Ezekiel: I have just finished teaching Ezekiel, a forgotten book back in the "clean pages" of your old family Bible. The prophet Daniel and friends, (who were promising Jewish leaders in their teens), were abducted by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC and taken to Babylon. Jeremiah stayed behind in Jerusalem. For 40 years he faithfully taught and spoke for God without seeing any fruit. His life ended when his fellow country men hauled him down to Egypt where he was killed. During his life, Jeremiah lived through the terrible destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's temple in 586. The book of Lamentations expresses his grief and sorrow at the terrible suffering and loss God's chosen people suffered from the hand of Yahweh at that time. The young priest Ezekiel (aged 25) and his wife, plus the new King Jehoiachin (Coniah), age 18, and 10,000 exiles were taken by Nebuchadnezzar to a "refugee camp" in Babylon (Iraq) in 598. Five years later, after an overwhelming vision of the Chariot Throne of Yahweh, Ezekiel began to speak to the exiles a series of intense oracles concerning the impending judgments of God which would soon fall upon Jerusalem, 550 miles to the West. Ezekiel enacted special charades and demonstrations to portray these coming events to the crowds who gathered in front of his house. But as God had warned him his messages went unheeded.
"Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels, who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The people also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them; and you shall say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD.' And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there has been a prophet among them. And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit upon scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house." (2:3-6)
The midpoint of Ezekiel's ministry coincided with the fall of Jerusalem on the 9th of Av, 586 BC after a long siege by Nebuchadnezzar. It was then that Ezekiel's wife died suddenly--but he was not allowed to grieve or mourn her loss. (24:14ff, 33:21ff) Like the other prophets, Ezekiel was given magnificent predictions of the glorious future, final restoration and Millennial kingdom of the nation Israel under a single great Shepherd and King, whom we now know to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who doubts that God has future plans for the nation of Israel would do well to see how clearly Ezekiel speaks of God's faithfulness to Israel His faithless wife. Ezekiel along with the other prophets clearly announced Israel's ultimate glorious restoration-Jerusalem will be the entire earth's capital city, and the Jews will at last fulfill their calling to be God's model nation which all other nations will follow.
The name "Ezekiel" means "God strengthens." Ezekiel himself was a "type" of Christ. Through Ezekiel, God has given us not only a most remarkable document dealing with past and future events in the history of God's special nation Israel, but he also shows us His interior view of the human heart. He presents us with vivid pictures of Israel's horrendous spiritual adultery and her track record of more than 800 years of repeated rebellions against her Redeemer. (Ezek. 20). In vivid pictures Yahweh Elohim gives us a clear picture of the human heart as it really is. (Ezek. 16, 24)
"Jesus called the people to him again, and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: here is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him." And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." (Mark7:14-22)
Through Ezekiel God repeatedly tells His people that He is saving them not because of their meritorious behavior, but because He has attached His name to them (as He has to us as well). The judgments of God which occurred at the time of the Babylonian captivity may make God seem cruel and harsh. Yet 65 times the Lord uses Ezekiel to remind His people that severe measures were necessary "so that you will know that I am the Lord," and also "so that the nations will know that I am the Lord." Kindness, love, blessing, patience and mercy had not brought Yahweh's wife into loving obedience to her devoted husband. So with great reluctance God had to put her away for a season because of her adultery-the consistent picture used to describe idolatry. Yet as Hosea reminds us, though God divorced His wife Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant, He will, take her back to Himself under the terms of the New Covenant. Ezekiel also informs us how God will also judge the other nations-on the basis of how they have treated Israel: "he who touches Israel touches the apple of My eye." (Zech. 2:8). In spite of her stormy and difficult past, Israel has a certain and glorious future:
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses; and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel." (36:22-28)
The New Covenant, which God made with Israel, is the "new arrangement for living" which Jesus placed in effect at the Last Supper. The eleven remaining disciples were then legal representatives of the believing remnant of Israel. They would soon be Apostle of the Church beginning at Pentecost. At that time Jesus through the Holy Spirit sent forth the Apostles to invite Jews and Gentles alike into a whole new family, the church. He had already declared that He Himself would build His church in Matthew 16:13-19. This church, this body of Christ, was unexpected and unannounced in the Old Testament. A few months later He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the exact appointed hour given by the prophet Daniel for Messiah to appear in Jerusalem as Israel's legal and rightful King. But Israel rejected her Messiah that week as she had been rejecting God repeatedly for several millennia. The nation's rejection of Jesus, His betrayal, and death again brought God's chastening. God has not left Israel without a promise and a hope, however. He has always given the promise before the chastening. It started with Adam and Eve when they sinned. Before God pronounced the consequences of what they had done on them, He promised a Savior (Genesis 3:14-19). And so, in the same pattern, before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, God made sure there was a message to His people. The letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament is the explanation to Israel of the meaning and message of Jesus Christ, their Messiah -- that through His death the Old Covenant has been nullified through fulfillment of the law and all justice, and through Christ Himself there is a New Covenant in effect for believers.
