. Ministry to Alcoholics and Prisoners. These “bottom layers” of society can find their life transformed by the same power that changed the blue-collar worker and the sophisticated housewife.
CUT TO: EXT TEMPLE COURT
A open air market place is being held in a temple court. They are selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. We see Nicodemus standing there admiring the business being done. Jesus walks up with his disciples. He is carrying a whip made out of cords. He drives out the merchants, sheep and cattle from the temple area. He scatters the coins of the money changers and overturns their tables.
JESUS Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!
NICODEMUS What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?
JESUS Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.
NICODEMUS It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and your are going to raise it in three days? Jesus walks off. Nicodemus becomes infuriated.
NICODEMUS (CONT’D) This man is dangerous, I better follow him. Nicodemus walks off following Jesus. CUT TO: EXT.
PATH TO A RIVER BANK Jesus is walking down the path toward the river. At the river bank John the Baptist is baptizing people in the water. Nicodemus is following at a distance. When John sees Jesus coming toward him he says:
JOHN Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.
JOHN (CONT’D) I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me. ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” At the top of the river bank, Nicodemus had stood and watched. He appears to be impressed. Jesus walks back up the path with Nicodemus following at a distance. CUT TO: EXT
PATH TO A RIVER BANK As he follows Jesus away they meet a government official. Nicodemus thinks that the official is looking for him, so he rushes forward. But the official goes directly to Jesus.
JESUS Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.
OFFICIAL Sir, come down before my child dies.
JESUS You may go. Your son will live. The official rushes off. And Jesus continues down the path with Nicodemus following at a distance. CUT TO: EXT
Ezekiel Book Overview
Ezekiel prophesied to the exiles in Babylon. He had to dispel the false hope that Israel’s captivity would be short, explain the reasons for the severe judgments on their nation, and bring a message of future hope. Although the people did not respond positively, they heard the messages and knew the truth. God’s people were not left without explanation and direction, and neither are we.
Like his contemporary Jeremiah, Ezekiel prophesied in politically volatile times. After Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., only the southern kingdom of Judah was left. Assyria lost its ascendancy in 612 B.C. and was replaced as a world power by Babylon. Judah was a vassal state of Babylon, but rebelled, hoping for Egypt’s support. Egypt proved unreliable and Judah was subdued by King Nebuchanezzar of Babylon in 605 and again in 598-597 B.C. He took thousands of Jews captive each time. Among those in the second wave of exiles was Ezekiel.
|627 b.c.||Jeremiah becomes a prophet to Judah
|605||Daniel taken captive to Babylon
|597||Ezekiel taken captive to Babylon|
|593||Ezekiel becomes a prophet to exiles
|586||Judah falls; Jerusalem destroyed
|571||Ezekiel’s ministry ends
|539||Babylon overthrown by Cyrus|
|538||First exiles return to Judah|
|Purpose:||To announce God’s judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people|
|Author:||Ezekiel son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest|
|To Whom Written:||The Jews in captivity in Babylonia and God’s people everywhere|
|Date Written:||Approximately 571 b.c.|
|Setting:||Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoiachin. He was taken there in 597 b.c.|
|Key Verses:||“For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. (36:24-26).|
|Key People:||Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”|
|Key Places:||Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt|
Out of the ruins of Jerusalem came a gutsy preacher named Ezekiel. He was among the Jews taken to Babylon after the fall of his country. He left behind his city. He left behind his Temple. He left behind his home.
But he didn’t leave his faith.
He announced it to everyone who would listen. For twenty two years he paced the streets proclaiming both sides of the faith.
The bad side? Turn or burn. Forgive me for being so direct, but Ezekiel was.
The good side? Turn and learn. God has a great plan for his people. A great city, Justice will reign and worship will be restored. Unlike Jerusalem, God’s city is eternal. Who will be in God’s cfity? Ezekiel answers that with the final words of the book – The LORD is There.
Out of the ruins came Ezekiel. Out of the ruins came the promise. Out of the ruins came the new hope.
Is your life in ruins? Look ahead to God’s city: The LORD is There.
A computer can be programmed to respond at your command. And by conditioning a dog with rewards and punishments, you can teach it to obey. But as every parent knows, children are not so easily taught. People have wills and must choose to submit, to follow the instructions of those who have authority over them. Surely discipline is part of the process—boys and girls should know that they will reap the consequences of disobedience.
