SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Ezekiel 1:1 through 3:27
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel.” (Ezekiel 3:4-5)
The prophet Ezekiel’s life spanned a period of significant political upheaval. Assyria had dominated the region for over 125 years, but in 612 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had conquered Assyria and his nation became the major superpower. In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar’s armies carried away the first group of exiles from Judah — a group that included the most prominent men of the country. In 597 B.C., Ezekiel was among the second group of captives deported from Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.
In the fifth year of Ezekiel’s captivity in Babylon, God called him to deliver a series of prophetic messages to his fellow Jewish exiles. These were primarily predictions of judgment that would soon come upon Jerusalem and seven Gentile nations around Judah. Ezekiel immediately obeyed, although God warned him that the exiles would reject his words because they were “stiffhearted” and “a rebellious nation” (Ezekiel 2:3-4).
For more than twenty years, Ezekiel faithfully relayed God’s messages through divinely ordained allegories, symbolic enactments, and apocalyptic imagery. Although his messages focused for the most part on soon coming judgment, they also provided hope for a restored Israel in the future Messianic Kingdom.
Chapter 1 describes three aspects of Ezekiel’s initial vision: the four winged creatures, a chariot and its wheels that moved at the impelling of the Spirit, and God on His throne. Chapter 2 records the prophet’s call and commission by God, and chapter 3, his appointment as a watchman for Israel.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Verses 1-3 of chapter 1 describe the place, manner, and date of Ezekiel’s call. The phrase “the heavens were opened” indicates that Ezekiel began to see visions of God’s glory — divinely inspired images not revealed to others. Why do you think God prefaced Ezekiel’s call to prophetic ministry with a revelation of His glory?
While Scripture does not directly state God’s purpose in revealing His glory to Ezekiel, it may be helpful for your group to consider how we respond when we have a personal and vivid encounter with God. It makes a tremendous impact! Based on that, your students may point out that such an amazing revelation would have inspired and motivated the prophet to obedience. It would have given him strength to impart God’s pronouncements in spite of the resistance he would face. The magnificence of God’s glory and His holiness would also have brought into clear focus just how far from God the rebellion of the people of Judah had taken them, thus helping the prophet understand why God was about to administer such severe judgment.
While Ezekiel knew that the God of Israel was the God of all creation, it must have been comforting that there on the banks of the river Chebar, some seven hundred miles from the Temple in Jerusalem, God still made Himself known. Though the people had turned away from God, He still was watching over them and was in control of their destiny.
- Ezekiel’s first vision given in chapter 1, began with a great storm cloud that arrived from the north — a storm that represented God’s judgment, which would come upon Jerusalem through the armies of Babylon. The vision itself had three parts: the four living creatures, the wheels within wheels, and the glorious throne room and One with “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (verse 28). What are some of the details given in verses 5-8 and 16-18 regarding the four living creatures and the wheels that propelled them?
Details given regarding the living creatures include the following.
- The four living creatures (identified as cherubim in Ezekiel 10:8-15) had feet with divided hoofs that were the color of polished brass.
- Each cherub’s head had four different faces looking in four directions.
- Each cherub had wings on each of its four sides — two that were lifted and spread, and two that covered its body. Bright fire moved in the midst of the wings.
A description of the wheels within wheels could include these points.
- Each cherub had two wheels at its base, one within the other at right angles.
- The four spherical wheels were very tall and full of eyes; Bible scholars suggest the eyes were emblematic of God’s omnipresence and omniscience.
Your group will conclude that it is difficult to form a visual picture of exactly what Ezekiel saw. No doubt Ezekiel himself struggled to adequately describe this amazing vision. Wrap up class discussion of this question by pointing out that intimate contact with God, in whatever form we experience it, is often beyond the ability of human language to fully convey.
- Verses 22-28 of chapter 1 record what Ezekiel saw of God’s glory and the firmament above the cherubim — a vast scene flooded with “the colour of the terrible crystal,” perhaps a spectrum of color that appeared as light refracted through crystal, with the hues of a rainbow. There was a sapphire throne, and above it, a brilliantly shining Form with the appearance of fire. This radiating brightness was an expression of the glory of God. How did Ezekiel respond to this vision of God’s glory, and what attitude did his response indicate? Ezekiel 1:28
Ezekiel fell prostrate at the sight, indicating humble surrender, overpowering reverence, and awe.
You could expand the discussion by pointing out that Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glory led him to action on behalf of God. Ask your group to discuss how a glimpse of the glory of God might impact our Christian walk. They should conclude that it should inspire and encourage us to be obedient to God and be eager to do whatever we can to advance His Kingdom, so that one day we will be able to stand before Him in confidence rather than fear.
- In chapters 2 and 3, God commissioned Ezekiel as His spokesperson. More than ninety times in the book, including Ezekiel 2:1, God addressed Ezekiel by the term “son of man.” This form of address emphasized Ezekiel’s humanity and his lowly position in comparison to God’s divine sovereignty. It also stressed the prophet’s need for dependence upon God. Why is total dependence upon God necessary if we are to serve Him effectively?