The Romans destroyed the Second Temple and the City of Jerusalem on the 9th of Av in AD 70. The Jewish people then were dispersed and remained scattered among the nations for almost 2000 years. Israel was destroyed -- or so it seemed. But God was, first of all, fulfilling the conditional terms of the Covenant of the Land (Deuteronomy 28,29). Secondly, as Paul clearly explains in Romans 9-11, the church must now be completed. When it is, God will fulfill all His promises to Israel. In 1948, against any possible predictions which might have been made before, Israel became a state again -- not by conquest but by order of the United Nations. In 1967, after one of the shortest wars in history, they took Jerusalem back. Many Jews have come back to their ancient homeland in the last hundred years. God has begun the final act, protecting them even in their unbelief to this day. Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones in chapter 37 is a graphic picture of the rebirth of Israel -- their coming national resurrection.
There is yet another important reason to read Ezekiel. God never changes. He is longsuffering, patient and full of mercy. But He is Holy and Just and must judge sin. He does this reluctantly, as Lamentations tells us. As Jeremiah records, "Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?" (33:11) The book of Ezekiel shows all too clearly that God must judge every man, every nation and His own people as well. The Apostle Peter reminds us that judgment in fact begins with us, "For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And 'If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear?'" (1 Peter 4:17-18)
If all this interests you, download the free book, "Thy Kingdom Come" which Ron Graff and I wrote a year and a half ago, http://ldolphin.org/kingdom). Meantime do read through Ezekiel. You'll find God is able to speak clearly through ALL the Bible these days-perhaps more so now than ever before in earth's history. As we examine prophecy, it does appear we are near the end of the age and the coming again of Jesus, our blessed hope. Don't let anyone tell you parts of the Bible are myth, allegory or only of historical interest! Nonsense! "Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him." (Proverbs 30:5). If you have concerns about the integrity and authority of God's Word, as many do these days, see Ray's Stedman's great sermon on this subject, http://ldolphin.org/authword.html. Related articles: "Preterism and the Sea of Confusion in Modern Eschatology," http://ldolphin.org/preterism.html, "The Temple of Ezekiel," http://ldolphin.org/ezektmp.html and "Ezekiel and the Destruction of Jerusalem," http://ldolphin.org/Destr.html. May I also recommend Chuck Missler's excellent new briefing package, "How we Got our Bible," (http://www.khouse.org).
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust--there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men. To crush under foot all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the right of a man in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his cause, the Lord does not approve. Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: (Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:21:-41)
The Paraclete Forum: I have the privilege of maintaining four web sites. You'll find them prominently listed on my own web pages. During the past five years that I have been active in Cyberspace my daily email volume has kept increasing. I like to answer all of it myself whenever I can. Now our Lord has wonderfully put together a team of 17 men and women who work with me in Cyberspace-we see unlimited ministries in this unique new medium of communication. (For our team guidelines, see http://ldolphin.org/cpsace.html). We answer email from inquiring non-Christians. We deal constantly with doctrinal issues and questions of apologetics, church government, and we help people resources for counseling and Bible study. Lots of people who write us are lonely or without fellowship in difficult circumstances --so we feel privileged to be praying for many wonderful people around the world who are greatly loved by God. If you have a question for our team you'll find a convenient link at the bottom of my library web page. We will have our new Paraclete Forum web site online shortly.
New Book, Must Reading: Randall Price, Ph.D., an excellent Biblical scholar has just released his new book, "The Coming Last Days Temple." (Harvest House, 1999, web site: http://www.worldofthebible.com). This is an engrossing, thorough and complete study of the past and future temples in Israel. It is a book fully relevant for every Christian and Jew. Amazon.com has it, and the price is very reasonable as well.
Do Sign Up: Year 2000 Israel-Jordan Bible Study Tour: Led by Lambert Dolphin and Glenn Miller. Leaves October 19, 2000 for 12 days (plus optional 4 day trip to Jordan). $2200--plus ~$550 for extension. Immediate sign ups and $300 deposit are needed--trip is firm when we have 35 sign ups. Color brochures and sign-up forms available from Lands of Wonder Travel, Dawn McDaniel: 650-345-4182 or 650-340-8931 or 1-800-359-2922 outside California. Details: http://ldolphin.org/tour; Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Teaching: Each quarter I teach an evening Discovery Seminar class at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto. My next series "The Creation of Everything" starts March 27. We'll start with Genesis 1-11, however there is much more on creation elsewhere in the Bible so I'll try to be as comprehensive as I can in ten weeks.. Hopefully, this class will give me chance to better organize all my scattered creation notes on my web site! This new class, as well as past classes, are in RealAudio on my web site, http://ldolphin.org/audio.html.
"Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:1,2)
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