The range of text we will be covering this week is chapters 4-7 of Ezekiel instead of the scheduled 4-10. There has been a change of plans to move MEGACHURCH to later in the year and so the preaching schedule has been modified. Next week we will cover chapters 8-10 and I hope to publish an updated schedule for the rest of the year ASAP.
How do we take four chapters and focus on something specific? If we attempt that much in a Growth Group then we’ll run out of time and when that happens, the leader tends to do all the talking. We’re going to focus on chapter 7 which picks up the themes from the other three chapters. Here’s a couple of options to handle this week:
- Ask your group to pre-read the chapters before coming.
- Listen to the bible read aloud for you on a device (e.g. You Version). This will take about fifteen minutes to do as a group.
- Divide your group into sections and have them read different chapters on their own. Then, when you study chapter 7, they might be able to add some input from the chapter that they read.
- Read aloud the overview below before reading chapter 7 together.
Once the context is covered, read through chapter 7 and conduct a study as normal. Here is a link to an outline for your study. Use that study outline along with the notes below to help.
The chosen people of Israel have been rebelling against God for centuries. Even though God saved them from slavery and nurtured them into a mighty nation. Even though God gave them a great city and the Temple as the place designated by God for true worship. Even though God had sent prophet after prophet to warn the people to repent. Israel and Judah have rebelled and resisted God’s grace and promises. Now, while in a foreign land, Ezekiel is instructed on what to say and do to communicate to the people of Israel: the end is here! Ezekiel was told in chapter 3 that if he fails to warn the people, then their blood is on his hands.
Overview of chapters 4-6…
The LORD instructs Ezekiel to perform 4 things with his body. 1) He is to use clay to illustrate Jerusalem being surrounded and under siege, 2) he is to lay down on his left side for 390 days to represent the 390 years of rebellion and then on his right side for 40 days to represent the 40 years of judgement, 3) while lying down, he is to eat an incredibly small amount of food which would have tasted awful. He is told to cook the food on human dung, but protests and is allowed to cook it on cow dung! Yay! 4) He is told to take a sword and shave his beard (ouch) and with a third, burn it, another third, strike it with the sword and with the final third, scatter it into the wind. This is to communicate that the people of Israel will be subject to famine as they are caged in the city under seige, then they will be struck down by the sword of the enemy and the final third who happen to escape will be scattered but then hunted down and killed also.
They are described as worse than the nations and are being judged because they have defiled God’s sanctuary. God is against them and what is predicted to happen is from the LORD – and they will know it!
In chapter 6, the focus is on the mountains where the third who are scattered may run for protection. But they won’t find it there. The mountains were where Israel worshipped other gods and this is where the final survivers will be slain. The whole land will be deserted and it will be clear that the LORD did this. It is restated that there will be 1) famine, 2) sword and 3) scattering.
Observations on chapter 7
For the first time in Ezekiel, we see something that looks like poetry. Our English bibles tell us that this is Hebrew poetry when they lay out the text indented like poetry. You know what they say, poetry is lost in translation…or something like that!
There is a repeated cycle in the chapter which the below table highlights. Verses 12-27 take up the largest section which fleshes out the brief summary of verses 3-4.
|The End has come!||1-3||5-7||10-12|
|I will judge you without pity for your conduct and practices||3-4||8-9||12-27|
|Then you will know that I am the LORD||4||9||27|
The prophecy is to be directed “To the land of Israel” (1, 7, 23, 27). This is because the LORD seeks to make the land deserted waste land (see 6:14). The judgement that is coming and is at the door will leave the land of Israel looking like a holocaust – post apocalyptic! The land was one of the great promises to Israel and a clear sign of their blessing. Removal from the land is a clear message of curse and wrath.
“The end has come!” (7:2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12) This is the first of the three part message of this chapter (see table above). Doom is at the door! The urgency of this message can’t be overlooked. It is not, “the end is coming” but, “the end has come!” Those who are left living in Jerusalem are about to die. The application is more than a warning about judgement but on the fact that at some point, it will be too late. When Christ returns, or when we reach the end of our life, that is the time of judgement.
“your conduct…your detestable practices” (3, 4, 8, 9, 13, 20, 27) The cause of the end is the conduct of the people. There are clues in the verses listed here as to what their conduct was. Verse 20 describes pride in what they had which was used to create idols for false gods. See 6:11-13 for a clear image of the detestable practices and how God will react to this. Also 5:8-12 contains another summary of what is at stake here.
“[without] pity, I will not spare you.” (4, 9) See also 5:8 and 11. This is a striking phrase because it stands in defiance of a view of an all-loving God. All-loving, however, does not mean that nothing can make the LORD angry and wrathful. There is a time for patience and a time to act. When final judgement comes, the decision will be sure and decisive. This is the God whom we serve. This is only one reason why I choose to serve him and not make him my enemy – but it’s a good reason.