Your group may come up with several answers to this question. These may include that we could be led astray by our own thinking or desires; that God alone knows the end from the beginning so we must depend upon Him for guidance; and that if we focus on being obedient whether or not we understand, we can leave the results up to Him. Success in God’s sight is not dependent upon whether or not the response of others to our efforts is positive; the measure is how completely we lean on God and fulfill His instructions to us. Ezekiel obeyed, and so can we.
Ezekiel’s faithfulness stands as a challenge to us. Point out to your group that Ezekiel 2:2 says the Spirit entered into Ezekiel, showing that God will not leave us ill equipped to do His will. When the Spirit of God empowers us, we will receive courage and strength to obey God in spite of any opposition we may face.
- In Ezekiel 2:6, and in several other verses in chapters 2 and 3, God told Ezekiel not to be afraid. Based on the description of the people Ezekiel was called to confront, why do you think this encouragement was needed? Ezekiel 2:3-7
The Israelites were rebels (verses 3, 5, 6, and 7), transgressors (verse 3) and impudent and stiffhearted or stubborn (verse 4). Confronting people who had these characteristics would make Ezekiel’s task difficult and potentially discouraging. Most of us would hesitate to step knowingly into a career that we knew would bring hostility and abuse from those around us. Not only would Ezekiel face the complete rejection of the message he was to deliver, but he would also endure criticism and contempt on a personal level.
You could follow up by asking your group to discuss how hostility and contempt toward our obedience to God might occur in our day, and how we can best prepare ourselves to withstand it. Lead to the point that we should depend on God’s Spirit to guide us in how and when He wants us to respond.
As we will see in subsequent chapters of Ezekiel, the actions the prophet took and the words he spoke to these rebellious people were directed by God. The point should be made that in whatever hostile situations we face, God can give us wisdom, guidance, and strength to conduct ourselves in a godly manner if our determination is to follow Him in obedience.
- In verses 8-10 of chapter 2 and the first three verses of chapter 3, Ezekiel’s willingness to obey God was challenged by a difficult command from God. What unusual action did God instruct the prophet to take, and what do you think that action symbolized?
God commanded Ezekiel to eat the “roll of a book” from the hand that was outstretched to him. The eating of the scroll symbolized fully accepting and ingesting God’s message. It also indicated that the prophet was willing to do whatever God commanded him to do.
Point out to your group that according to verse 10 of chapter 2, the scroll was covered front and back with written lamentations, mourning, and woe. The predictions that Ezekiel would be called to deliver to his fellow exiles were horrific. Since scrolls typically were inscribed only on one side, the fact that this one was covered both front and back with writing may have indicated the extensive nature of God’s coming judgment.
Despite its bitter contents, the scroll tasted sweet to Ezekiel — perhaps because the coming judgments were righteous and deserved. Make the point to your class that there is always “sweetness” — an inward satisfaction — in doing what God commands, even when the task itself is difficult. This could be an opportunity for some in your group to share personal examples of times when God required a hard obedience that proved to be a blessing in the end.
- God’s instruction to Ezekiel to eat the roll of the book should cause us to ask ourselves if there are parts of God’s Word and His calling upon our lives that we have not yet fully absorbed. What are the benefits of fully taking in every part of God’s Word?
Your students will likely respond to this question by pointing out that fully taking in every part of God’s Word will make us stronger in our faith. We need to feed ourselves spiritually just as we do physically — regularly, and not a diet from just one food group. We need a balanced diet for good nutrition. Fully ingesting means more than simply giving the Bible an occasional glance or reading only from one part of the Word of God. We must make balanced intake a consistent part of our lives.
- In chapter 3 verses 16-21, Ezekiel’s responsibilities were explained to him through his appointment as a watchman. What were the duties and responsibilities of a watchman in that era? Given that, how would you describe what Ezekiel was called to do?
A watchman’s duty was to warn of a coming enemy. This responsibility was taken so seriously that a watchman who failed to fulfill this responsibility would be judged guilty of manslaughter. The word translated “watchman” is tsaphah, and describes one who watches from a height for the purpose of warning, rather than an individual responsible for guarding or shepherding (that word is shamar). So Ezekiel’s call was to warn of the coming judgment against unrighteousness, rather than to teach righteousness.
Each person’s individual accountability before God was a key part of Ezekiel’s message. Verse 18 explicitly states that his purpose in serving as a watchman was so that the wicked man would turn and not die in his iniquity. For many years, God had called after the nation of Judah as a whole and they had resisted; now He was calling individuals to repentance. This is explained more extensively in chapter 18, where Ezekiel expanded the thought that every person is treated as an individual before God, and is accountable for his own sins.
God called the prophet Ezekiel to declare coming judgment to his fellow captives in Babylon, in spite of the fact that his words would be rejected. The subsequent visions that the prophet experienced were a living reality that encompassed him completely, and he faithfully obeyed God’s instructions.