Sunday School Lesson, July 23, 2017, The Call of Ezekiel
To follow along, visit your local Christian bookstore, and ask for the Bible Expositor and Illuminator
Time: 593 B.C. Place: Babylonia, by the River Chebar
Golden Text: “Go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear (Ezekiel 3:11).
Lesson Outline: I. Symbolic Endowment – Ezekiel 3:1-3, II. A Difficult Mission – Ezekiel 3:4-7, III. A Divine Assurance – Ezekiel 3:8-11
Ezekiel was a prophet of a priestly family who was carried captive to Babylon in 597 B.C. who prophesied intermittently until 571 B.C. He was about 25 years old when he was taken to Babylon. Ezekiel was called to the prophetic ministry five years after arriving and ministered to the captive who dwelt by the River Chebar at Tel Abib. His home was often a meeting place. Ezekiel was married to a woman who was “the desire of his eyes”. One of the saddest events in Ezekiel’s life was the death of his wife. Ezekiel’s sadness at the death of his wife was to match the grief of God for the sin of Jerusalem. The Prophet Ezekiel lived in troublesome times. Judah and its capital Jerusalem had come under the dominance of Babylon, whose king took Daniel and other capable young men captive in 605 B.C., transporting them to Babylon. When Judah rebelled, the Babylonians returned in 597 B.C., taking more captives, including Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry took place in Babylonia, but it was directed at both the Israelite captives in that land and those who still remained in Judah.
Lesson Outline: I. A Symbolic Endowment -Ezekiel 3:1-3
Ezekiel 3:1 – Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. “Moreover ” means in addition to what has been said; or beside what has been said. “Son of man” a Semitic idiom for an individual human being or for mankind in general, particularly as distinguished from God. In the Old Testament, also known as a title for the people of Israel considered corporately or for their angelic representative in the heavenly court. The symbolic act of eating the scroll demonstrated that Ezekiel internalized the message in preparation for speaking to the people. While Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem during its declining year, Ezekiel was called in a vision to speak to the captives by the river of Chebar near Babylon. When Ezekiel first prophesied, Jerusalem had not yet fallen. The exiles already in Babylon clung to the hope that it would endure and that they could eventually return to their homeland. This was not to be, and it became Ezekiel’s task to bring them God’s message of doom. The words Ezekiel was to speak would not be words of inspirations to an already rebellious, impudent, stiff-hearted people. The Lord gave Ezekiel His Words to speak to the people, it was symbolized by giving Ezekiel a scroll a roll of a book with words written on both sides, He commanded Ezekiel to eat the roll and go speak unto the house of Israel. The Lord addressed Ezekiel as “Son of man”, a title used ninety-three times in the chapter. It emphasizes Ezekiel’s identification with the human race and the distance separating man from God. The symbolic significance of “eating” the scroll as that Ezekiel should assimilate God’s message into his inner most being, it would become a part of him. This would set him apart from the rebellious people to whom God was sending him. Such a separation was absolutely essential if he was to be a presence of God among them. The same goes for every Christian today if we’re to be the presence of God in our home, community, employment, our behavior and character can’t be of those that do not serve God.
Ezekiel 3:2 – So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. Ezekiel did as the Lord commanded by opening his mouth “So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to the roll”, is implying passive submission. As the prophet opened his mouth, the Lord took the initiative in feeding him His truth. Even as the Lord fed him, He directed Ezekiel to fill his stomach with the scroll that He was giving him. The figure of speech implies that Ezekiel was not merely to taste God’s Words but to digest them completely. It was to nourish him and become the means of spiritual development. Ezekiel would be changed by the message he would eventually give to his people. Too often we merely “taste” God’s truth and then decide whether to swallow it or spit it out. We digest what we like and disregard the rest. This selective approach also affects our ministry to others.
