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Historical Background: Welcome to the book of Ezekiel, a book of unearthly visions, poems, parables and comic street-theater. What Jeremiah is to the people of Judah in Jerusalem, the prophet Ezekiel is to the captives in Babylonian exile. Ezekiel himself was among those of the priestly aristocracy who were carried away in the great deportation of 597 BC (along with King Jehoiachin).
Ezekiel’s call to ministry happens in the 5th year of his exile, when he is 30 years old – the age of recognized maturity at which Levites begin their priestly service. Like Daniel and the apostle John, Ezekiel prophesied outside the land of Judah; and his prophecy, like theirs, follows the method of symbol and vision. It is also noteworthy that his prophecies can be dated with precision and that they are in chronological order.
As you read Ezekiel, note down when each prophecy was made and its dominant image. Don’t rush ahead in your studies – take time to think about the message in each session. Remember, the book compresses messages God gave over 22 years. We will return to Jeremiah’s ministry on a periodic basis over the spring and summer.
1. Think back to the time when you were age 30 (or project yourself into that time frame). Where are you living? Who with? What are you doing for a living? What lies ahead for you, five years down the road?
2. When and where have you felt the closest to God?
3. If you were the special effects director for a movie and had to portray God, how would you do it?
4. When Ezekiel sees this vision, where is he (verse 1)? Why is he there? How old is he now? How long has he been there (verse 2)?
5. What career might Ezekiel have entered at age 30 (verse 3; see also Numbers 4:3), had it not been for exile? What new career has opened up to him instead (see Ezekiel 2:5)? How do you think the last 5 years in exile have prepared Ezekiel, emotionally and spiritually, for his new role?
6. List the different elements which comprise Ezekiel’s two-part vision. What does he see? Hear?
7. To what does the prophet liken the four attendants to the throne? Likewise, the UFO-type object? What aspects of God’s nature are revealed in such other-worldly images?
8. How does Ezekiel react to this multi-sensory experience (verse 28b)? What must he be feeling on the inside?
9. God obviously has Ezekiel’s attention. What does God have to do to get yours?
10. Why does God seem to appear through “special effects” visions only to certain Old Testament prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel?
11. What aspects of God’s nature revealed here most appeal to you? Which most disturb you? Why? What is your bottom-line response to Ezekiel’s God?