The Second Vision: The Temple (chs. 8 – 11)
After about a year of public ministry, Ezekiel was given a Second Vision which focused on the Holy Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon at a great price. He sees what had been happening in the Temple while he and other were in exile. It was not good.
In the Outer Courtyard, Ezekiel saw the presence of a large idol statue. It had become the focus of attention immediately upon entering the place of the presence of the Lord. The elders of Israel were found to be worshipping this false god, and worshipping other idols inside the Temple itself.
Because of the wrong example of the men, Ezekiel saw the women of Israel were led to engage in acts of idolatry. They worshiped a Sumerian god of vegetation named Tammuz. This was an abomination (Ezek. 8:14, 15).
According to pagan religious legend, Tammuz was betrayed by his lover, Ishtar, and so each autumn died, only to live again. The wilting of the vegetation was viewed as a sign of his death. This led to great mourning in society, and explained why Ezekiel saw the women in Jerusalem weeping. They were not weeping over sin, but over personal loss.
The Temple Vision ended when Ezekiel saw the Throne Chariot reflecting the glory of God move away from the Temple. God was leaving His idolatrous people. He would not stand by while they dishonored Him and turned to false fertility gods. The Throne Chariot was going East to Babylon in search of a faithful remnant, though in Exile. The Lord will go in Exile with His people.
Israel’s idolatry has driven God away, and so, He assigns the Holy City, and the Temple, to destruction.
Yet, in His wrath, God remembered to have mercy. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. God reveals He has not completely abandoned His people. A remnant will one day return with a new heart, a new mind, and a new spirit. God will redeem His people and bestow upon them the spiritual gifts of repentance and regeneration. God will remove their insensitive hearts of stone and gives them hearts of flesh that respond to His divine touch. The remnant will follow the Lord God.
This glimmer of hope, unfortunately, is overshadowed by the horrible reality of the pain and suffering associated with national destruction due to divine discipline being administered. The God of love and mercy is still the God of justice and discipline.
Three Irrevocable Pronouncements (chs. 12 – 33)
God will Judge Israel: Ezekiel 12 – 24
The judgment of the Lord in Israel will be severe. Ezekiel makes this very clear by using the pictorial language found in a parable and an allegory. Israel is set forth as a burnt, useless stick (Ezekiel 15). Israel is a rebellious wife (Ezekiel 16). Israel is like a dangerous raging lion that is captured (Ezekiel 19). Israel is like two promiscuous sisters engaging in carnal pursuits (Ezekiel 23). As a result, Israel is worthy of judgment.
Taking on the form of a lawyer, Ezekiel prosecutes his case against Israel (Ezekiel 14, 18, 20). Their discipline is well deserved. Even if the most righteous people lived, such as Noah, Daniel, or Job, and pleaded for Israel, their prayers would not be heard. The case against Israel is over. Judgment has been pronounced. It is time for the sentence to be administered. The integrity of God demands He bring judgment on this generation. Sin had reached a saturation point. Exile was inevitable. There is always a point of no return in God’s dealing with people.
God will Judge the Nations: Ezekiel 25 – 33
As God is judge over Israel, so He is sovereign over all the nations on earth. They are not exempt from His holy wrath. Ezekiel has a message for the nations around Israel: Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon.
Egypt and Tyle shall not be exempt from Divine evaluation. Israel had an alliance with Tyre and with Egypt so that the fate of one became the fate of another.
If Israel was guilty of worshipping false gods, the rulers of Tyre and Egypt postulated they were gods. The rulers of these nations defined right and wrong according to their own personal norms and standards. They bowed to no one but demanded servitude of all others. God denounces the pride of Tyre and Egypt. He will use Babylon as an instrument of His wrath to judge Tyre and Egypt, as well as Israel.
