SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Ezekiel 4:1 through 24:27
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.” (Ezekiel 7:8)
Following Ezekiel’s call and commission as a prophet (described in chapters 1-3), chapters 4-24 contain the record of the prophetic messages he gave over a period of about twenty years. Most of these messages dealt with God’s soon-coming judgment on the nation of Judah, with many of them alluding to the siege and destruction of the capital city of Jerusalem.
The phrase “Behold, I am against you” appears thirteen times in Ezekiel. This revealed God’s anger, and indicated that the coming judgment would exceed anything that had occurred before. Ezekiel’s messages disclosed why such severe judgment would come. Israel had always been at the center of God’s plan and work in the world. In spite of numerous evidences of God’s favor throughout her history, the people had rejected Him in both worship and governance, and adopted their pagan neighbors’ gods and practices. They repaid God’s numerous blessings and great mercy with disloyalty and rampant idolatry. For many years, the prophets had cautioned the people of Judah regarding the consequences of their disobedience, but they had refused to heed the words of warning. Now, judgment would come.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- Throughout Ezekiel’s ministry, God instructed the prophet to present His messages in a variety of unusual ways, including parables, symbolic demonstrations, and object lessons. For example, in chapter 4 Ezekiel was commanded to publicly lie on his side for a portion of 430 consecutive days and eat starvation rations as an illustration of God’s judgment. Why do you think God chose these unique methods to communicate to the exiles in Babylon what was coming upon Jerusalem?
Your class will likely conclude that God chose methods that were unique to make a vivid impression upon the people. Lessons taught through both words and actions are very memorable. It is noteworthy that in each instance, Ezekiel did exactly as he was commanded, even though many of the required actions were difficult or would subject him to the ridicule of his peers.
You may wish to ask members of your class to share a time when they saw a visual illustration of a spiritual principle. Some should be able to describe an object lesson they remember from Sunday school or youth camp. How did the visual illustration emphasize the concept or make it more memorable?
- Chapter 5 continues God’s instructions regarding actions Ezekiel was to take to depict three aspects of God’s coming judgment against Jerusalem: the siege of the city, the suffering and distress of its inhabitants, and the destruction of the city and its people. In Ezekiel 5:1-4, what was Ezekiel told to do, and what did his actions symbolize (see verses 11-12)?
In these verses, Ezekiel was told to cut off his hair and beard and divide the hair into three portions to portray what would happen to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. One part of his hair was to be burned, another part was to be chopped up with a knife, and the third part was to be scattered in the wind. A very few hairs were to be removed and bound into Ezekiel’s clothes.
The portion of hair burned “in the midst of the city” indicated that some inhabitants of Jerusalem would die during the siege from pestilence, famine, and fire. The portion of hair chopped with the knife revealed that some of the people would be slain outside the city. The portion of hair scattered into the wind illustrated that still others would be dispersed among the nations, but “a sword” would chase them, indicating that wherever those survivors fled, they would find no peace. Ezekiel was also to attach a few hairs to the hem of his clothing, and burn a few in a fire. This spoke of the small remnant left behind and the suffering they would endure.
You may wish to point out to your group how meticulously Ezekiel was to measure and divide his hair, even using a scale to portion it accurately. God’s judgment against Jerusalem would be carried out deliberately and thoroughly. Ask your group what they think this suggests about the nature of God’s judgment. They should conclude that God keeps accurate records, and He will precisely mete out His judgment of sinners according to their deeds.
- Time after time, God reiterated to Ezekiel how completely the people of Judah had embraced idolatry. In chapter 8, God revealed the depth of their spiritual and moral failure by showing Ezekiel the abominations that were taking place in the Temple in Jerusalem — abominations that included the worship of ceremonially unclean animals. Given this flagrant violation of God’s commands, why do you think the elders said “The Lord seeth us not” (Ezekiel 8:12)? How does this parallel the mindset of many people today?
Discussion of the first question could bring out that perhaps the elders excused their sin because they did not think God would notice their thoughts or their actions. They may have believed God had forsaken their nation, so what they did would not matter. Or perhaps they had gone so far from God that they simply had no regard for Him and never gave a thought to the consequences. In whatever manner they rationalized their sinful actions, they seemingly felt free to engage in the most corrupt of practices without any fear or compunction.
In response to the second question, your group should conclude that the same attitudes exist today among unbelievers. Even some who have been taught the truths of God’s Word and know what He requires of them continue in flagrant disobedience.
- In Ezekiel 11:14-21, God had Ezekiel tell the exiles in Babylon that the coming judgment would not be the end of Israel. In a restatement of a promise previously made in Deuteronomy 30:3, God said He would sustain the exiles during their absence from their land and Temple, and would regather the people to their land in the future. God said that when they did return, they would no longer pursue idolatry. What does verse 19 mean, and what evidence can you give that such a complete transformation is possible?
Verse 19 says, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.” This was not referring to the physical heart; it was a promise that God would completely transform His people. While this assurance of cleansing and restoration was directed to Judah, it also pointed ahead to the redemption and restoration made available for all through Christ’s sacrificial death at Calvary.
