The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (2)

Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper


      1. Some Preliminary Observations
      2. The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
      3. The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
      4. The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
      5. Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
      6. The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
      7. Prophecy and Idolatry
      8. Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
      9. The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
      10. God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
      11. The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
      12. Israel's Past and Future Experiences
      13. The Sword of Jehovah
      14. Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
      15. The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
      16. The Boiling Caldron
      17. Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
      18. The Oracle Concerning Tyre
      19. The Oracles Concerning Egypt
      20. The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
      21. The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
      22. The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
      23. The Judgment upon Edom
      24. The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
      25. Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
      26. The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
      27. The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
      28. The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
      29. The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
      30. The Millennial Jerusalem
      31. The Millennial Temple
      32. The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
      33. The Land of Israel in the Millennium

The Call and Commission of Ezekiel

The book of Ezekiel in its introduction (1:1-3) speaks of something as having occurred in the thirtieth year when the prophet was among the captives by the river Chebar, at which time he saw certain visions of God. In verses 2 and 3 he speaks of these visions as occurring in the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity and states that at that time the word of Jehovah came expressly to him. From these facts it is clear that the thirtieth year of verse 1 is the fifth year of Jehoachin's captivity. It is quite likely that this thirtieth year indicates his age, as stated in the former discussion. All the dates of Ezekiel's prophecy are in terms of Jehoiachin's captivity.

I. The Call of the Servants of God

It has been recognized by spiritually-minded Bible students throughout the centuries that one, in order to do efficient service in the Master's cause, must be called of God. This statement is a truism that should be recognized by all. At the same time it is also true that all people who are redeemed should labor as they have time and opportunity — and should make opportunities — to forward the cause of God among men. Those, however, who are to engage in full-time Christian service certainly should have a definite call from the Lord.

A. The Call of The Servants of God in General

One should study carefully I Samuel, chapter 3. The boy Samuel had been dedicated to the Lord by his parents at his birth, but God gave him a very definite and clear-cut call as we see in the passage just referred to. The prophet Isaiah received a very definite call to enter the ministry of the Lord, the record of which is found in chapter 6 of the Book of Isaiah. If the early chapters of Isaiah are put in chronological order, the prophet delivered three masterful discourses by the power of God even before he received his official call. Then the Lord appeared to him and gave him a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ in His glory seated upon the throne in the great millennial Temple. Jeremiah, likewise, received a very specific call, as we see in Jeremiah 1:11-19. When we come to the New Testament, we see that the Apostle Paul was very clearly called by the Lord Jesus Christ when he was on his way to Damascus (see Acts, chapter 9:22; and 26). Others received definite calls and commissions but these suffice to give us some idea as to the divine method of calling specially those who are chosen vessels into full-time service.

B. Ezekiel's Special Call

In Ezekiel 1:4-3:11 we have a record of Ezekiel's call. As we study this call, we shall do well to note the three different types of God's communicating His will to man. In the first place the Lord appeared, especially in primitive times, to various ones of His servants, coming in a personal manner. For instance, the Lord Jehovah appeared in the Garden of Eden in the form of man and talked to Adam and Eve. He did this also in numbers of cases, as we read in the Old Testament. This is what we call a theophany — God's appearing in the form of man and communicating personally with His servants.

At other times He has made revelations through visions. Should I be permitted to illustrate this mode of communication, I would compare it to television, which is just now beginning to come into use. Those who enjoyed such communications seem to have been in a trance — to have been lifted to a higher plane of perception, and to have had their mental horizon enlarged. With their intellectual and spiritual faculties heightened, the prophets viewed, as one does in television, spiritual realities which passed before their minds like a moving picture. Thus we would designate this type of communication as spiritual television.

In the third place we may list what is usually termed inspiration. God's breathing into His servant the message and the ability to comprehend it and express it. This mode of communication we might compare to a telephone message. At the present day a person may be in one country and talk to another person in a different land, thousands of miles away, by means of the telephone. By this method the exact thought and word is conveyed by one person to another. One receiving the message can deliver it to whom it pertains or can act accordingly. Thus by spiritual telephone the Lord communicated His ideas very frequently to various servants of His at different times.

Ezekiel, in different passages, uses this expression, “The hand of Jehovah was there upon him [Ezekiel].” Examination of this phrase shows that it indicates the power of the Lord in a supernatural manner and its resting upon and working through the one concerning whom the statement is made.