God’s children must learn to obey their heavenly Father. Created in his image, they have a choice, and God allows them to choose.
Ezekiel was a man who chose to obey God. Although he was a priest (1:3), he served as a Jewish “street preacher” in Babylon for 22 years, telling everyone about God’s judgment and salvation, and calling them to repent and obey. And Ezekiel lived what he preached. During his ministry God told him to illustrate his messages with dramatic object lessons. Some of these acts included (1) lying on his side for 390 days during which he could eat only one eight-ounce meal a day cooked over manure, (2) shaving his head and beard, and (3) showing no sorrow when his wife died. He obeyed and faithfully proclaimed God’s word.
God may not ask you to do anything quite so dramatic or difficult; but if he did, would you do it?
The book of Ezekiel chronicles the prophet’s life and ministry. Beginning with his call as a prophet and commissioning as a “watchman for Israel” (chapters 1–3), Ezekiel immediately began to preach and demonstrate God’s truth, as he predicted the approaching siege and destruction of Jerusalem (chapters 4–24). This devastation would be God’s judgment for the people’s idolatry. Ezekiel challenged them to turn from their wicked ways. In the next section, he spoke to the surrounding nations, prophesying that God would judge them for their sins as well (chapters 25–32). The book concludes with a message of hope, as Ezekiel proclaimed the faithfulness of God and foretold the future blessings for God’s people (chapters 33–48).
As you read this exciting record, observe how Ezekiel fearlessly preached the word of God to the exiled Jews in the streets of Babylon, and hear the timeless truth of God’s love and power. Think about each person’s responsibility to trust God and about the inevitability of God’s judgment against idolatry, rebellion, and indifference. Then commit yourself to obey God, whatever, wherever, and whenever he asks.
Although Ezekiel’s visions and prophecies were clear and vivid, very little is known about the prophet’s personal life. He was among the thousands of young men deported from Judah to Babylon when King Jehoiachin surrendered. Until those tragic days, Ezekiel was being trained for the priesthood. But during the exile in Babylon, God called Ezekiel to be his prophet during one of Israel’s darkest times.
Ezekiel experienced the same kind of shocking encounter with God that Isaiah had reported 150 years earlier. Like Isaiah, Ezekiel was never the same after his personal encounter with God. Although God’s messages through both these prophets had many points in common, the conditions under which they lived were very different. Isaiah warned of the coming storm; Ezekiel spoke in the midst of the storm of national defeat that devastated his people. He announced that even Jerusalem would not escape destruction. In addition, during this time Ezekiel had to endure the pain of his wife’s death.
God’s description of Ezekiel as a watchman on the walls of the city captures the personal nature of his ministry. A watchman’s job was dangerous. If he failed at his post, he and the entire city might be destroyed. His own safety depended on the quality of his work. The importance of each person’s accountability before God was a central part of Ezekiel’s message. He taught the exiles that God expected personal obedience and worship from each of them.
As in Ezekiel’s day, it is easy for us today to forget that God has a personal interest in each one of us. We may feel insignificant or out of control when we look at world events. But knowing that God is ultimately in control, that he cares, and that he is willing to be known by us can bring a new sense of purpose to our lives. How do you measure your worth? Are you valuable because of your achievements and potential or because God, your Creator and Designer, declares you valuable?
@Strengths and accomplishments
w Was a priest by training, a prophet by God’s call
w Received vivid visions and delivered powerful messages
w Served as God’s messenger during Israel’s captivity in Babylon
w Became a tough and courageous man so he could reach a hard and stubborn people (Ezekiel 3:8)
@Lessons from his life
w Even the repeated failures of his people will not prevent God’s plan for the world from being fulfilled
w Each person’s response to God determines his or her eternal destiny
w God has people through whom he can work even in seemingly hopeless situations
w Where: Babylon
w Occupation: Prophet to the captives in Babylon
w Relatives: Father: Buzi. Wife: Unknown
w Contemporaries: Jehoiachin, Jeremiah, Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar
“Then he added, ‘Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says!” Do this whether they listen to you or not’“ (Ezekiel 3:10, 11).