God’s Message to Jerusalem: Ezekiel 33
As the Second Vison nears a conclusion, Ezekiel is greeted by a refugee from Israel. He has a story to tell. The Babylonians have invaded the Land of Promise. The city is destroyed and the Temple is desecrated. The dire warning proclaimed by Ezekiel has become a reality. However, that is not the end of the narrative.
In the Valley of Dry Bones
Part II: A Profound Hope: Grace and Mercy will be Manifested
There is Hope for Israel: Ezekiel 33 – 37
Despite the disturbing messages given by the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 1 – 33, despite the terrible destructive work of the Babylonians upon the nations of the earth, Israel is not without hope. Post tenebras lux is a Latin phrase translated, “After darkness, light.” After the darkness of the Babylonian Exile, the glorious light of the gospel of God would shine to show the Hebrew captives the way back to Jerusalem, and the way back to the Temple where proper worship could be restored. There is a message of profound hope to be found in Ezekiel 34 – 48.
The hope for Israel begins when God promised to raise up a new King David (Ezekiel 34 – 37) who would reign as Messiah – King (Ezekiel 34). Ultimately, Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophesy of hope for Jesus is KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS (Rev. 17:14). The Messianic King would rule over a Transformed people, who are ultimately described by Peter in the New Testament. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
This is the covenantal language once associated with Israel. ““And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6).
Ezekiel anticipates the time when God would take away the hard, rebellious heart of Israel and give His people a new soft heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36). The people of God will feel His touch, and respond to the guidance of His Spirit. They will no longer walk in the flesh. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
To help Ezekiel visualize what He will do for a Returning Remnant of Jews after the Babylonian Captivity, the Lord shows His prophet a valley of dry bones. This is a metaphor for the dead orthodoxy in Israel. But the bones do not remain dead and lifeless. Ezekiel sees the wind coming, causing the bones to be brought together. The bones stand up. The Spirit fills each person with breath. There is life. Skin grows over the bones. There are new humans now standing. As God made humans out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 1, 2), so God can remake humans out of the sands of Babylon.
This is a mighty creative work of God, which only He can do. Dead men cannot pull themselves together. Dead men cannot breathe life into themselves. Dead men, literally or spiritually, cannot cause skin to grow over their bodies, or give themselves the vital organs needed to love and obey God. Salvation is wholly of the Lord. Not just in part, but in whole.
There is Hope for the Nations: Ezekiel 38 – 39
Because the Messiah is coming, according to promise, Ezekiel is shown that Messiah will defeat evil among the nations on the earth. A spiritual personification of evil is called “Gog of the Land of Magog” (in modern day Turkey). Gog is also called, “The Prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal”.
A literal and historical personification of Gog might find fulfillment in Gyges, king of Lydia “who asked Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, for help in 676 B.C. but then joined an Egyptian-led rebellion against Assyria about 665 B.C. The name Gyges became a symbol for the powerful, feared king of the north (Holman Bible Dictionary)
In Revelation 20:8, the evil ruler personified by Gog, and the people of the Land of Magog, appear together as a united fighting force for Satan following his millennial bondage.
In Ezekiel’s Vision, Gog, an amalgam of all the worse people in Scripture, aligns himself with seven nations that come from all four directions of the compass. This confederation reflects a unified hostility of all the nations on Earth to the rule and reign of God and His Messiah. The main focus of attention of Gog is to resist God’s plan for Him people. Once more, history would be repeating itself for Pharoah rejected God’s plan for the Hebrew people of the Exodus Generation.
Despite much resistance, God unleashes divine justice on Gog in a series of events.
Gog and his armies are consumed by an earthquake. Any survivors of the earthquake are then consumed by fire, after which God comes and strikes Gog and his army down in the field in a pitched battle. The rotting corpses are left unburied for months.
The imagery of earthquake, fire, and military slaughter presents a powerful message of evil being totally annihilated by the Lord and His Anointed.
The symbolisms and spiritual lessons of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones must not be missed.
God is determined to defeat the evil of this world in order to pave the way for a new beginning with a new creation.