Ezekiel declares that he saw “visions of God.” This statement is in perfect accord with that which we find in Numbers 12:6-8:

“... And he said, Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I Jehovah will make myself known unto him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream. 7 My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house: 8 with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?”

According to this statement the Lord spoke directly in a personal manner to Moses as He has not done since to anyone. Although there are theophanies recorded as having occurred after God made this statement to the great lawgiver, we are to understand that such appearances of the Deity to men could not be compared with those which Moses enjoyed.

When we notice that, in Ezekiel 1:1, the prophet claims he enjoyed the visions of God, that in verse 3 the word of Jehovah came especially to him, and that in verses 4-28 we are given a description of the appearance of one like unto a Son of man who was seated upon a throne, we come to the conclusion that, on the occasion of which the prophet was speaking, he was granted a vision in which the Word of God came to him, not as by spiritual telephone (as explained above), but in a personal living way. In other words, the one who appeared to the prophet in the vision was like a Son of man and is called the Word of God — the Living Word. When all of these facts are taken into consideration, a person can not avoid this conclusion. This scripture is suggestive of Genesis, chapter 15. In verse 1 we are told that “the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying ...” Below, in verse 5, we are told that this word of Jehovah “brought him [Abram] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.” Obviously this one who is called the Word of Jehovah in verse 1 is the one who brought Abram forth out of his tent and called his attention to the stars in the heavens (evidently at night) and made a promise concerning the multitudes of those who would descend from him. In the vision then the one whom we call “the Living Word,” that is, the Lord Jesus Christ in His prenatal state, appeared to Abraham and entered into a covenant with him. This experience which Abram enjoyed we might list as spiritual television, described above. We see a similar thing in the call of Samuel (I Samuel, chapter 3). In verse 4 of this chapter we are told that Jehovah called Samuel. Again in verse 6 we find the same statement. In verse 7 we have the significant declaration, “Now Samuel did not yet know Jehovah, neither was the word of Jehovah yet revealed unto him.” When we view this statement in the light of the knowledge drawn from other passages, we conclude that “the word of Jehovah” in this passage refers to the Living Word. In verse 10 we are told that Jehovah came and stood and called Samuel as at other times. Finally in verse 21 we have this language, “And Jehovah appeared again in Shiloh; for Jehovah revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of Jehovah.” By a thorough exegesis of Deuteronomy 6:4, which declares, “Hear, 0 Israel, Jehovah, our Gods, is Jehovah a unity,” we know that the word, Jehovah, in certain contexts refers to God the Father; but in others the same expression indicates Jehovah the Son; while in others it refers to Jehovah the Holy Spirit. In still other connections it signifies the Holy Trinity. When, therefore, we study I Samuel 3:21 in the light of its entire connection and also in the light of the usage of the term, we come to the conclusion that the first occurrence of the word, Jehovah, in this verse refers to Jehovah the Living Word; but the second time it occurs, it signifies the Triune God, who, it is stated, was revealed to Samuel in Shiloh by “the word of Jehovah,” the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. That the expression “the word of Jehovah” is used in the personal manner in referring to the second person of the Trinity is evident from a careful study of Psalm 33:4-7. In this passage the psalmist in speaking of “the word of Jehovah” said that “all his work is done in faithfulness,” that “He loveth righteousness and justice,” and that the heavens were made by Him. This interpretation was placed upon Psalm 33 by the ancient rabbis and is in perfect accord with the whole tenor of the teaching of God's word.

The vision of the Living Word which Ezekiel saw may be similar to that which Job experienced (Job, chapter 38). It is altogether possible that this is similar to the one found in Acts 7:56. In this latter passage we have a record of the vision which Stephen experienced when he, standing, before the Sanhedrin brought the great indictment against the Jewish people concerning their rejection of the Messiah. They, being enraged, gnashed upon him with their teeth; but he, being filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up into heaven and declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

According to Ezekiel 1:4 he looked toward the north and saw a stormy wind coming out of the heavens from that direction. “And I looked, and, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with a fire infolding itself, and a brightness round about it, and out of the midst thereof as it were glowing metal, out of the midst of the fire.”

