Over the years, I have been fascinated by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel. His colorful character, his crazy antics, his visions, his ability to withstand criticism, his capacity to move on after his wife’s death, and more has created my unparalleled interest in his life. I have always wanted to delve deeper into the man who wailed, ate a scroll, dug a hole in the wall, slapped his thighs, experienced visions, and more—all to get God’s message to the people God called him to reach. So, I did.
I spent a dedicated portion of my Bible study time every Monday through Friday studying the Book of Ezekiel. What I learned is what I want to share with you in this series on Ezekiel.
The main theme of the Book of Ezekiel although not the only one is the restoration of Israel—a nation that had turned to rebellion and sin. Ezekiel was called to warn the people that Jerusalem would be turned to rubble and terror. And it was coming soon.
For the Record: Nebuchadnezzar II
Ezekiel lived during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar II is not to be confused with Nebuchadnezzar I, who are unrelated and both go by the name of just Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar I lived from 1125–1104 BC. He was the fourth king of the Second Dynasty of Isin and Fourth Dynasty of Babylon. He ruled for two decades and was the most important ruler of this dynasty.
Nebuchadnezzar II ruled from approximately 605 BC-652 BC. As a founder of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Judah in 598 BC. He exiled many people including scholars, religious leaders, and government officials to Mesopotamia. “Babylonia was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area based in central-southern Mesopotamia.” ¹ It was during the second exile/deportation in 597 BC Ezekiel was uprooted along with 8,000 others to live in Mesopotamia for five years before experiencing the vision that changed his life.
At the age of 30, after living five years in this exiled land, Ezekiel, a Zadokite priest, experienced the vision in which he received a call and underwent a commission to serve the Lord in a mighty way. Zadokite priests were known to remain faithful to God while other priests were known to go astray and they were to be respected as an authority figure in the community. However, during the time of rebellion, these true priests were mocked and not taken seriously.
After Ezekiel’s vision, the next 20 years of Ezekiel’s ministry involved saying and doing many bizarre things to get the attention of the people. He was to prophesy about the fall of Jerusalem, the judgment on Israel, and its glorious future. At the same time, Nebuchadnezzar II was expanding the Babylonian Empire, Jerusalem remained rather peaceful for a few years and it was during that time Ezekiel warned the Jews of the impending crisis and the upcoming fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
The first three chapters in the book of Ezekiel are filled with extraordinary verses about Ezekiel’s preparation, call, and commission. Let’s move on.
Ezekiel 1: A Chapter Summary
1:1b “The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.”
1:3a “The word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi.”
1:4-5 “And as I looked, beyond a storm wind was coming from the north . . . And within it, there were figures resembling four living beings . . .”
1:15 “Now as I looked at the living beings, beyond, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them.”
1:20a “Wherever the spirit was about to go, they would go in that direction.”
1:28 “. . . Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.”
It is easy to get bogged down in minute details of Ezekiel’s vision. But, let’s look at the overall meaning of what is going on in this vision.
In this vision, Ezekiel saw four bizarre creatures braced on wheels. This would frighten anyone. But God showed Ezekiel that he had a purpose in this vision—Ezekiel was being shown that he was going to see things that other people would not be able to see.
Before starting his ministry, God was showing Ezekiel that God and His spirit was still in control of the world he was living in. The chapter ends with Ezekiel experiencing God’s glory. Ezekiel needed this reassurance before proceeding to receive his call and commission. God was preparing, strengthening, and encouraging him to face the things to come . . . just as He does with us!
How Did God Prepare Ezekiel for His Upcoming Call and Commission?
- God confirmed the vision was from Him; Ezekiel 1:1
- God convinced Ezekiel that He knows what He is doing; Ezekiel 1:20
- God revealed His glory to Ezekiel; Ezekiel 1:28
In our lives, God wants us to be so close to Him that we recognize His presence when we see it. God is in control of everything and when we look for His glorious presence, it will be shown to us.
Moving On . . .
Ezekiel 2: A Chapter Summary
2:1-2 “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you! And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet and I heard Him speaking to me.
2:7-10 “But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious . . . Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you. Then I looked, behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back; and written on it were lamentations, mourning, and woe.”
Ezekiel: The Prophet’s Call
In a nutshell, God tells Ezekiel to stand, listen, speak, be courageous, and obey the Word of God. Many times, in the Bible, when God says to stand, it is because He has something very significant to tell us.
I was called to write my books while standing up. God impressed upon me to get up off the couch, stand up, and go into my closet. It was there that God impressed me to look up and see the 42 years of prayer journals I had kept. It was then that God’s Spirit revealed it was time to start writing my devotional books because He had already been preparing me.
While Ezekiel was standing, God’s spirit entered him and he heard God speaking to him. God proceeded to tell him who He is sending him to (a rebellious people), how he should respond to these rebellious people (speak and do not be dismayed), and what to do (be obedient and eat the scroll provided.)
How to Know Your Calling
Many Bible believers recognize that to have an effective ministry for God they must be called into ministry. Many stories abound regarding famous people being called by God in the Bible. These include Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, Elijah, Esther, and Jesus’ mother Mary. But, I am not talking here about being called into full-time ministry here. I am talking about regular people being called into service for God.