Ezekiel’s story is told in the book of Ezekiel and 2 Kings 24:10–17.
|served as a prophet to the exiles in Babylon from 593-571 b.c.|
|Climate of the times||Ezekiel and his people are taken to Babylon as captives. The Jews become foreigners in a strange land ruled by an authoritarian government.|
|Main message||Because of the people’s sins, God allowed the nation of Judah to be destroyed. But there was still hope—God promised to restore the land to those who remained faithful to him.|
|Importance of message||God never forgets those who faithfully seek to obey him. They have a glorious future ahead.|
|Contemporary prophets||Daniel (605-536 b.c.), Habakkuk (612-588 b.c.), Jeremiah (627-586 b.c.)|
|A. Messages of Doom (1:1–24:27)
1. Ezekiel’s call and commission
2. Visions of sin and judgment
3. Punishment is certain
|While Jeremiah was prophesying in Jerusalem that the city would soon fall to the Babylonians, Ezekiel was giving the same message to the captives who were already in Babylon. Like those in Jerusalem, the captives stubbornly believed that Jerusalem would not fall and that they would soon return to their land. Ezekiel warned them that punishment was certain because of their sins and that God was purifying his people. God will always punish sin, whether we believe it or not.|
|B. Messages Against Foreign Nations (25:1–32:32)||Ezekiel condemns the sinful actions of seven nations. The people in these nations were saying that God was obviously too weak to defend his people and the city of Jerusalem. But God was allowing his people to be defeated in order to punish them for their sins. These pagan nations, however, would face a similar fate, and then they would know that God is all-powerful. Those who dare to mock God today will also face a terrible fate.|
|C. Messages of Hope (33:1–48:35)
1. Restoring the people of God
2. Restoring the worship of God
|After the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel delivered messages of future restoration and hope for the people. God is holy, but Jerusalem and the Temple had become defiled. The nation had to be cleansed through 70 years of captivity. Ezekiel gives a vivid picture of the unchangeable holiness of God. We, too, must gain a vision of the glory of God, a fresh sense of his greatness, as we face the struggles of daily life.|
|God’s Holiness||Ezekiel saw a vision that revealed God’s absolute moral perfection. God was spiritually and morally superior to members of Israel’s corrupt and compromising society. Ezekiel wrote to let the people know that God in his holiness was also present in Babylon, not just in Jerusalem.||Because God is morally perfect, he can help us live above our tendency to compromise with this world. When we focus on his greatness, he gives us the power to overcome sin and to reflect his holiness.|
|Sin||Israel had sinned, and God’s punishment came. The fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile were used by God to correct the rebels and draw them back from their sinful way of life. Ezekiel warned them that not only was the nation responsible for sin but each individual was also accountable to God.||We cannot excuse ourselves from our responsibilities before God. We are accountable to God for our choices. Rather than neglect him, we must recognize sin for what it is—rebellion against God—and choose to follow him instead.|
|Restoration||Ezekiel consoles the people by telling them that the day will come when God will restore those who turn from sin. God will be their King and shepherd. He will give his people a new heart to worship him, and he will establish a new government and a new Temple.||The certainty of future restoration encourages believers in times of trial. But we must be faithful to God because we love him, not merely for what he can do for us. Is our faith in him or merely in our future benefits?|
|Leaders||Ezekiel condemned the shepherds (unfaithful priests and leaders), who led the people astray. By contrast, he served as a caring shepherd and a faithful watchman to warn the people about their sin. One day God’s perfect shepherd, the Messiah, will lead his people.||Jesus is our perfect leader. If we truly want him to lead us, our devotion must be more than talk. If we are given the responsibility of leading others, we must take care of them even if it means sacrificing personal pleasure, happiness, time, or money. We are responsible for those we lead.|
|Worship||An angel gave Ezekiel a vision of the Temple in great detail. God’s holy presence had departed from Israel and the Temple because of sin. The building of a future Temple portrays the return of God’s glory and presence. God will cleanse his people and restore true worship.||All of God’s promises will be fulfilled under the rule of the Messiah. The faithful followers will be restored to perfect fellowship with God and with one another. To be prepared for this time, we must focus on God. We do this through regular worship. Through worship we learn about God’s holiness and the changes we must make in how we live.|
Ezekiel is a book of unearthly visions, poems, parables and comic street theater. However , to get the people’s attention. God uses more than Ezekiel’s vivid images and symbolic actions. He allows the people to suffer. But Ezekiel’s message of imminent doom turns to ultimate hope in the end. There is a balance in the book with the vision of the desecrated temple balanced by that of the restored temple, the message of God’s anger balanced by the truth of God’s mercy, and the appointment of Ezekiel as a watchman of judgment balanced by his role as watchman of consolation.