There is a very definite place in the universe which is called in the Holy Scriptures “the heaven of the heavens.” This is what Christians call the “immediate presence of the Almighty.” It is in this special location that the throne of God is. This might be called the capital of the entire universe. For a picture of this glorious locality read Psalm 103:19-22. For another glimpse of the throne of God see Psalm 89:5-15. In this long passage we not only get a glimpse of the throne of God, but we see set forth the evidences of His authority and prerogatives found throughout His vast domains. In Ezekiel 28 we see a graphic picture of Eden, the garden of God, that was upon the earth in primitive times — prior to the catastrophe which overtook the earth as is recorded in Genesis 1:2. Thus this Eden was entirely different from the earth in primitive times. This Eden was entirely different from the Eden of which we read in Genesis, chapter 2. The anointed cherub was in his crystal palace in this garden of God. Prior to this time he was in the mount of God, which was not upon this earth, but which is, figuratively speaking, the presence of God. In Isaiah 14:12-14 we have the following language:

How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 day-star, son of the morning; how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! 13 And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

From the context in which this passage occurs, we see that it applies to the world ruler of end time, the Antichrist, the last king of Babylon. This individual will be conceited and deceived by the devil to think that he can ascend to the very presence of God and can overthrow the authority and power of God. The Antichrist, according to this passage, speaks of the throne of God's being in the north, that is, in a position north of this earth. According to Psalm 75 deliverance from foes does not come from the east, or the west, or south; but God is the Judge; He is the one who passes decisions and brings deliverance. Since three of the cardinal points of the compass are referred to? as the place from which deliverance does not come, and since he speaks of God as being Judge or the one who brings deliverance, it is clear that the writer thought of God in terms of the location of one of the points of the compass, the north.

The description of this stormy wind and great cloud out of the north reminds one of that which is described in Exodus 19:16-20:

And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a trumpet exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 And mount Sinai, the whole of it, smoked, because Jehovah descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. 19 And when the voice of the trumpet waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. 20 And Jehovah came down upon mount Sinai, to the top of the mount: and Jehovah called Moses to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.”

This passage describes the descent of Jehovah to Mount Sinai when He delivered the law to Israel. Jehovah, the Living Word, doubtless was the one who descended to Mount Sinai and spoke the Ten Words, the Ten Commandments. This vision also reminds us of that which is presented in Nahum 1:2-8.

As we read Ezekiel's description of the vision which he saw, we are overcome with the majestic glory of this great sight. There came forth, as he tells us, out of the great cloud, with its fire infolding itself and its brightness round about, the appearance of glowing metal, and out of it came forth four living creatures. The general appearance of each was that of the likeness of a man. Each had four faces and four wings. Unlike the feet of men theirs were straight, the soles of which were as the soles of a calf and had the appearance of burnished brass. Under their wings were the hands of a man, on each of their four sides. Moreover each had four faces: one of a man, one of a lion, one of a ox, and one of an eagle. These faces were separate, as were also their wings, but they were attached to the same body. With two of their wings they flew and with two of them they covered their bodies.

Their movements were always in straight lines, never in curves. The appearance of the living creatures was that of burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches. Fire also went up and down among the living creatures. This fire was bright and went out like lightning. Moreover, these living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Besides each of these living creatures there was a wheel which was let down to the earth. According to verse 15 there was a wheel for each of the faces of each of these living creatures. The appearance of these wheels was like that of beryl, and the four wheels attending each of these living creatures were alike. Whenever the living creatures went, the wheel went in their four directions. Their rims were full of eyes round about which were dreadful. These wheels were within wheels. It seems impossible for us to develop a clear conception of what is meant by this expression. Whenever the living creatures came down to the earth, the wheels touched the ground. Whenever, on the other hand, they left the earth, the wheels left it and accompanied them. Wherever the spirit went these wheels went. Where the living creatures stood, they stood.

Who are these living creatures? In the third vision which was granted to the prophet, he describes what he saw and declares that it was the same vision as that which he saw by the river Chebar. The record of this third appearance is found in chapters 8-11. In chapter 10 these living creatures are called cherubim. The word cherubim is the plural of cherub. The first time of which we read of these living creatures or cherubs is in connection with man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. When Adam partook of the forbidden fruit, he was driven from the tree of life in order that he might not partake of it and live in his fallen state forever. Cherubim were placed on guard to keep the way of the tree of life. There was an appearance of a flaming sword which was turning in every direction. The cherubim with the sword thus guarded the approach to the tree of life. In the Tabernacle, which was constructed by Moses at Mount Sinai, two cherubs were made and were placed upon the mercy seat, the cover of the ark. These were placed in the Temple constructed by Solomon. Figures of these living creatures were woven into the curtain in connection with the most holy place. It seems that these cherubs had only one face. In a vision of the future millennial Temple Ezekiel speaks of cherubim and describes them as having two faces (Ezekiel 41:18). From all this data it appears that there are different types of cherubim.

