Ezekiel 3-4

Thursday Evening Bible Study

July 21, 2005


Ezekiel lived at the same time as the prophet Jeremiah, though he would have been a bit younger than Jeremiah. This was the time of the destruction of the nation of Judah and the Babylonian captivity.

While Jeremiah stayed in Jerusalem and ministered to the people there, Ezekiel was one of the captives taken to Babylon. His ministry was with those in captivity in Babylon.

Last week we looked at the beginnings of Ezekiel’s ministry, at how God called him to be a prophet.

Ezekiel 3

3:1-15 Eating the scroll

:1 Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel."

:2 So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll.


Godly Ministry

We talked last week about some of the elements involved in godly ministry.
1. Knowing God – having an encounter with Him (ch. 1)
Ezekiel had this incredible vision of God (ch. 1).
It’s important to know why you’re doing ministry.

If you’re doing ministry solely for the people – to help people, to be nice to people – you’re going to have difficulty.  Why?  Because people aren’t always nice.  People don’t remember to say “thank you”.  People will hurt you.

But if you’re serving a God who has revealed Himself to you instead of the people, it’s easier to hang in there.

You need to keep that “vision” of God before you.  He’s the one you’re serving.

2. Being filled with the Spirit (2:2)
Several times we will see Ezekiel having encounters with the Holy Spirit (Eze. 2:2).
Jesus told the disciples not to do anything until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8)
Without the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing we do is worth much at all.
3. Being filled with God’s Word (3:2)
(Ezek 3:2 NKJV)  So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll.
In teaching the Corinthians about communion, Paul wrote,

(1 Cor 11:23 NKJV)  For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

He had been taught by the Lord.

Spending time in God’s Word.  Letting God’s Word touch your life first.

:3 And He said to me, "Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you." So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.

Ezekiel takes in the Word of God.

Even though many of the things God will give Ezekiel to speak are difficult, God’s Word is still sweet.

(Psa 19:9-10 NKJV) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. {10} More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

(Psa 119:103 NKJV) How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!

:4 Then He said to me: "Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.

He was to go to the exiles in Babylon.

:5 "For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel,

He didn’t have to go to Russia or Mexico, just to his own people.

:6 "not to many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you.

:7 "But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted.


Gauging success in ministry

People have different ideas of success when it comes to ministry.
For many, it is how many people come to your church.
For others, they might say it’s not “quantity” but “quality”.  They look at how people are growing in their personal walk with the Lord.
Ezekiel would be considered “unsuccessful” by both groups.
He wouldn’t get a lot of positive response.
Yet his lack of “success” wasn’t because he was doing something wrong or because he was in the wrong ministry.
His sense of “failure” was solely because of the people he was going to minister to.

If Ezekiel had been sent to another nation, he would have been a “success”.

What is God looking for?  Jesus told a story …
(Mt 21:28-31 NKJV) 28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
Paul wrote,
(1 Cor 4:2 NKJV)  Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.
I think God’s measure of success is based on obedience, on faithfulness.
In the parable of the talents, two of the three servants are rewarded while the third is not.
The thing the two good servants had in common was their faithfulness, not the size of their gift to the king.

(Mat 25:21 NKJV)  "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

Are you where you’re supposed to be?  Are you doing what you’re supposed to do?
In this sense, Ezekiel was a definite success.

:8 "Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads.

It sounds like people would be butting heads.

strongchazaq – strong, stout, mighty

This is the word found in Ezekiel’s name (“God has strengthened”).

:9 "Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house."

adamant – thought to be corundum, the next hardest mineral next to a diamond.

A tough as Ezekiel’s audience would be, God would make him tougher.

:10 Moreover He said to me: "Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears.

:11 "And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,' whether they hear, or whether they refuse."


Ministry isn’t always fun.

Putting on boots
Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put his boots on? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn’t want to go on. When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked and, sure enough, they were. It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on-this time on the right feet. He then announced, “These aren’t my boots.” She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to. Once again, she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off. He then said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear them.” She didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, “Now, where are your mittens?” He said, “I stuffed them in the toes of my boots...”
It was the new pastor’s first sermon at his new church. Following the service, he was standing by the door shaking hands when a man came up to him and said, “That was a very dull and boring sermon, Pastor.” Well, he shook it off and didn’t think too about it until a couple of minutes later he noticed the same guy in line again where he said, “I didn’t think you did any preparation for your message, Pastor.” A bit exasperated, the pastor was determined to not let it bother him when he looked up and saw the same guy approaching him the third time: “You really blew it. You didn’t have a thing to say, Pastor.” This time it really bothered him so he spotted a deacon nearby and thought he had better ask him about this strange fellow. “Oh, don’t worry about him, Pastor. He’s a little off. All he does is go around repeating everything he hears others say.”

If you have the notion that when you step out to serve God and His people that you will have lots of people hugging you and thanking you, you will be disappointed.

:12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: "Blessed is the glory of the LORD from His place!"

:13 I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise.

:14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.

The scroll was sweet to begin with, but now Ezekiel began to realize the bitterness he would experience in his ministry.

:15 Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

Tel Abib – an unknown city in Babylon where Ezekiel had been living.

Ezekiel is so blown away with his vision that he’s speechless for an entire week.



Here’s another key component to ministry.
You need to learn to spend time sitting where they sit.
Some people have this idea that they can just blow into a room, deliver a “message from God”, and then disappear.
God’s preferred method is to find a person who will take time to sit where the people sit.
This is what we love about Jesus, that He really understands all we’ve been through.

(Heb 4:15-16 NKJV)  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. {16} Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Ezekiel was also a priest, and God had him learn to sit where the people sat.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Sometimes the longer we’ve been a Christian, the further isolated we get from the non-Christian world.
This isn’t all that bad.  It’s good to get away from sin and temptation.
But sometimes we can totally lose sight of what a non-Christian’s life is all about.  It can seem so long ago.

I went to visit a fellow in jail last weekend.  I’ve never been to a jail before.  The first time I went, I stood in line with about fifty people for 45 minutes.  I was a bit intimidated by the atmosphere.  I didn’t know what to expect. The second time I went, I stood in line for 2 ½ hours with a couple hundred people.  I decided to start talking with the folks in line with me.  I simply asked them to tell me their stories.  What a different life some people lead.  What a different sense of right and wrong.

Jesus sat where the people sat.
When He met the woman at the well in Samaria, she was totally surprised that this Jewish Rabbi was talking to her.

(John 4:9 NKJV)  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus used the opportunity to tell the woman about her Messiah.

I think one of the greatest compliments that was paid to Jesus by His enemies was when they called Him a “friend of sinners” (Mark 2:15-17)
I think this is a key to godly ministry.
Have you sat where they sit?  Can you sympathize with the people you minister to?

3:16-27 Watchman

:16 Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

:17 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

The job of a watchman was to look out for the approach of the enemy. If a foreign army was marching on your city, the watchman’s job was to warn the city that trouble was on the way.

For people outside the city walls, it gave them a chance to get to safety within the city.

For those inside the city walls, it gave them a chance to close the gates and get the city’s defenses ready.

Ezekiel’s ministry was to warn the Israelites of the trouble ahead.

:18 "When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

:19 "Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

God has warnings He wants to give to people.

It’s the watchman’s job to pass the warnings on. It’s not the watchman’s job to make the people pay attention and repent.

But if the watchman never passes the message on, then God will get serious with the watchman.  The watchman carries a sense of responsibility for the people he’s to warn.

:20 "Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.

:21 "Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul."

Wicked people aren’t the only ones who need to be warned.  Righteous people need to be warned or reminded to stay close to the Lord.

3:22-27 Speaking and not speaking

:22 Then the hand of the LORD was upon me there, and He said to me, "Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you."

:23 So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face.

:24 Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me and said to me: "Go, shut yourself inside your house.

:25 "And you, O son of man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them.

Ezekiel would have times when he would be under house arrest. Very similar to what Jeremiah faced. People don’t like hearing the truth.

:26 "I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house.

:27 "But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.' He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.


Choice words

God isn’t going to let Ezekiel rebuke them with Ezekiel’s own words.
Ezekiel would only be speaking when God has given him something to say.
It would make life a lot easier if you could find someone who only spoke what God spoke. But the truth is that when God uses a person to speak, often that person will have plenty of their own things to share as well.
We need to learn to discern, to learn to recognize when God is speaking and when it’s simply the donkey speaking.
(Prov 10:19 NKJV)  In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.
There’s a commercial on TV where a husband is sitting at the kitchen counter reading his newspaper.  The wife walks in behind him and asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?”  Without turning around or even paying attention to what his wife has just asked, the man says, “Absolutely!”
I wish sometimes God would shut my mouth so I wouldn’t say some of the stupid things I say to hurt others.

Ezekiel 4 - Ezekiel reports on the siege of Jerusalem

:1-3 Modeling the siege

:1 "You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem.

clay tablet – the Hebrew word could refer to a tile of soft clay that you could write on, or to a large sun-baked brick, the kind used in building the city of Babylon. 