1 Don’t envy evil people; don’t desire their company. 2 For they spend their days plotting violence, and their words are always stirring up trouble.
3A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. 4Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.
5 A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a man of knowledge is more powerful than a strong man. 6 So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many counselors.
7 Wisdom is too much for a fool. When the leaders gather, the fool has nothing to say.
8 A person who plans evil will get a reputation as a troublemaker. 9The schemes of a fool are sinful; everyone despises a mocker.
10 If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great.
11 Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die. 12 Don’t try to avoid responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it. For God knows all hearts, and he sees you. He keeps watch over your soul, and he knows you knew! And he will judge all people according to what they have done.
13 My child,£ eat honey, for it is good, and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste. 14 In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.
15 Do not lie in wait like an outlaw at the home of the godly. And don’t raid the house where the godly live. 16They may trip seven times, but each time they will rise again. But one calamity is enough to lay the wicked low.
17 Do not rejoice when your enemies fall into trouble. Don’t be happy when they stumble. 18For the Lord will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them.
19 Do not fret because of evildoers; don’t envy the wicked. 20For the evil have no future; their light will be snuffed out.
21 My child, fear the Lord and the king, and don’t associate with rebels. 22For you will go down with them to sudden disaster. Who knows where the punishment from the Lord and the king will end?
More Sayings of the Wise
23Here are some further sayings of the wise:
It is wrong to show favoritism when passing judgment. 24 A judge who says to the wicked, “You are innocent,” will be cursed by many people and denounced by the nations. 25But blessings are showered on those who convict the guilty.
26 It is an honor to receive an honest reply.
27 Develop your business first before building your house.
28 Do not testify spitefully against innocent neighbors; don’t lie about them. 29 _ And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for all their meanness to me! I’ll get even!”
30 I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one lacking sense. 31I saw that it was overgrown with thorns. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. 32 Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: 33A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—34and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.
The athlete who has wisdom—who assesses the situation and plans strategies—has an advantage over a physically stronger but unwise opponent. We exercise regularly and eat well to build our strength, but do we take equal pains to develop wisdom and knowledge? Because wisdom is a vital part of strength, it pays to attain it.
In any major decision we make concerning college, marriage, career, children, etc., it is not a sign of weakness to ask for advice. Instead, it is foolish not to ask for it. Find good advisers before making any big decision. They can help you expand your alternatives and evaluate your choices.
Plotting to do evil can be as wrong as doing it because what you think determines what you will do. Left unchecked, wrong desires will lead us to sin. God wants pure hearts, free from sin, and planning evil brings sinful thoughts into our mind. Should you say, “Then I might as well go ahead and do it because I’ve already planned it”? No. You have sinned in your attitude, but you have not yet harmed other people. Stop in your tracks and ask God to forgive you and put you on a different path.
Times of trouble can be useful. They can show you who you really are—what kind of character you have developed. In addition, they can help you grow stronger. When Jeremiah questioned God because of the trouble he faced, God asked how he ever expected to face big challenges if the little ones tired him out (Jeremiah 12:5). Don’t complain about your problems. The trouble you face today is training you to be strong for the more difficult situations you will face in the future.
Proverbs 24:17, 18
David, Solomon’s father, refused to gloat over the death of his lifelong enemy, Saul (see 2 Samuel 1). On the other hand, the nation of Edom rejoiced over Israel’s defeat and was punished by God for their attitude (Obadiah 1:12). To gloat over others’ misfortune is to make yourself the avenger and to put yourself in the place of God, who alone is the real Judge of all the earth (see Deuteronomy 32:35).
People often think that they should bend the truth to avoid hurting a friend. But one who gives an honest, straightforward answer is a true friend.
We should carry out our work in its proper order. If a farmer builds his house in the spring, he will miss the planting season and go a year without food. If a businessman invests his money in a house while his business is struggling to grow, he may lose both. It is possible to work hard and still lose everything if the timing is wrong or the resources to carry it out are not in place.