Your group should conclude that testimonies of conversion are evidence of God’s power to completely transform a life that has been bound by sin. You may wish to refer to 2 Corinthians 5:17 as a supporting Scripture.
- In chapter 14, the elders of the exiles in Babylon came to hear from Ezekiel. Some Bible scholars view Ezekiel 14:12-21 as a reply to a question in these elders’ minds: Wouldn’t God spare Jerusalem because of the righteous people who remained there? At God’s direction, Ezekiel responded by pointing to three of the most righteous men in Israel’s history: Noah, Daniel, and Job. What Biblical principle is found in God’s declaration in verse 14?
The principle revealed is that the prayers of godly people cannot prevent judgment if a nation or individual persists in rebellion against God. Amplify this by pointing out that even though Noah was a preacher of righteousness, he could not spare the ungodly around him from being drowned. Job was acclaimed by God as “a perfect and an upright man” (Job 2:3), but his prayers did not preserve his children. Daniel was a principled man who stood by his convictions even in the face of death, but he could not prevent the conquest of his nation. God was indicating that even if these three righteous men were in Jerusalem, His judgment against the city could not be withheld. God had already passed judgment on the nation’s pervasive evil, and judgment was certain.
This passage is a sobering reminder that there is a line that can be crossed when God’s mercy and forgiveness are no longer available. What a warning this is for every generation!
- Judah’s King Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. Since Judah’s subjection to Babylon was God’s decreed will, Zedekiah would forfeit his sovereignty. However, God indicated that He would not let the line of David be forever destroyed. Ezekiel 17:22-24 predicts the earthly establishment of the Messiah in the end time. The “high cedar” of verse 22 is a reference to the royal house of David, and the tender twig that Lord God breaks off and plants is the Messiah — the anointed One himself, who will be from the lineage of David. In what ways does this prophecy of the Messiah impact our lives?
This passage offers great hope to all believers, because it helps us anticipate the culmination and fulfillment of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. One day His Kingdom will be established upon this earth, and He will bring God’s blessing to the nations of the world. The “high” and “eminent” mountain is Jerusalem, where our Messiah will reign. His sovereignty will eventually be acknowledged by all people, and His Kingdom will be established forever.
- In chapter 18, Ezekiel corrected a misconception regarding individual responsibility. By refuting a well-known proverbial saying of that era, he made it clear that each person would be judged for his own sins. There was neither inherited judgment nor reward. The wicked individual would die, no matter how righteous his parents and no matter if he himself had once been good. Conversely, God promised life to the righteous man, no matter how wicked his parents, and even if he himself had once been sinful. These judgments proved God’s righteous judgment, and were intended to promote sincere individual repentance. What does Ezekiel 18:24 mean, and what Bible doctrine does it support?
Verse 24 asserts that just as past sins will not be remembered against the righteous, when an individual turns away from righteousness and goes back into sin, his former righteous acts will not be remembered and he will be judged for his iniquity.
The Bible doctrine this verse teaches is that it is possible for a person to backslide. It refutes the false doctrine of eternal security, which holds that once an individual is saved, he is always saved and there is no possibility of backsliding. The Bible teaches, both in this verse and others, that the relationship with God can be severed. Individuals who have been born again can choose to go back into sin, just as Adam and Eve, in their righteous state, chose to commit sin. The believers’ assurance and security is rooted in continued obedience and faithfulness to God.
- In chapter 19, Ezekiel mourned for Judah’s pending ruin. Ezekiel 19:10 states that Israel had been “planted by the waters.” This is a reference to Israel’s privileged and fruitful state in the past, particularly during the reigns of David and Solomon. In what ways have you been “planted by the waters,” and what responsibility does that entail?
Your class should be able to point to many blessings God has given them that others in our world do not enjoy. These could include freedom of worship, access to the Word of God, the privilege of attending church where the fullness of God’s Word is taught, and supportive Christian friends and fellow believers. Some may mention a godly heritage and the privilege of being raised in a Christian home. The point should be made that we ought to always be appreciative for our blessings — and recognize that with great privilege comes great responsibility. We will be responsible for the light we have received and the privileges we have been blessed with.
- In chapter 20, God likened Judah and Jerusalem to a forest ready to be burned. Ezekiel was to tell the people that the coming “fire” of judgment would be kindled by God himself. What characteristics of a forest fire make it such a vivid representation of Judah’s coming judgment?
Your group will likely be able to suggest a number of parallels. The point should be made that a forest fire burns quickly and indiscriminately, destroying everything in its path. According to verse 47, both the green tree and the dry tree — everyone in the land of Judah — would suffer from the devastation of Jerusalem caused by the Chaldean invaders.
Wrap up your lesson by reinforcing the fact that God’s judgment upon unrighteousness is sure. We can learn from what befell Judah that though God may withhold judgment for a time because of His great mercy, it will come upon the ungodly someday.
God is longsuffering, but there is a limit to His patience. Someday, God will send divine judgment upon the world for peoples’ continued rejection of Him. We need to be sure our names are written in Heaven.