Ezekiel was to draw a picture of Jerusalem on the tablet.

Ezekiel is going to give a sort of “report” of the things that would soon be going on in Jerusalem (Jer. 52:4-11)

:2 "Lay siege against it, build a siege wall against it, and heap up a mound against it; set camps against it also, and place battering rams against it all around.

siege wallKJV says “fort”, it’s a siege tower, used to breach the walls of a city.

mound – an earthen ramp up to the top of the city walls

Did you ever play with those little green army men when you were a kid?  That’s the idea here. Ezekiel is building a model of what is happening in Jerusalem.

:3 "Moreover take for yourself an iron plate, and set it as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face against it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel.

iron plate – Ezekiel was to put this iron plate or pan between himself and his model city.  If this brick was the model of the city, Ezekiel was the model for God.  The idea would be that God’s face was set against the city and any of their cries for help would fall on deaf ears because they wouldn’t make it past the iron wall.

Some people use the phrase, “the heavens were brass” to refer to God not hearing our prayers.

(Isa 59:1-2 NKJV)  Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. {2} But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

:4-8 The duration of the siege

:4 "Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity.

During the daytime while he was prophesying, Ezekiel was to lay on his left side for this period of time.  He didn’t stay on his side 24 hours a day because God would be asking him to do other things as well.

:5 "For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.

Laying on the left side was the time when focus was drawn to the northern kingdom of Israel.

390 days – this meant that for over a year Ezekiel lay on his left side, representing 390 years of sin for the northern kingdom.

What did the 390 years mean?

It’s difficult to see what this refers to.  It doesn’t fit squarely into history in any obvious manner. 
If it refers solely to the northern kingdom, the northern kingdom was only in existence for 209 years (931-722 BC).
Perhaps it is referring to some sort of accounting that God had on the nation as a whole in 390 years of sin.

:6 "And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.

Laying on the right side was for the time to focus on the sins of the southern kingdom of Judah.

Their iniquity was forty years.

Again, it is not clear just what this is referring to.

:7 "Therefore you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem; your arm shall be uncovered, and you shall prophesy against it.

:8 "And surely I will restrain you so that you cannot turn from one side to another till you have ended the days of your siege.

restrain – literally “put ropes on”

4:9-17 Food for the siege

:9 "Also take for yourself wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt; put them into one vessel, and make bread of them for yourself. During the number of days that you lie on your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it.

Ezekiel was to make bread using these ingredients.  There is nothing unusual about these ingredients.  They were a common part of the Israeli diet.  It’s the amount of food that is unusual.

:10 "And your food which you eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day; from time to time you shall eat it.

twenty shekels – a little less than half a pound of food.  This is not the amount of the burger Ezekiel would eat for lunch, but the total amount of food he would eat all day.

That’s one way to lose weight.

:11 "You shall also drink water by measure, one-sixth of a hin; from time to time you shall drink.

1/6 of a hin – about 2/3 of a quart.

Ezekiel was going to learn what the people in Jerusalem were going through with very little food and water.

:12 "And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight."

Initially God asks Ezekiel to bake his bread in an oven fueled by dried human dung.  This is the kind of thing the people in Jerusalem would be doing.

:13 Then the LORD said, "So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them."

:14 So I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth."

Ezekiel is grossed out.

:15 Then He said to me, "See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it."

We were watching the “Into the West” miniseries and they showed the settlers coming across the plains in covered wagons.  They would pick up buffalo patties to fuel their fires as they crossed the plains.  Burning dung mixed with straw was a common thing in the Middle East.  The fuel would burn slowly, but it wasn’t very nice to the nose.

:16 Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, surely I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread,

:17 "that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity.


Making a point

Ezekiel was teaching a lesson by his actions.
What was the lesson?
Sin is costly

Note the last phrase:  “because of their iniquity”

We may not always see it every time we sin.  God is gracious and does not always punish us immediately for our sins.

(Psa 103:10 NKJV)  He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

Instead, God is gracious and kind, hoping that we will turn willingly from our sins.

(Rom 2:4 NKJV)  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

(2 Pet 3:9 NKJV)  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God could judge the world and get it all done and over with.  But instead He chooses to wait to give people a chance to repent.

But that doesn’t change the fact that sin is very costly.

It ruins our lives.

It ruins our families.

It affects the world we live in.

No one knows more about the cost of sin than Jesus.

He died for our sins.

(Isa 53:5 NKJV)  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.