We also read of seraphim. In the record of the call of Isaiah, chapter 6, we are told that the prophet saw seraphim and heard them singing in the presence of King Messiah — seated on His throne in millennial glory — the following song: “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Each of these seraphim had six wings. With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they did fly. The Apostle John, according to Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, saw a vision of the throne of God and observed living creatures round about the throne who likewise were singing the song of the triple holines: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (Revelation 4:8). Each of these living creatures had six wings. I thus identify the living creatures of John's vision with those of Isaiah's. It must be noted, however, that the vision which was granted to John was one of the throne of God in heaven at the time of the beginning of the Tribulation; whereas that which was granted to Isaiah to see was a vision of Christ in the millennial Temple when He is seated upon His throne and is reigning in righteousness upon the earth. Thus the seraphim are seen in heaven in John's vision. They are, according to Isaiah, also upon earth when our Lord returns to reign. They constantly cry, according to the records, both in the presence of God and in the presence of Christ in the Millennium, “Holy, holy, holy ...” Thus they seem to be creatures who are devoting their entire time to the praise of the Almighty. They have the proper sense of His holiness, majesty, and sovereignty. They therefore praise Him.

Whether or not the seraphim are of a higher order than the cherubim has never been determined. In Ezekiel, chapter 28, we read of the anointed cherub that covereth, who was the very embodiment of wisdom, beauty, power, and authority. In fact, one gathers from the record that he was the highest order of being which God could bring into existence, and yet he was called a cherub. When, however, unrighteousness entered his heart, he rose up in rebellion against the Almighty. His revolt was the occasion of his downfall. Since this highest order of being which God could call into existence is called a cherub, it may be that the cherubim are the highest order of celestial beings. There are, however, various ranks, orders, and files of angels, to which both cherubim and seraphim belong. Since our information concerning these is so very much limited, we must be very cautious in drawing conclusions regarding them.

Turn now to Ezekiel 1:22-25 and read the description of the firmament that was supported by these living creatures or cherubim. The firmament was like a crystal to look upon and was stretched forth over the heads of the living creatures. It reminds one of that which is described by Moses in Exodus, 24:9-11:

Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the very heaven for clearness. 11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: and they beheld God, and did eat and drink.”

A very clear description of the throne of God, and of the Almighty upon it, is to be found in I Kings 22:19-23. In connection with this passage one would do well to read Revelation, chapters 4 and 5. When anyone reads these accounts, he can see that the pavement and the throne of the Almighty are described in terms similar to those of human monarchs.

The occupant of the throne which was resting upon the firmament described by Ezekiel is presented in Ezekiel 1:26-28. In verse 26 we are told that “upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man upon it above.” His bodily appearance from his loins and upward was veiled in the semblance of a fire of glory. From his loins and downward there also was the appearance of fire. But since there is a distinction made here in the description, everyone must recognize that fact — though he may not be able to picture clearly the difference. The thing for us to notice is that upon this throne is one like unto a Son of man who is seated upon the portable throne which comes out of heaven to earth. If this passage were the only one in the record, we would be at a loss to determine why this representation. But there are other data which will throw light upon this most important question. In the first promise of the Redeemer, Genesis 3:15, the sacred writer spoke of “the seed of the woman.” This is the only occurrence of such an expression, as genealogies were always reckoned after the male and never after the female. But this one is called the seed of the woman, a most striking and unique expression. The fact that this term was employed is proof that this one is indeed different from all others. Isaiah the prophet declared to the house of David:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:
behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Here is a prediction that a virgin shall give birth to one whom she is to call Immanuel, which mean God is with me. By the ancient rabbis this passage was interpreted as a reference to King Messiah, whose supernatural character they all recognized. The Messiah was also known as the Son or descendant of David, who in a vision saw Him, and who spoke in Psalm 110 concerning Him: “Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand. Until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 2 Jehovah will send forth the rod of thy strength out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Psalm 110:1-2). David recognized the fact that this descendant of his was his Lord and declared that God in heaven would speak to Him when He came to earth and when the Jews of Jerusalem were hostile to Him, would invite Him to leave earth, to ascend to glory, and to sit at His right hand until He, Jehovah, would make the enemies of King Messiah the footstool of His feet. This passage shows that when Messiah comes to Israel, the leaders of the Jews reject Him; but it does not tell to what extent their hostility drives them. That information is obtained from other passages, such as Psalm 22:1-21 and Isaiah 53:1-9. That this virgin-born Son, who is God in human form, is killed is seen clearly from Zechariah 13:7: “Awake, 0 sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and I will turn my hand upon the little ones.” In this passage the Lord, speaking to the sword (by metonymy, to the one handling the sword), commands it to act against his shepherd, who is a man, and who at the some time is His “fellow.” The meaning of the word, fellow, in the Hebrew indicates an associate, an equal. By the use of this term in his message, the prophet meant to affirm that this man, the shepherd of Jehovah's flock, is equal to God — though He is a man. From other passages which bear upon the same subject, we learn that, when the Messiah is killed, He is invited to leave the earth and to take His seat at the right hand of the throne of God where He is to remain until the Jews, His enemies, accept Him and plead for His return.