Ezekiel 3:3 – And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. The scroll he was to eat represented the message he was to own and deliver to his own people, Israel. He was to eat, take it all in, and own it as his own possession and convictions. Although the scroll’s message dealt with sin and judgment, it was God’s Word, nourishing to Ezekiel’s soul. God wanted Ezekiel to eat the scroll and literally let it fill him. God stated that it would fill his bowels, which are the innermost parts of a person. Ezekiel did as he was told, and the scroll tasted sweet like honey; God had in mind for Ezekiel would rest in his giving a bitter message. (O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him – Psalm 34:8).
Ezekiel 3:4 – And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. Ezekiel was directed to go and speak God’s own words to the Israelites. Ezekiel wasn’t going to give his words or ideas, but the word of God that came directly from God to His people. God was still showing mercy to His people although His people rejected His words, He was continually sending His prophets to warn them of their sinful ways and the judgment that was going to come upon them if they didn’t repent. There were false prophets who was speaking to the captive that they were going to be set free whereas God had stated that the exile would last a full seventy years. At the end of that time, God would bring His people home.
Ezekiel 3:5 – For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of a hard language, but to the house of Israel. God pointed out that there was no language barrier or cultural barrier, therefore what he would speak the people would understand. There would be no excuse for them not submitting to the word of God by saying they didn’t understand.
Ezekiel 3:6 – Not to many people of a strange speech and of a hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. God was not sending Ezekiel to foreigners but to people who spoke the same language. He wouldn’t be sent to a large number of nationalities with language unfamiliar to him. God said that if Ezekiel preached God’s message of repentance to foreigners, they would listen. God was sending Ezekiel to his own people who would refuse to listen to him. Their unwillingness to hear Ezekiel stemmed from their unwillingness to hear God. They didn’t want to hear God’s message of sin and judgment. They didn’t want to give up the things that had led them away from God.
Ezekiel 3:7 – But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted. God warned Ezekiel that Israel was becoming set in their rebellious but that he should speak God’s message regardless. God defined the people of Israel as impudent (hard of head), immodest, shameless, insolent(accustomed, boldly disrespectful), They were hard-hearted, unfeeling, pitiless, and cruel. Yet God sent Ezekiel anyway although He knew the outcome of Ezekiel’s message.
Ezekiel 3:8 – Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. The Lord didn’t promise to soften Israel’s obstinate hearts; they were instead facing judgment. But He declared to Ezekiel He had made him just as tough as his Israelite hearers. This was not to make it a combat situation but to assure Ezekiel that he and his message would reach his listeners on equal footing.
Ezekiel 3:9 – As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. The Hebrew word translated for adamant is the hardest stone imaginable. To have a forehead as hard as this signified having a defiant, unshakeable determination that could withstand any opposition and overcome any hardship. Ezekiel would have his share of both, and this assurance was essential. The Lord encouraged Ezekiel by telling him, “Fear them not”, “neither be dismayed at their looks”, “looks” mean their faces. The face reveals what is in the inner person, and the defiant looks of the Israelites could have been intimidating to Ezekiel. But the Lord was assuring him, he had His protection and there would nothing to fear.
Ezekiel 3:10 – Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. A necessary prerequisite to God sending Ezekiel as His messenger was Ezekiel’s reception of all of God’s words. God told Ezekiel that he was to make it clear that his authority came from the Lord, and that he must continue to speak regardless of his audience responses and reactions. The Lord commanded Ezekiel to take into his heart all the words He spoke to him and listen to them carefully. The preparation of the heart is essential to the reception of the message to the ears.
Ezekiel 3:11 – And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. “To hear” means to hear in the sense of heeding or obeying. “Forbear” means to refrain from doing something. “Thus saith the Lord God” is assuring his listeners that these were God’s words, not his own. In a vision from God, Ezekiel was taken to Jerusalem for a view of the temple before it fell. He saw idols inside the temple. In the interior room, he was shocked to see creeping things, abominable beasts, and more idols painted on the temple walls. Seventy men with a censer and the Israelites were being taken away in captivity was for seventy years. With all of their sinfulness, God was still long-suffering, and merciful to send the prophet to admonish them to turn from their wickedness and turn to Him, He was giving them another opportunity to repent.