Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Ezekiel: Big Picture Issues in Chapter 1

I typically post my notes when I teach a Bible class.  Hopefully these will make sense.

Ezekiel:  Big picture

Jeremiah vs.                                                                         Ezekiel
Still in Jerusalem for duration                               Take to Babylon in second deportation,                                                                                 597 BC.
God was telling them the same basic message:  As bad as this is, it is a just judgment for Israel’s apostasy, they must endure it now, but they are still God’s people and will endure and be back in the land—when God says so, so don’t push it.  Don’t rebel against Babylon.

Isaiah                                     v.                                 Ezekiel
Much earlier, like 100 years, Hezekiah
More focused on first coming of Christ
Both started their prophetic work with visions of cherubim.  We are familiar with Isaiah’s and even have song about it – Holy, Holy, Holy—but Ezekiel’s we scratch our heads.

Daniel                                                                        v. Ezekiel
Similar vision in terms of the beast
Different in function—not clearly called as prophet or priest, living as a secular servant.

John (Revelation)                v.                                 Ezekiel
Focus on end times                                                 Prophetic at that time, some end time
Both had a vision of a strange beast.  Rev. 4, Ez. 1.

So I want to talk about this beast because I think it’s important to not skip parts of the Bible. 
Read it.
Number 1, this is the story of his call to being a prophet based on seeing this vision.  If we saw God as he truly is, we would take up a prophetic ministry too.  It’s not that God is going to give us one of these, but we have the “picture” of God in the Word that He wants us to have (not complete, but what he wants) and we don’t have an excuse for apathy.
Second, this is rooted in time and place, very clearly.  It’s not like, “Once upon a time I saw something.”  It is like us in a court of law saying on Nov. 2, 2014 in Chattanooga, TN at 300 Brookfield Avenue we were studying the book of Ezekiel. 

Third, the people of that time would have recognized the context.  The year before Jeremiah had sent a message to the exiles in Babylon not to rebel and to understand this punishment for what it was.  This is recorded in Jeremiah 29.

Thirtieth year refers to the reign of the king of Babylon, which is how history was done in those years.  We think modern ways of doing history are the only ways, but in the past it was done by reigns of king or great events. 

Thirtieth year also refers to his age.  Ezekiel is a priest in the temple, which no longer is in operation because of the exile and will be destroyed, and this is even worse for them than our capitol or White House being bombed (Independence Day movie story).  He has special status as a member of the priesthood, but priests were often corrupt, so he is more than a priest, he is also a prophet.  It is interesting that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king, three roles no one else could have at the same time, and which he fulfilled perfectly.

River Chebar:  channel off the Euphrates.  Show picture.

I looked up pictures artists over the years tried to draw of this.  I thought about bringin them but they were just weird and I am not sure what good it would do because it would influence you to see it their way rather than as depicted in Ezekiel.
But it is four dimensional and doesn’t work on two-dimensional.  A lot going on.

Notice that he says, “appearance like” “looked like” etc., not that it was all those things.
Did this really exist or did he just see it?  Well, John saw almost the same thing.
What does it mean?
First, these are cherubim.  Cherubim also appear on the ark of the covenant, and in Isaiah.  Cherubim are angels (not cherubs) that symbolize holiness and separateness of God and guard holy places like the temple.   Cherubim guarded Eden, a consecrated place men were not supposed to go back to.
Ox, man, lion, eagle.  These are not random.  Very similar to those in Daniel.
Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome ( Daniel 7:1-8   Notice that the lion (symbolic of Babylon tells story of Nebuchanezzar becoming like a beast and then a man again0

They relate to Christ in the gospels.  In Matthew he is represented as the lion of the tribe of Judah (lion is a symbol of Judaism), ox to the Romans in Mark, man to the Greeks in Luke, and eagle in the book of John.

They relate to the animal world (Man, domesticated, wild, birds) and to the more intelligent beings in God’s creation.

The term four is often used to refer to the world, mankind—four corners of the earth, etc.

The creatures moved by gliding, didn’t need to turn, etc.

v. 13:  burning coals.  This is an important image in OT.  They represent holiness.  It was common in that time to cook food with animal poop.  Later in the book, Ezekiel is supposed to cook his bread with human poop, but he begs to use the animal because to use human is to defile himself.  But in the temple fire was to only come from burning coals, for purity. Isaiah’s mouth was figuratively cleansed with a coal so he would be a purified prophet. 

In verse 15 it gets odder, with the wheels within wheels that have eyes on the rims of the wheels.  Eyes symbolize intelligence.

In verse 25 God appears, enthroned. 

All this leads to Ezekiels’ response, 28b and 2:1-2, which is understandable.  We have all had dreams that we woke up and were disturbed by. This was no dream, and how it took place I don’t know, but it changed him.  3-10, his commission.

So, the rest of the book is based on all this, and I don’t think we should take things out of context

Now, let’s go to the core of today’s lesson.

18:1-4 and 21-23

These verses really relate to one of the key debates of the church for centuries:  the control (sovereignty) of God vs. the free will and responsibility of man.  This makes it pretty clear that God is not so much making up new rules as correcting something that had become a big myth and misconception to the Jews over several centuries.

It is clear in the Law that a person’s sin affects his children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren.  We know that today; it’s not hard to see family cycles.  I am not talking about genetic things but how someone’s criminality in the past comes down to generations.  But the Jews had mistaken that to use it as an out, an excuse.  “I am being punished for my grandfather’s sin, not mine.  I am ok, I’m not guilty.  In fact, I am a victim.”

So we walk this tightrope between
Understanding how people’s past affects their behavior and not letting them use it as an excuse
Calling people to holy living (and ourselves) but knowing we are in need of forgiveness every day.
Compassion and responsibility. 
Guilt for sin is individual, but effects of sins are not. 

Read what comes in between (5-20)..  Notice the sins he mentions.  He emphasizes sins that hurt the community, others.  We like to think of victimless crimes but is there such a thing?  Drugs?  Prostitution?  Gambling?

Have there been times when you faced this dilemma? 

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