In Daniel 7:13,14 we have this language:

I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

In this marvelous prediction we see that “one like unto a son of man” is in heaven, is escorted into the presence of Jehovah the Father, and is invested with authority over a world-wide kingdom, which is to last as long as the earth endures. This passage, viewed in the light of the others which we have just been studying, is clearly a reference to the Messiah of Israel, who entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth, was rejected and executed by His people, ascended to the right hand of the throne of God when He was raised from the dead, has been seated there for nineteen hundred years, and will return to earth when penitent Israel pleads for Him to do so. This scripture is a prediction of the time when the Jews, having been given the truth concerning Him, repent of their having rejected Him and confess their national sin, pleading for Him to return. Thus He will be ushered into the presence of the Ancient of Days and will be invested with world dominion. At that time He will come to earth again and set up His reign of righteousness.

It seems most plausible and logical to interpret the Son of man of Ezekiel's vision, recorded in chapter 1 of his prophecy, as being identical with the Son of man of Daniel's prediction. The two visions are very much alike — with some slight difference. The general thought is the same. Daniel's vision is purely prophetic of the end time when Messiah, invested with world-dominion, will return to take unto Himself world-wide authority. Ezekiel's vision is of the same Son of man, the Messiah of Israel. That which differentiates Ezekiel's vision from Daniel's is this: Ezekiel in the first thirty-three chapters, roughly speaking, deals with the judgments that have already come upon the children of Israel because of their persistence in sin. In the rest of his book Ezekiel devotes his entire attention to the final restoration of the nation, when the Messiah, who is at present in glory at the right hand of the throne of God and has been since His ascension nineteen hundred years ago, will be invested with universal power and will return and reign for a thousand years. In anticipation of His incarnation and of the special work which He would do for Israel as her Messiah, He, the Son of man, appeared to the prophet. In view of all the related facts, one therefore can not avoid the conclusion that this one who is the Living Word is none other than the Son of man, the Messiah of Israel.

In Ezekiel 1:28 the prophet tells us: “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.” Thus the brightness of this bow seemed to encircle the throne of the Son of man. This statement instantly recalls to one's mind the first record of the rainbow, which is found in Genesis 9:1-16. In this passage we read of the everlasting covenant into which God entered with all humanity at the conclusion of the Flood. A careful examination of this passage reveals the facts that there was imposed upon the human family a fourfold obligation: To be fruitful and to multiply and replenish the earth (9-11); to live on a diet consisting of animals, fish, and vegetables (9:3); to abstain from eating blood and things strangled (9:4); and to execute all murderers by capital punishment (9:5,6). All of these conditions are constantly being ignored by man. The covenant of which these are the conditions was entered into by the Lord with every man, woman, and child upon the face of the globe. It is therefore called “the everlasting covenant.”

In Isaiah 24:1-20 we have a description of the wreckage upon the earth that will be wrought during the Tribulation by the judgments of the Almighty. These will be sent because the inhabitants of the earth “have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). Since there is but one everlasting covenant into which God has entered with all races — the one referred to above — and since the world is to be punished because of its having disregarded the laws, violated the statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant, we may be certain that reference is here made to the Noahic Covenant, the sign of which is the rainbow.

In the scene of the throne of God (Revelation, chapter 4) we see it encircled by a rainbow. This doubtless is the rainbow of the Noahic Covenant which appears on this occasion to remind the people of earth that they are being punished because they have violated the conditions of the everlasting covenant. At the same time it is most highly probable that the appearance of the bow encircling the throne of the one like unto the Son of man which Ezekiel saw has the same significance. It will remind the world of the broken everlasting covenant.