“Then they will know that I am the LORD” (6:7, 10, 13, 14, 7:4, 9, 27) This phrase in verses 4, 9 and 27 give off the first clue that there is a three part cycle here. When combined with the repeated theme of the end, we begin to see the repetitious structure of the chapter. You see that chapter 6 repeats this phrase also. It reminds us that one day every knee will bow and tongue confess who is LORD. Both the saint and the rebel will see clearly in the end. The difference will be a question of when you did something about it. Israel should have already known this instead of worshipping any other gods.
“the mountains” (7, 16) The significance of the mountains is that this is where the vile idolatry took place. This is where offerings were made to other gods for prosperity and food and this is exactly where the slain will lay dripping in blood. See 6:1-7.
“pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you” (3, 8, 12, 14, 19, 24) This is a terribly frightful phrase – to experience all of God’s wrath and anger being poured out and completely spent. We witnessed Ezekiel see only a vision of the likeness of the glory of the LORD and that sent him crashing to the floor. This brings out the attention that God will give to judgement. He will not flick his enemies away like used toothpicks. He will give his attention to the punishment and make sure it is complete. Read Nahum 1:6. After meditating on the fear of this – the danger of God’s wrath, consider the One who was prepared to stand in the way of God’s full wrath and fury for us. Jesus Christ had the wrath of God poured out on him so that we may escape God’s wrath for our own idolatry and shame (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 5:9; 1 Thess 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 1:4; 1 John 4:10). See also Ezekiel 5:13 and see that at some point, God’s wrath can be spent! This gives us confidence in trusting Jesus all the more because God’s wrath has been satisfied.
“Their silver and gold will not be able to deliver them.” (11, 19-21) The things we treat as great value now will do nothing for us on the day of judgement. The people of Israel were not simply worshiping false idols but were relying on wealth. They not only trusted their riches, they even used them to make worthless idols! How the two sins are closely and even inseparably woven! See Colossions 3:5.
“Outside is the sword; inside are plague and famine.” (7:15) There is no escape for Israel. They are damned if they flee and they are damned if they remain inside the city. See 5:12; 6:12.
“desecrate the place I treasure….sanctuaries will be desecrated.” (5:11; 7:22, 24) The people had performed evil acts in the temple – the place God treasures – and this too will be desecrated by God. Since they defile it, God will make sure it is made unclean. This theme of the defiled temple will return in the book of Ezekiel.
God’s people have deserted God through idolatry and desecrating the temple with false worship. While other prophets have cried out “judgement is coming if you don’t repent!” This prophet will declare, “the end is here because you have refused to repent!” There comes a point when God’s patience is ended and the final judgement takes place.
- Judgement day is coming. Silver and gold will get us nowhere. If our trust is in anything other than Jesus, we will receive the full brunt of God’s wrath and anger. What is your hope and trust in? How can you tell if your trust is in Jesus and not in anything else?
- God’s wrath has been spent! Jesus Christ was willing to stand in the way of our judgement. It is easy to say that Jesus died in my place but there is a reason why Jesus was in torment in the garden of Gethsemane – he knew what he was about to face. Thank Jesus for his sacrifice for you. We can never repay him for what he has done but we can certainly fight idolatry by acknowledging what he has done.
- Idolatry – what does this look like for us? Israel turned to false images for fairly familiar reasons – for the hope to prosper, for good fortune, good health and the like. We may not turn to idols (although it must be noted that many cultures in Australia still do turn to idols for prosperity and health etc) but where is our trust directed? What plans, routines, purchases, and even superstitions can you identify in your life that is replacing our Sovereign LORD?
- From chapters 4 and 5, Ezekiel was told to perform some visible signs. These were not just like a visual aid such as a Powerpoint presentation – they were emotional demonstrations to evoke emotion in others – they were affective signs. We too can do the same thing – not with weird and crazy performances but by demonstrating to people with our lives that we are for God. Let others see our lives and be rebuked.
- God’s ultimate visible sign is Jesus. He is not just a description of God or a man who pointed us to God – he was God in the flesh who demonstrated the depths of our sin by being murdered on a cross. The cross itself is an affective sign. How clearer can we be about our race’s attitude toward God than to point to the cross and say, “see, we even want God dead!” How low can we go?
Prayer for the week
Lord of all, please help us to turn away from idols and give you our whole heart, mind and soul to trust and obey. Thank you for Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made on our behalf. Thank you Jesus for your visible love for us. Help us to show the world with out lives that we belong to you and that this is the only safe way to live. Amen.