|@September 3, 2023
|ESV Prophets Plan 2023
Review conducted using the TGC’s Knowing the Bible: Ezekiel by Michael Lawrence. All pull quotes are taken from this resource.
Ezekiel serves not only as the prosecutor of God’s covenant lawsuit, vindicating God’s judgment against his own people; he serves also as pastor to the despairing exiled flock, providing them hope that judgment is not God’s final word to them. If they will repent, God will again be their God and dwell with them, and they with him.
A very helpful summary of Ezekiel’s prophetic work and ministry.
Ezekiel is told to preach “whether they hear or refuse to hear” (Ezek. 2:7). Jesus will echo the final verse of chapter 3 by concluding many of his parables, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Ezek. 3:27; compare Matt: 3:9). Spiritual life comes by hearing God’s Word.
To be given ears to hear and eyes to see the Lord in His Word is a regular prayer prior to my daily reading. It is a wonderful primer and provokes a posture of welcoming to the Spirit’s guidance and illumination.
Ezekiel is called “son of man” (or “son of Adam”) 93 times by God, marking him out as a creature in the face of the Creator. He is filled with the Spirit (Ezek. 2:2), who enables him to hear, obey, and speak God’s Word. It is not surprising, then, that this title will be one of Jesus’ favorite self-designations. As the last Adam, Jesus fully identifies with us in our humanity; but he is without sin, and so is qualified to be our substitute.
Jesus’ humanity is such an important concept to grasp. His full condescension and incarnation means that His blood shed for our sins makes Him an acceptable, atoning sacrifice before the Father. And more, that the punishment the Father poured out onto Jesus for our sin, iniquity and transgression removes it completely from us. 100% of the price has been paid and punishment taken.
Sin must be punished. This is part of what Ezekiel illustrates when he bears the punishment of Israel and Judah (Ezek. 4:4). But there is no end to the punishment we deserve for our sin against an infinite, holy God. If we are to be saved, we need someone to bear our punishment for us. While Ezekiel does not bear Israel’s punishment vicariously, Jesus has done so, and not just for Israel but for all who put their faith in him.
Again, this underlines the magnitude of our sins, deserved punishment and need for a Savior. Any effort to belittle or rationalize our sin only ever leads to a gross misunderstanding of God’s holiness.
When God promises to gather the remnant back to himself (Ezek. 11:17–20), this is not a promise to give them a second chance. Rather, it is a promise to change them so that their hearts will no longer be hard to God’s Word but, instead, soft and yielding to it. This is what the New Testament calls regeneration (see John 3). When God’s Spirit causes us to be born again, he gives us a new nature that desires to obey him rather than to rebel. Although sin remains, the presence of these new desires to love and follow God provides us assurance that we belong to him.
A “desire to obey”. To the flesh, this seems like a contradiction in terms, a concept entirely foreign to our sinful nature. And this is only compounded by our self-focused culture. It is only through a work of the Spirit that we can begin to lay hold of the truth that there is freedom in obedience.
Nearly every other religion tells us to work harder and be better, so that God will accept us. But not Christianity. Instead, the gospel calls us to repent. Repentance is not trying harder to clean up our lives so that God will love us. Repentance is literally a turning away from trusting in God-substitutes (idols), and turning to God in faith. This is what Ezekiel says to the elders of Israel in Ezek. 14:6, and it is what Jesus came to preach: repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).
Our default setting is enmity against God. There is nothing we can do in our own effort to reverse this position. It is only when crushed by the depth of our own sin, realizing our terrifying stance before a holy God, will we see our desperate need for Christ as our Savior.
God’s gracious decision to save is not simply an unmerited gift, it is a “contra-merited” gift. An unmerited gift is what we get on Christmas or a birthday. A contra-merited gift, meanwhile, is what the adulterous, murderous, whoring wife receives when her marriage is restored and her children returned. This is the grace we receive in the gospel.
Such an profound illustration of God’s grace! In our natural state, we are not neutral in our relationship with God but in active rebellion against Him. The picture of restoration even after blatant defilement and betrayal underscores God’s remarkable act of mercy in Christ.
What a blessing it is to return and review these first few chapters of Ezekiel today. The book is rich with the treasures of God’s nature and character, it would take innumerable lifetimes to mine.
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)