EZEKIEL 1:1 – 3:27 and 3 JOHN 1–14
Ezekiel lived and ministered during the Babylonian captivity from 605 to 536 BC. His ministry coincided with that of Jeremiah and Daniel. Ezekiel had a well-rounded message that was birthed through preparation that was both painful and humiliating. The reason for this was that Ezekiel was going to be given extraordinary revelation in the realm of God’s holiness, His throne as well as the administerial functions of heaven. This is only the beginning seeing that he had insights into the millennium as well as the secret abominations of man. As a priest, Ezekiel will be very much touched with the needs of the people.
There are over 90 references to the “Son of Man” that are interspersed throughout his book. Ezekiel saw the four faces of the living creatures, one of which was that of a man. He gives a vivid portrayal of what the ministry of the Son of man would be like. Ezekiel will be given similar revelations that the Apostle John came to know when he was on the isle of Patmos. Ezekiel has great insight into the millennial reign while John looks more to the New Heaven and New Earth. Both Ezekiel and John have revelation concerning the throne room of God. Ezekiel will pronounce many similar judgments upon Israel and the surrounding nations as seen in the other prophets. His message however tends to have more relevance for the last days then what was seen in the other prophets. The people Ezekiel were called to were rebellious and not much inclined to hear his prophetic warnings. His early experience helps us to understand the cost that is involved in being a prophet of such magnitude. There seems to be little doubt that there will be Ezekiel’s that will emerge in the days before us.
Chapter 1 opens with the call that comes upon Ezekiel followed by an extraordinary revelation of the holiness of God. The first 24 chapters deals with prophesies spoken to Israel and Judah. As seen in both Isaiah and Jeremiah the majority of the message is targeted for Israel with judgements being seen upon other nations a bit later on (25-35). There are several things we can note from within the first three verses. His prophesy begins in the 5th year of Jehoiachin’s captivity. Ezekiel was a priest and he was called while at the river Chebar. The river Chebar is significant because much of what is shared takes place by this river. The name Chebar means “a long time” signifying that much of Ezekiel’s ministry is meant for a distant time in future. Much of the revelation that Ezekiel will receive will not happen for about 2500 years. Taking in all of the timelines that are gathered from verse 2 we can calculate that Ezekiel received his inaugural vision in July of 593.
Ezekiel is presented with a most awesome vision of the four Living Creatures around the throne room of God (vs 4-14). These creatures would be the same that Isaiah had exposure to when he received his commission (Isa 6:1-8). These 4 creatures are prominently figured in the Book of Revelation as well. A similar description is given in Rev 4:7-9. These four creatures have four different faces that depict an aspect of God’s Divine nature and character. They can also be aligned to the different qualities as seen in the four Gospel writers. Matthew is seen as portraying Christ as the lion of the tribe of Judah. Mark portrays Christ as the ox who suffers as a priest on behalf of mankind. Luke portrays the Son of Man who manifests the compassion of God upon a fallen race while John portrays Christ as the eagle who has the ability to soar into the heavenlies.
There is fire that you will find to be associated with the throne of God. John sees the Lord with eyes as flames of fire in Rev 1:14. These creatures each had 4 winds which spoke of their ability to quickly go forth in any direction in performing their administrative roles on behalf of the Ancient of days. One of the notable features of this heavenly scene is the holiness that is associated with the throne of God. You get the sense of justice and absolute adoration of the judge by way of the worship that goes forth. This is also reflected in Revelation 4:10-11. Let us consider carefully the quality of those who had the privilege of beholding this glorious scene. You had Isaiah who became undone in the midst of God’s glory. You had the Apostle John who fell down as dead when exposed to such awesome sights. (Rev 1:17) The life and ministry of Ezekiel will be very consistent in showcasing the holiness and awesome glory of God. If these were the qualities required of them then what about us?
The wheels of the Lord are described in verses 15-25. I guess we can try to summarise by saying that there is nothing hidden from God. This description helps us to understand God’s omnipresence and omniscience. Our mortal minds do not have the capacity to understand these qualities of God so it comes down to simpler illustrations to try and capture its essence. The determined and resolute responses of the Living Creatures help us to see how quickly and efficiently the purposes of heaven are administered. It is here where you see the true structure of authority and delegation. Like the flash of lightening in the sky is the swiftness of heaven’s movements. Our understanding at its best cannot begin to scratch the surface to the underlying reality of heaven’s throne.
We will now see the commissioning of Ezekiel. It is here where we see the first mention of the Son of Man given. If we ever want to gain further insights into the earthly ministry of Christ all we need to do is to study the Book of Ezekiel. As mentioned earlier there are over 90 references to the Son of Man. This also helps for us to appreciate that Jesus truly knew what it was like to be a man. It greatly aids in His constant intercession before His Father’s throne on our behalf.
Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Ezekiel is told ahead of time that he is going to be sent to a rebellious house. He is also told to be faithful to declare God’s Word whether they will hear it or not. Our role is to speak and declare what God gives us to say. The results will rest with Him. The Lord continues to exhort Ezekiel not to be afraid of their faces and the things that they say only to be steadfast in speaking the Word of the Lord. This sounds familiar seeing that the same words (Fear not) were given to Joshua as he was assuming the leadership role from Moses. (Jos 1:6-9) He is going to come up against a people who are comfortable in their ways and attached to the world and its system. They will not be taking too kindly to the Words that he will be bringing them. There is a warning to Ezekiel to not be like the rebellious house of Israel. In other words if you are speaking a message to them be sure you are not guilty of the same things. Ezekiel had to be cleansed and purged from worldly taints before speaking unto the people otherwise he too would come under judgement. This is a most important warning for us as well.
In verses 9-10 Ezekiel is presented with a scroll that contained recorded messages of woe, mourning and lamentations. It was indicative of the message that Ezekiel was going to be called to bear. It is very similar to what Jeremiah had to experience as well as in his preparation in becoming a prophet. Are there Ezekiel’s and Jeremiah’s being prepared for our day? It is a bitter and solitary existence but it allows for the formation of the heart of God to be developed within a human vessel. When God later speaks of the promise of being given a new heart it has to first come through a man whose heart has been broken. (Eze 36:26) How can a man convey the broken heart of God if he does not come into that realm himself? If we are going to be used of God in a similar capacity it will require a separation from the attachments of the world and a whole hearted separation unto the purposes of God. This rather sounds like the definition of holiness doesn’t it? (Col 3) Do you remember how holiness was defined when studying Colossians? It is first a separation from the world the flesh and the devil and a separation unto God. When examining the cost of being a prophet as seen in the lives of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel we can understand why the subject of holiness is not a popular one in today’s church.
This chapter along with a few others later on speaks of the importance of the watchman’s ministry. It has been said on several other occasions that a minister before delivering a message has to first be the message. A parallel New Testament verse that could be cited is 2 Cor 3:2-3 which speaks of being an epistle that can be read and known among men. Simply put, our life is a message and we need to consider carefully what kind of message we are conveying. What is the message that people see from our lives? The Word of God may seem sweet and palatable at the first but once it gets deeper down into the areas of the heart it becomes bitter. The Word is a cleansing agent that has the ability to get to deep rooted issues in our heart. It is no wonder that Jeremiah could see his heart as being deceitfully wicked above all things. He allowed the Word, the scroll of the Word to get deep down within him. David understood this as well as he declared that God desires Truth on the inward parts. (Psa 51:6)
The Lord reiterates the difficulty that Ezekiel is going to come to know when he is sent to the house of Israel. He says that if he were to be sent to other nations his message would be heard but not so in Israel. The Lord goes on to encourage Ezekiel that he will make his face and forehead hard as flint. This should serve as an encouragement to us in a day where Christianity is fast becoming public enemy number one. Ezekiel will be confronting something more than flesh and blood alone but also spiritual forces that will oppose with full force. What makes this difficult for Ezekiel is that his message is going to be to his own people. Jeremiah and Ezekiel had very similar callings and beginning to their respective ministries. Notice how he became introduced to his ministry.
Jer 1:17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
Jer 1:18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
Jer 1:19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.
It is most important that we do not become intimidated at the resistance that will be seen concerning the Gospel. The danger and tendency is that one may begin to compromise in light of the pressure. It is being seen today in many churches over the LGBT issue. Some of these churches have been strong in their opposition to same sex issues but have since buckled under pressure. The faces of today’s intolerant culture have caused people who supposedly had conviction in this area to back down. We really need to pray that God would allow us to stay strong in the midst of opposition. The opposition will be fierce and they will be intolerant and the only means that will enable us to stand strong will be to the extent the Word of God (scroll) is assimilated into the fabric of our being.
One of the unique blessings that Ezekiel came to know was his ability to be transported in the Spirit at times to various places. Philip the Evangelist is a New Testament example where this was seen. (Acts 8:39) We should not be surprised to see similar events in the lives of believers in the last days. Ezekiel has one of those moments as he is transported in the Spirit to a place called Telabib. This would one day be the place chosen to be the capital of Israel. It was important for Ezekiel to sit amongst the people to become acquainted with the people for whom he will be ministering to. It is through such exposure where we become aware of people needs while having our capacities enlarged for compassion and love for them.