II. Ezekiel's Commission

Evidently the sight of this chariot or portable throne with the one like unto a Son of man seated in glory, power, and majesty did overwhelm the prophet who instantly fell to the ground. This supposition is the necessary inference drawn from the statement “and he said unto me, son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak with thee.” When this command was given, the spirit of God entered into the body of the prophet, put him upon his feet, and gave him strength — both physical and spiritual. He was then ready to receive the message, the commands from the Lord of all the earth.

A. The Message

The one like to a Son of man, the Messiah of Israel — seated upon the throne — addressed the prophet, calling him “son of man.” The expression, son of man, is but a synonym for man. This is clearly seen in such a passage as Psalm 8:4: “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Man in the first question is a synonym for the son of man in the second (some scholars not knowing Hebrew parallelism have understood that the one called “the son of man” here is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Son of man par excellence — but this is a misinterpretation of the phrase).

As we have seen, this one who was seated upon the throne is the Son of man in the highest sense of the term because of His being God who entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth and who is the God-man. Though He is God, He is also man. Let us not think of Him as God and man, a monstrosity. But He is the God-man because of His taking the form of man; and, being most profoundly interested in man in every particular, He is the Son of man in the highest sense of the term. Thus this expression in the gospel record is messianic in its import as it is here in Daniel 7:13, 14.

But why did the God-man address Ezekiel as son of man? In the light of His kinship with Ezekiel — and to man in general — to whom He was making His revelation known. In other words, that which is set forth in Hebrews 2:5-18 constitutes a background for the use of “son of man” as applied to Ezekiel. In the Hebrews passage we are told that the God-man identified Himself with us, taking the form of flesh and blood in order that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God for us. Expressed in different terms, there is echoed in the use of our expression, “son of man,” — as applied to the Saviour and to Ezekiel — the thought of the Messiah's being man's Kinsman-Redeemer. Thus the Goel, the Redeemer, aligned Himself with man for his redemption and ultimate glorification.

Ezekiel was told that the children of Israel, to whom he was sent, were a rebellious people. Here Israel is spoken of as “nations.” Doubtless “nations” here is applied to the tribes of Israel. Moses declared, “Jehovah hath not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day” (Deuteronomy 29:4). Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). While the Apostle Paul stated: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him” (I Corinthians 2:14).

The prophet was reminded of the fact that, though His message would not be received by the people, he was to give it forth. We are not held responsible for results. It is ours to obey and to give the truth, believing that the Lord's word will not return unto Him void but that it will accomplish that whereunto He has sent it. According to the Apostle Paul the gospel is a savor of life unto life, and of death unto death. To those who are hungering for the truth it brings life and they grow and increase in spiritual life and stature, and finally enter into eternal life. On the other hand, those who do not want the truth are living in the shadow of spiritual death. The preaching of the gospel hardens the hearts of all who do not want the truth. Thus the gospel becomes a savor of death unto death to such.

B. The Prophet's Receiving His Message

In this section of our lesson (2:8-3:3) we are told that “a roll of a book” was given to the prophet on which were written “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.” He was commanded to eat this scroll, which he did. This reminds one of the statements made by Jeremiah, who was a contemporary of Ezekiel: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy words were unto me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by thy name, 0 Jehovah, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16). It also suggests John's receiving a further revelation from God by eating a little book which in his mouth was sweet, but in his stomach was bitter (Revelation, chapter 10). The process of receiving this message from God was enacted symbolically by the Apostle, who ate, devoured, digested and assimilated the scroll. This act signified the reception of the message from God and a spiritual and intellectual grasp of it. It was doubtless a delight, as it was to the prophets, to receive a further revelation from God. But upon grasping the import and the significance of the same, he was made sad, which fact was set forth by the book's being bitter in his stomach.

In 3:4-11 Ezekiel is again reminded of the fact that the people to whom he was being sent were rebellious, and that they would not accept his message. But he was not, he was told, being sent as a foreign missionary to a pagan nation whose language he could not understand. He was going to his own people, who had hardened their hearts and steeled themselves against the message from God. In order to meet such opposition as that which was facing the prophet, the Lord declared that he had made Ezekiel's forehead hard against them. It was as adamant and as flint. In other words, the Lord reinforced the heart, the soul, of the prophet, so that he could meet opposition and declare to the children of Israel their sins.

Next: The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry