Ezekiel’s message reveals God’s purpose for His children through the sad experience of the Babylonian captivity. For centuries the prophets had advised and warned Israel, yet the people delved deeper into sin. Finally, it became clear that God’s people would never fulfill His plan for them as a nation unless radical measures were taken to teach them lessons of faithfulness. Accordingly, the Lord allowed them to learn in hardship lessons they had didn’t accept to learn during peaceful times.
God’s original plan
It was the leaders of Israel who caused the nation to rebel against the Lord (Isaiah 3:12; 9:16; Ezekiel 34:2–19). At the beginning, God planed that only the leaders should be taken into captivity (Daniel 1:3, 4). The majority of the inhabitants were to stay in Judea, expecting the return of the humbled and changed leaders to lead them into God’s path.
Had the leaders been willing to yield to Nebuchadnezzar, as God planned (Jeremiah 27:1–22), the city of Jerusalem and its great Temple would have not been destroyed (Jeremiah 17:25, 27; 38:17). And the 100 years of delay, hardship, and defeat that challenged the exiles upon their return from Babylon would have been evaded.
But Israel’s persistent of rebellion (Jeremiah 28:1–14) filled their cup of judgement. And it brought on a second and then a third exile (597 and 586 B.C.). And thus, “Yokes of wood” were replaced with “yokes of iron” (Jeremiah 28:13, 14).
It was God’s intent, through Ezekiel’s message, to make a powerful appeal to the Israel of the Captivity to accept the divine destiny for them. The plan of the book displays the characteristic gospel style. Several messages are devoted to show the sins of the people. The goal was to lead the people into a sincere repentance. And then, to show the need for God’s help for future obedience pledged in the new covenant.
God’s judgment that had already fallen on Jerusalem, instead of wakening the inhabitants of Judah, were rejected. And the people went astray. Likewise, the exiles in Babylon were not inclined to change their evil ways by the “chastening” (Hebrew 12:11). Instead, they insisted on being wicked (Ezekiel 2:3; 20:39). And they showed little tendency towards repentance.
But even in imprisonment, divine judgement was mixed with mercy. The Lord taught His people, that rebellion only brings ruin whereas faithfulness brings honor and peace. The sad experiences of the Captivity were not judgmental in nature but corrective. The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were called to reveal Heaven’s plan to the Hebrews. They were to call them to cooperation with it. Jeremiah was sent to the Jews who stayed in Judea. And Ezekiel was called for those who had already gone into captivity. Also, Daniel was called to the court of Nebuchadnezzar. He was to reveal to him the divine will and to call for his cooperation.
Through ignorance and the corrupt teachings of the false prophets, the Israelites had a very wrong picture of the character of God and His plan for them. So, Ezekiel tried to correct their misunderstandings. He called them to accept the exile and to leave their false hope in the ability of Jerusalem to survive the capture. He urged them to allow the captivity to have its remedial work on them. And he inspired them with the hope of the future glory that would come upon them if they would repent of their sins.
In His service,
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