Now the Lord is appointing Ezekiel with the charge to be a watchman unto the house of Israel. The Lord is very clear about the mandate being given to him. If the Lord is speaking that the people will die unless they repent from their ways then that message better be spoken otherwise blood will be upon the prophet’s hands. (vs 17-21) It is important that we have ears to discern the voice of the Lord so that we declare clearly what he is saying. How does revelation and insight come to a believer? It is through deep intimacy with God. Abraham was a friend of God which resulted in his knowing his heart as well as what God was about to do regarding Sodom and Gomorrah. We then need to be faithful to deliver and speak forth the Word of the Lord as given. We speak with both our words and by how we live. Finally there is the warning given to a righteous man who sins and does not repent. Such a person’s previous works of righteousness will not be remembered. There is also the solemn warning of being given a message to speak and not speaking that warning to sinners. The blood of the sinners will be required upon such people if they do not faithfully discharge their message. The Lord requires of His messengers that they speak his Words; whether they heed to those words or not. Such a person is not held accountable to those who reject the message. The ministry of the watchman is again coming to the fore. May God help to make our face and forehead like a flint that can withstand the opposition and pressure that will surely come.
There is but yet another qualifier that Ezekiel will endure in preparation for his prophetic ministry. The Lord is going to allow him to become dumb where he will be unable to speak. It will be during this time when the message will further burn within him. There will be the time when the Lord will again open his mouth and when He does all will know that it is God that is speaking. There are seasons when God may allow for a “season of dumbness” where people cannot do or say anything. It has to be a most frustrating experience and yet it allows for the perfecting of a message to be achieved in one’s life. This can be most difficult because you know God has placed something within you but there seems to be no way of expressing it. The more you try the more frustrating it gets. It is important to know the seasons of what God is doing in the earth but it is equally important to know the seasons of what God is doing in our life. If we fail to discern these personal seasons we can undermine a precious work that God is seeking to achieve. This is why the teachings and doctrines that we adhere to are most important. How would some of today’s theology address the “dumbness” of Ezekiel? In speaking on the subject of “Ezekiel’s dumbness” I am referring to personalized captivities that God may be allowing for a season. He was beginning to understand his calling, was beginning to understand his message, and was acquainted with people he was called to minister too yet had no ability to convey the developing message. His time would soon come.
This third letter is addressed to a person by the name of Gaius who must have been a spiritual son of John. There are a few other references in scripture to Gaius but this one stands alone as being unique to John’s day. Gaius was obviously loved as a son to John. It is a beautiful commendation that John is giving to him. We see the importance of spiritual wholeness and prosperity in the way that John speaks to Gaius. A spiritual father loves to hear good reports from his spiritual offspring. It brings unspeakable joy and pleasure when you see your seed bringing forth fruit. It is a very high commendation when one is spoken well concerning the Truth. John could rejoice that Gaius was one who walked in the Truth as He is in the Truth. We are seeing a living expression of all that John wrote about in His Gospel and epistles through his spiritual son Gaius in these first few verses.
In verses 5-8, the virtues of hospitality are accentuated and it is but another area where Gaius excelled. These verses help to bring to mind what the Lord said concerning how we treat others in His name (Math 25:35-40). God puts a very high premium upon those who are given to hospitality. This is one of the primary ministries that helps in defining the Deacon ministry in a church. There are several New Testament references that speak to the blessings of hospitality.
Titus 1:8 – “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men,sober, just, holy, temperate.”
Hebrews 13:2 – “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: forthereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
In verses 9-11 there is a man who goes by the name of Diotrephes who appears to be the exact opposite of Gaius. He is one who serves like an overlord in the church. He is not given to hospitality as seen in Gaius but rather one who speaks malicious words against the true brethren. The contrast seen in Gaius and Diotrephes has its parallel in Ezekiel 34 where the two kinds of shepherds are showcased. What is the motivation of our heart; is it to serve or be served? God is looking for a people and a church that exudes in His love and Truth. Gaius should serve as an inspiration to us all.
There is another man whom John speaks of who goes by the name of Demetrius. He is very well reported of as a man who walks in Truth and kindness to all. It is a privilege in being able to provide a savour of Christ wherever we go and with whomever we meet. Demetrius was such a man. John concludes this epistle in much the same way he did with his letter to the elder lady of the church in his 2nd epistle. It is wonderful to be able to put down thoughts and instruction in writing but it still cannot be compared to a face to face encounter. There is something about this kind of fellowship that is enduring. Paul when writing to the Hebrews understood this when he wrote the following.
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
John understood the blessings of sweet fellowship and communion. Let’s be among those who follow through in a similar fashion in these unique days in which we live.