in the turning of the wicked from his way, and so to live. Turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? Therefore, son of man, say to the sons of your people: The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression. As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it in the day he turns from his wickedness. Nor shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sins. (Ezekiel 33:11-12 NKJV).
Like a parent who painfully reckons her son will face jail time if he continues to use drugs, so God grimly reviewed the current situation of the nations steeped neck high in sin. Yet God, like a compassionate mother, kept the light on and the door unlocked, so that if His son, Israel could find his way back. Mercy always triumphs justice and through God decreed destruction to these nations, He still cried through Ezekiel this ongoing warning system, “Turn away from sin. Choose life!”, twelve years straight as God begged the nations to face the reality of their sinful lives.
Israel was in a despicable place as a society. Widows were ravaged. The priests were compromised. The politicians were exploiting the people. The preachers were sharing how they heard God when He was silent. The poor and needy were abused, outsiders were being kicked around and justice was lost. God cried out to Ezekiel, “I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one.”(22:30 MSG)
Consider this tough place of heartache for God. Not one believer in the nation He had breathed into existence, led step by step for centuries, could be found; not one person was available to hear Him in the nation decreed for destruction. God used Ezekiel, a captive in Babylon to prophesy over Israel, hundreds of miles away. Jeremiah, last man to love God in Jerusalem was asked earlier to do a similar “feet on the ground” inventory: “Patrol Jerusalem’s streets. Look around. Take note. Search the market squares. See if you can find one man, one woman, A single soul who does what is right and tries to live a true life. I want to forgive that person.”(Jer 5:1 MSG).
Not one person in Judah loved the God who made them and their nation. What a brutal time for God and for that strained society.
If you dare, review your life as your read the judgements decreed against the nations in Ezekiel. Consider what God is rebuking and accept His invitation to turn back to righteousness. Ezekiel’s heartbroken decrees of destruction is God’s heartbreak that God never wants any to perish, but sinful choices reap death and righteous choices always reaps life.
God needs people who are living righteous lives to get His message out. God needs people who are listening, that they may stand in the gap between judgement and mercy and plead for their nation. God needs you and me as surely as God needed brave tenacious Ezekiel to stay faithful no matter what. How else could this message of turn back to God be spoken?
Let’s Pray: O God our Father, open our hearts to Your voice. Holy Spirit, bring us into righteousness, peace and joy, that the Kingdom of God would advance through our lives daily. Lord Jesus, you are that Man who stood in the gap, paid the price and have secured mercy for us all through Your blood sacrifice. We live forever thankful for Your mercy, O God of all nations. May we learn faithfulness from Ezekiel and may we say “yes” to you God, for the sake of ourselves and our nations. Amen.
This Week’s Reading: Ezekiel 21 -35
Next Week’s Reading: Ezekiel 36 – 48
- How do you feel reading these decrees of destruction? Does it make you afraid of God? What do you do with revelation of God of the Nations?
- Do you hear the cry of mercy in Ezekiel? Can you receive it?
- Why did God use Ezekiel? Can you develop the connect between his righteousness and hearing God and having authority to speak to a nation?
- Israel is still here, as promised by God. Twenty-six hundred years after Ezekiel’s prophecy, Israel stands as a strong nation, while many of those decreed to destruction are no more. God of the nations continue to reign. What does engaging with the God of the nations mean to you and your nation?
- Ezekiel suffered great loss and stayed faithful to God. How do you stay faithful to God when suffering comes?