The International Bible Society website offers us a concise explanation of the circumstances surrounding the times of Ezekiel. The underlines are mine, so that you don’t miss some specific points. Some of my comments appear as notations, in certain parentheticals.
Ezekiel lived during a time of international upheaval. The Assyrian empire that had once conquered the Syro-Palestinian area and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel (which fell to the Assyrians in 722–721 b.c.) began to crumble under the blows of a resurgent Babylon. In 612 the great Assyrian city of Nineveh fell to a combined force of Babylonians and Medes. (EZ: SO WE SEE ONE EMPIRE FALL AND ANOTHER EMERGE – BABYLON GOES DOWN. ASSYRIA RISES UP. BABYLON HAD EARLIER CONQUERED THE 10 NORTHERN TRIBES OF ISRAEL)
Three years later, Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt marched north to assist the Assyrians and to try to reassert Egypt’s age-old influence over Canaan and Aram (Syria). (EZ: IT IS THAT KIND OF ARMIES-PASSING-THROUGH-ISRAEL THAT THE LORD SOMETIMES USED TO CHASTISE AND DISCIPLINE HIS PEOPLE, EVEN WHEN WARRING NATIONS HAD OTHER CONFLICTS ON THEIR MINDS – ref: Ezek 29:20).
At Megiddo, King Josiah of Judah, who may have been an ally of Babylon as King Hezekiah had been, attempted to intercept the Egyptian forces but was crushed, losing his life in the battle (see 2Ki 23:29–30;2Ch 35:20–24).
Jehoahaz, a son of Josiah, ruled Judah for only three months, after which Neco installed Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, as his royal vassal in Jerusalem (609 b.c.). In 605 the Babylonians overwhelmed the Egyptian army at Carchemish (see Jer 46:2), then pressed south as far as the Philistine plain. In the same year, Nebuchadnezzar was elevated to the Babylonian throne and Jehoiakim shifted allegiance to him. When a few years later the Egyptian and Babylonian forces met in a standoff battle, Jehoiakim rebelled against his new overlord.
Nebuchadnezzar soon responded by sending a force against Jerusalem, subduing it in 597 b.c. Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin and about 10,000 Jews (see 2Ki 24:14), including Ezekiel (EZ: EXPLAINING HOW EZEKIEL WAS ALREADY IN EARLY-JUDAIC EXILE WHILE JERUSALEM REMAINED POPULATED BY JEWISH PEOPLE), were exiled to Babylon, where they joined those who had been exiled in Jehoiakim’s “third year” (see Da 1:1 and note). Nebuchadnezzar placed Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, on the throne in Jerusalem, but within five or six years he too rebelled. The Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem in 588, and in July, 586, the walls were breached and the city plundered. On Aug. 14, 586, the city and temple were burned.
Under Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, Babylon dominated the international scene until it was crushed by Cyrus the Persian in 539 b.c. The reign of the house of David came to an end; the kingdom of Judah ceased to be an independent nation; Jerusalem and the Lord’s temple lay in ruins.
ALL THIS TO SAY: God holds His people, always, to obedience and compliance. His covenant with men and with nations is taken most seriously by covenant-keeping God.
He told His people in the book of Amos:
1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth;
Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” (AND v3 EXPLAINS WHY CORRECTIVE-PUNISHMENT IS SOMETIMES REQUIRED, FOR RE-ALIGNMENT BACK TO HOLY INTIMACY):
3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Part of the accountability of people with whom the Lord has entered covenant is based upon His rightful desire and requirement for such people to “walk together” with Him. And He is holy. That has not gone out of style in the New Testament days. It is why Peter reminds us of the admonition:
“Be holy for I am holy”. (1 Peter 1:16)
The argument: “lighten up, we’re in New Testament days” does not stand up to the truth of scripture. It’s ironic that teachers wanting to paint all covenants of the Old Testament as being worn out and gone (citing Heb 8:13 which is intended to address the Mosaic ordinances), fail to embrace simultaneous truths written by that same author, who tells us:
25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven,
26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”
27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
29 For our God is a consuming fire.
ALL THAT TO SAY: I am of the mind that what is occurring on earth right now, March, 2020, is more than a “forced Sabbath” (though it is), and more than a wakeup call (though it better be) and more than a “conspiracy theory” (which arguably is everything that rages against our Lord’s plans, if you want to get biblically technical – Ps 2).
The nations are raging and proclaiming lies, always, and at all times. Anything taught or proclaimed that contradicts the entire word of God is fake news.
Whether outside or, worse yet, inside of church or synagogue, we would all do well to address His sovereignty over all things, good and bad. Isa 45:7. That sovereignty includes His determination that man would have a free will. But the outcomes of free will, whether exercised that will is exercised in obedience or disobedience, is His to control. Below is Daniel’s chapter 9 prayer. It reveals much.
We appear to be in the most serious of times, times demanding our attention as well as our response. In many ways the outcome is contingent upon our response, individually as well as corporately. In other ways, we have been told the outcome of the divine story, and we will not reverse that – although we can have huge say:
(a) as to the outcome of our own salvation, and
(b) in offering salvation to as many as will come to our Lord.
THIS WRITING: Critical to the deliverance of any word from God, whether of comfort and encouragement, or warning, to anyone, is the heart of the delivering party. Ezekiel said some tough things – as did Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Amos, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Zechariah, etc. – which explains why those “tough-things-prophets” are so infrequently taught, in textual fullness, in the church. The PROMISES in each of those books are often latched onto, highlighted and preached, but the fullness of those prophetic messages, including WARNINGS and recounts of OUTCOMES are typically left covered up and unaddressed. Sad/typically/dangerously, many church leaders would rather leave the tough stuff in the Old Testament.
But Paul told us in 1 Cor 10 that the whole book was written for our admonition, and purposely cited some startling biblical accounts to confirm what he meant. 1 Peter 1 tells us the Old Testament was written for the New Testament saint. Our Lord (Matt 24) pointed to the book of Daniel as key to our succeeding through the very toughest of days when the abomination that causes desolation (chapters 11 and 12) appears in the (yet to be rebuilt) temple.
THE PROPHET’S HEART: Precious about Ezekiel is his plea to God once divine slaughter was initiated in Jerusalem. Ezekiel was not looking to be affirmed by the activation of the tough words he had been instructed to proclaim. His heart was one of intercession and crying for mercy:
8 So it was, that while they were killing them, I was left alone; and I fell on my face and cried out, and said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?”
This same heart of mercy is evident in Daniel and in Jeremiah:
3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
4 And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,
5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.
6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.
9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.
10 We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.
11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.
12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.
14 Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.
15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us.
17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.
18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.
19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
1 Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!
I believe the Lord, in these days, is watching and evaluating the response of His people, His prophets, His prayer warriors, His intercessors, His watchmen on His walls. How do we address the message He is speaking to us, and also through us? And how will we respond, as His children, and also as His examples?
Tough times also means some tough revelations will be presented by the Lord to the messengers of God – and as always He is requiring that we speak all of His words, tough or not, always in love.
(all scripture NKJV)