A few of us met at my office (the local Panera's) recently for a morning Bible study on the book of Ezekiel. It took us months to go through it verse by verse. We met once a week, 7:30 each Monday morning, and did about a chapter each time. First we would talk a bit, sip on some coffee, and more often than not, I would jokingly ask who's bright idea was it to study this book. That's because Ezekiel is kind of intimidating to study because of it's imagery and symbolism, and a lot of people just either skim through it or simply stay away from it.
In case you didn't know, Ezekiel is one of the Old Testament books of the Bible, named after the writer, who was one of the prophets of God. Ezekiel lived around 600BC. He was among those Jews who were brought into captivity in Babylon. It was a time when the nation of Israel, God's chosen people, had become disobedient, corrupt, arrogant, and were worshiping idols instead of worshiping God. This had been going on for a long time and God became so fed up with their disobedience that He decided to wipe most of them out and destroy all their idols.
God began giving Ezekiel visions, calling him to become a prophet. The first vision was a spectacular one. It's the famous vision of spinning wheels inside of wheels. Essentially what this spiritual throne-chariot meant was the God was going to remove Himself from His presence in Jerusalem because He was fed up with their disobedience.
Then chapter after chapter Ezekiel gives warning after warning, prophesying about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. This destruction would be by God's own hand of judgment, using the Babylonians as his vehicle. At first God told Ezekiel he would temporarily be unable to speak, so he had to act out various predictions. For example, he would lay on his side in the direction of Jerusalem, pointing to the city that would be receiving God's judgment. He would ever build models of Jerusalem, indicating where the coming destruction was to happen. Then, after the destruction of Jerusalem, he was allowed to speak, often against other nations such as Egypt and Tyre, who were holdouts against Babylon, the nation God wanted to use as His agent of judgment.
The book of Ezekiel, however, ends with a glorious vision of the new Jerusalem in all its splendor. This could mean, symbolically, the coming New Testament church of Jesus Christ, or even the eternal Holy City of heaven talked about in Revelation. Regardless, it is a vision of restoration and promise.
As we went through the book, occasionally I would try to summarize what we had been studying so far. At first, I summarized the book, from a big picture view, like this:
But when we got toward the end of our study on the book of Ezekiel, I summarized it this way:
However, what I began to realize was that the big picture view of Ezekiel is really this:
It began to make sense that, because of disobedience, God needed to punish the nation of Israel for worshiping other gods. He would destroy Jerusalem and many of the people there. Although their punishment was justified, it was actually part of a purification process. You see, God didn't totally annihilate His people and wipe them out completely. There was a remnant left - a remnant of the faithful. Because of this purification of Israel, God's chosen nation could be restored from the remnant.
What is even more amazing, is that this principle of Ezekiel, "Disobedience-Purification-Restoration", is the underlying principle of most of the other prophets as well. Not only that, it is the underlying big picture concept of the entire Bible as a whole. Think of it this way....sin came into the world through Adam and Eve (Disobedience). Forgiveness of sin was needed for mankind to be reconciled to God (Purification). This purification is only found through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus, who offered to take the punishment we deserve. And finally, by His grace, the relationship between God and His people could be reconciled. (Restoration).
What really is amazing is that this principle of Ezekiel, "Disobedience-Purification-Restoration", actually applies not only to the big picture of the Bible, but it applies to the big picture of our own individual lives as Christians!
You see, because of sin (Disobedience) we become separated from God. We then need a Savior, Jesus, who came to die for our sins (Purification) to take our punishment, so we can be reborn into a new creation, reconciled into a loving relationship with Him (Restoration).
Thank you, Ezekiel, because from a sometimes intimidating, confusing book, you have clearly brought out a simple, but powerful, principle. It's the big picture of the Gospel message.
Thank you Ezekiel. Thank you Lord.