READ: Ezekiel 1-3
BACKGROUND: Ezekiel is an incredible book for many reasons, but especially the fact that he lived in such a unique place and time. Ezekiel was a prophet who lived in Babylonian exile, at a time when the Assyrian empire was crumbling under pressure from a resurgent Babylon and Jerusalem, because of rebellion against Babylon, was put under siege and eventually burned. Ezekiel was called, by God, to minister to the Israelite people and often to act out God’s word for them through prophetic symbolism. Above all else, Ezekiel highlights the theme of God’s sovereignty and his presence in all places.
By Verse –
1:3 – Ezekiel means “God strengthens”
5 – The number 4 signifies completeness (and it’s used often in this book). The 4 creatures are cherubim – angels who attend God’s throne – and they represent God’s creation: Man (the ruler of God’s creation), the Lion (king of the wild beasts), the Ox (strongest of domestic animals), and Eagle (most majestic and powerful of birds).
18 – Full of eyes symbolizes the fact that God sees everything.
22 – The expanse separates the creatures from the glory of the Lord.
2:1 – The son of man is used 93 times in Ezekiel as he emphasizes his humanity in the face of a transcendent God.
6 – Briars, thorns, & scorpions symbolize those who will oppose Ezekiel and reject his message.
10 – The fact that there was writing on both sides jumps out as weird. Ancient scrolls only contained writing on 1 side. So why both? Because this was completely filled and saturated with Divine judgment.
3:4 – He ate God’s words and was then asked to speak them back out to the nation.
11 – Many of the Israelites in exile (along with Ezekiel) believed that God would never allow anything to happen to Jerusalem, even though they were in exile. When it fell to the Babylonians, they were in despair so they needed God’s words.
17 – Ezekiel had great responsibility to tell the people God’s words.
26 – Ezekiel’s forced silence symbolized Israel’s stubborn refusal to take God’s word seriously.
THINK: Emperor penguins are pretty incredible. After the females lay eggs, they transfer them to the feet of the males and then have to travel over 60 miles to get the ocean so that they can eat – and eat enough to feed their baby chicks when they get back. The males, then, spend 9 weeks sitting on eggs, pressed together in a giant huddle because the temperatures hover around 80 degrees below zero. During these 9 weeks in freezing temperatures the male emperor penguins do not eat anything, because no food is available and they only are able to get water by consuming the snow that falls on them. Then, at the end of the 9 weeks, the eggs begin to hatch. And what is the first thing that the new emperor penguin dads do? They regurgitate food in order to feed their new chicks. They don’t eat for 9 weeks, they lose a large percentage of their body weight, and yet they are able to give up something of what they have left to feed the babies.
The first 3 chapters – and the whole book – of Ezekiel are full of unbelievable and mind-blowing imagery. But I think that one of the coolest parts of the entire book is when God has Ezekiel eat a scroll full of words for the people of Israel. It’s pretty cool of God to at least make it taste delicious. I don’t know what a regular old scroll would taste like, but I bet it wouldn’t be good. But God’s purpose in this wasn’t feeding Ezekiel a meal. He was having Ezekiel ingest the words so that Ezekiel could, in a sense, regurgitate these words to the people of Israel. And God told Ezekiel that he was a watchman. He possessed the words of God and so he had a responsibility to deliver them to those around him because they were in desperate need.
I believe that we are God’s watchmen today. The Bible makes it clear that every Christian is part of a royal priesthood. And we have a responsibility to bring his words to the people around us. It doesn’t take a long look at the newspaper to see that our world needs them just as badly as Ezekiel’s did. If we’re going to take that responsibility seriously then this passage gives us a very clear first step: We have to ingest the word of God! We have to take it in, develop a habit of reading and applying and digesting it. We have to fill ourselves up on God’s word.
Our dark and broken world, like a newly hatched penguin chick, will die if it doesn’t receive the nourishment that it desperately needs. That nourishment is at our fingertips. Only once we have submitted to God and taken it in and applied it to our own lives will we be fully equipped to regurgitate his truth for those around us. We are watchmen; we have a great responsibility. The only question is: will we fulfill it?
PRAY: Thank God for the incredible blessing of his word. We have the Bible at our fingertips 24/7 in the 21st century and it is incredible! We shouldn’t take it for granted. Ask God to fill you up with his word so that you’ll be equipped to share it with others.