I know in my life when I feel called to do something, like teach a class or work in a ministry, I am more confident in the abilities God has given me to use in whatever the capacity is. People are called by different methods. Ezekiel was called through a vision. You might be called through a whisper, a mighty voice from God, or a quiet communication from the Holy Spirit.
What Does God Want Us to Know?
God wants our lives to be committed to Him before He can show us His plans.
God does have a plan for our lives.
God can (and most likely will) change or modify our plans so we will go in the direction of His will for us.
God calls all believers to make disciples.
God will provide open doors, but we must actively look for them.
God wants us to ask Him for direction, guidance, and wisdom.
Ezekiel 2 talks about Ezekiel’s Call while Ezekiel 3 speaks about Ezekiel’s commission. Missionary evangelist Daniel Kolenda describes it in the best way I could find using an example from the New Testament. He says,
“When Jesus called His disciples, He didn’t call them to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers. He simply called them to follow Him. And as they followed Him, Jesus promised that He would make them into “fishers of men.” Now the disciples left their nets immediately to follow Jesus, but they were not made into fishers of men immediately. There was a season of training between when Jesus called them to follow Him and when He commissioned them to preach the gospel.” ²
Moving On . . .
Ezekiel 3: A Chapter Summary
3:1 “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”
3:2 “So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll.
3:4-5, 7a “Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel … yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you since they are not willing to listen to Me.
3:22-24 “And the hand of the LORD was on me there, and He said to me, ‘Get up, go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you. So, I got up and went out to the plain; and behold, the glory of the LORD was standing there, like the glory which I saw by the river Chebar, and I fell on my face. The Spirit then entered me and made me stand on my feet, and He spoke with me and said to me, ‘Go shut yourself up in your house.
3:26 “Moreover, I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be dumb, and cannot be a man who rebukes them, for they are a rebellious house.
3:27 “But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth, and you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refused, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.
Ezekiel’s Commission into Service
Ezekiel’s mission was multifaceted. He was called and commissioned to:
- Warn the exiles of the impending disasters which were to come on them
- Show the people of Israel the consequences of their rebellion and sin
- Prophesy about Babylon’s victory over them
- Prophesy about the restoration of Israel, and
- Give specifics about the new temple of Israel
All this was to be shared with people who would not listen to him and his prophecies from the LORD.
In Ezekiel 3, we see God muting Ezekiel’s mouth so He will speak only when he is absolutely led to. This was most likely his preparation time. After we are called into service, there is usually a time of preparation. I call it my PREP TIME!
We live in a fast-paced world. We have trouble waiting and being patient. But, we must.
It is through reading our Bible, listening to spiritually mature people, and waiting on God in prayer we will know what to do, where to go, how to get there, and how to act. We must patiently watch for open doors of ministry.
When God is calling us to do something for Him, He will do what is needed to get His purpose accomplished.
- Confirm His will
- Get us into position,
- Change our plans if necessary, and
- Get us going in the right direction
I wish I could say it is always a pleasant experience. Sometimes it is, but in Ezekiel’s case, obeying his call to service wasn’t an easy ride for him, but being obedient to God was more important to him than his personal comfort—as it should be for us too!
A story has been told about an uneducated miner in Scotland who preached among his fellow workmen with great power. “Soon his witness took him far beyond the confines of the mining towns. Someone asked him how he had received his call to preach. He replied, ‘Oh, I had such a burden on my soul for those who did not know the gospel, I argued with the Lord that I had no education and no gift. But He said, to me, ‘Jamie, you know what the sickness is, don’t you?’ I answered, ‘Yes, Lord, the sickness is sin.’ ‘And you know what the remedy is, don’t you, Jamie?’ I answered, ‘Yes, Lord, the remedy is the Lord Jesus Christ.’ And He said to me. ‘Jamie, just take the remedy to those who are sick.’ The uneducated miner said, “That [was] my call to preach.’ ²
God calls every believer to be a servant. What is your calling? Are you willing for Him to show you? Why not ask the Lord to show you now? God may not speak to through a vision like He did to Ezekiel, but He will speak. He always does!
Bible Verses: See above.
O heavenly Father, I so want to do Your will. I want to do anything You ask me to do, but it is scary. I need You to confirm Your presence, show me Your will, and give me the strength and power to follow heed the call You have on my life. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Ezekiel: When God SAYS “Enough is Enough” at www.GreenePastures.org.
¹ Wikipedia. Babylonia. https://en.wikipedia.org. Accessed 7 June 2017.
² Kolenda, Daniel. The Call vs. the Commission. Charisma Magazine. 14 Oct 2015. http://www.charismamag.com. Accessed 8 June 2017.
³ Barnhouse, Donald. Let Me Illustrate. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1969.
Losch, Richard. All the People in the Bible: An A-Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren. Be Reverent: Bowing Before Our Awesome God. Colorado Springs: David Cook, 2000.
Allen, Clifton, ed. The Broadman Bible Commentary: Jeremiah-Daniel. Nashville: Broadman, 1971.
Edited by E. Johnson; Bible verses are taken from the NASB if not noted otherwise.
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Books by Patti Greene