What is Israel’s hope and future? Exploring the prophet named Ezekiel

OVERALL:

  • Ezekiel was called The Exile Prophet of Hope, for he wrote to The Jewish Exiles in Babylon concerning hope for the future of the Israelite Nation.
  • He was one where he wrote in a cause-effect pattern, where he talked about the judgment and sins of Jerusalem for the first half for the book of Ezekiel, and then talked about returning to the land and the new age for the other half.
  • His pattern of writing had to do with showing what the problem is, and what the Lord will do to bring hope to the people!

The background of Ezekiel

He had quite an impressive status, which was an aristocrat of Jerusalem, a descendant from Zadok’s line. He was a proud and confident person as he looked to the future of the Priesthood, involving God’s chosen people. He was called one of the most influential men, and was greatly influence by the preaching of Jeremiah and the reform of Josiah.

As far as personal abilities were concerned, he was an utterly helpless one before the might God who controlled him, for his whole philosophy and utterances were colored because of the Hand of God upon him and vision of “God’s Glory.” He was also a “Mediator” and in deep thought usually. Sometimes harsh, bold, or blunt – he was also uncompromising. He was a man of deep convictions, with a fearless determination, and housed a heart deeply sympathetic with abiding love for his people who needed a pastor – someone to shepherd them back to the Lord (and hope). His education comes through as a careful planning scenario and an orderly dating of all his writings. He outlined things well, and helped many people through his writings.

He was a married man, but his wife died the year of when the final siege of Jerusalem began.  His wife was apparently a symbol of the Temple, as he began a very picturesque, but powerful ministry at 35 – after his captivity in Babylon. At this time, Jeremiah was approaching the end of his valiant, but tragic career.

Now, for the call of God on his life, God laid his hand upon Ezekiel just as he did Jeremiah, and he felt it. He was called to the lonely exiles on the riverbanks of Chebar. In a dramatic way, he describes for us his vision and call to service, which was a vision of God’s glory. In this vision, he beheld the “Glory of God,” and “felt” the Hand of the Lord. He even saw the likeness of God’s being and fell upon his face. A voice spoke to him commissioning him. He received several commissions overall, which had much to do with returning unto God and beholding His Glory.

Historical background of Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, we see the people in constant turmoil. Jehoiakim is succeed by his son, who reigned only three months before going to captivity in Babylon along with many others in Judah. Ezekiel was taken in this group along with 10,000 other captives. Zedekiah was left on the throne in Jerusalem as the agent of the Babylonian government, and Jeremiah was the preacher still in the Holy City of Jerusalem to carry God’s message to the people.

Around 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar returned to put down the rebellion of Zedekiah and take the rest of the people to join the exiles by the river Chebar. Many things were destroyed in Jerusalem, and others were taken away to captivity, to which, Jeremiah’s prophecy had happened. In Babylon, conditions were just as horrible. We see Daniel and a few other Jewish boys come in 605 BC, and Ezekiel and the upper class brought in 598 BC. For several years, ten thousand exiles lived in a concentration camp in Babylon, while Ezekiel and the upper class of people carried on in Jerusalem.

For five years, the captives had no preacher of priest to help them. In this dark hour, Ezekiel hears the call of God and began to serve. For six years, he wanted to break down false hopes of an early return to Palestine, and wanted to prepare the captives of the bad news of the destruction of the Holy City. The Jewish people were in a darkened state with their Temple gone, and very little opportunity for business – false prophets were abundant. Complaints and murmurs, among wails filled the air. Ezekiel dealt with many different kinds of people, particularly negative people.

Ezekiel’s ordeal (his mission)

His mission was clearly revealed by God as the Spirit entered into him and cleansed him of bitterness. He had a revelation of the “Glory of God” to which he was to destroy false hopes of an early return to Jerusalem, interpret the meaning and purpose of the exile to gather up and preserve the teachings of Historians, Psalmists, and Prophets, to organize new forms for worship and life in the restored community, to preserve Israel’s soul in Babylon, and to stimulate new hope for the future Israel. He was to be an effective watchman also in the dark days of captivity. His message was that before they could even hope to return to Jerusalem, they had to return to the Lord.

New Testament fulfillment

  • Israel’s restoration as a nation as they await their Messiah (34:11-31; 36:1-15, 23-38; 37:1-28)
  • The Battle of Armageddon at the return of Christ (38:1-39:20)
  • Rebuilding of the Temple by the Messiah for Millennial and eternal worship (40:5-43:12)
  • The Millennial (1000 years) and eternal river from the Temple spoke about in The Book of Revelation (47:1-12)

Practical things Ezekiel communicated to help all people

  • The heart of God wants His People back, and He longs for their return unto Him.
  • Each person is responsible for their own sins, and therefore, are subject to consequences individually.
  • Each minister that is called is subject to their own troubles, but they cannot let that stop them from continuing the work of the Lord.
  • Love must be expressed in everything we do.
  • Repentance is important and makes alive the reality of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Good godly conduct and behavior should emanate through us on a normal basis.

Do you see the similarities in what the New Testament authors, apostles, disciples, etc. tried to communicate compared to Ezekiel? Yeah, almost every one of these match.

Peter was miraculously delivered by angels | Acts 12

Scripture: Acts chapter 12

Commentary: The fourth persecution began through Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great. He killed James, the brother of John with a sword. The Rabbis considered death by the sword disgraceful, and therefore, they were rather pleased at the death of James. The murderer of the Apostle was a relative of the Herod that killed John the Baptist. James was the first Apostle to be martyred. He was beheaded before the Jews.

Herod saw that the murder of James pleased the Jews. Herod had carried out one murder and was planning another, which was Peter’s murder. Peter’s arrest occurred during the time of “unleavened bread.” Herod was careful to avoid disturbing the Jews and shedding blood during the feast. Peter was then imprisoned in the town of Antonia where Paul was later imprisoned. Four quaternions of soldiers (being chained to two guards, with two shifts for each), which guarded him until after Easter (Passover) when they planned his death. Herod was careful to respect the Holy Days. Paul had been arrested twice before and once he had escaped.

The Angel of the Lord delivers Peter for the second time. He is sleeping chained to two guards when the Angel of the Lord awoke him and a light shined upon him. The Angel of the Lord smites Peter on the side (wake up). The Angel lifted Peter up and the chains had fallen off. Peter was told to gird up his self, bind on his sandals, cast his garment about, and follow him. Peter thought he was having a “vision.” The Angel led him through the first and second ward, the Iron Gate that lead to the city opened of its own accord before them, they came into the street of the city and the Angel had left Peter.

It would seem the Angels are doing the Father’s business, and when it’s completed, they just disappear. Peter seemed to have been in a state of stupor and not being fully aware of what was happening. The Scripture tells us some things, that Peter assured to himself that the Lord sent His Angel to deliver him from the hand of Herod, and from the expectation of the people of the Jews – to which, he means the anticipation of the Jews to see Peter killed as James.

Peter heads to John Mark’s house (the Church had met in homes, for there wasn’t a church building). They met in Mary’s home, who was the mother of Mark. They may have been travail, “desperate prayer” for Peter and the Church. Peter hurried over and knocked on the door. Rhoda came, and she often had heard Peter preach, so she recognized his voice, and ran to the others in joy that he had come. There was a lack of belief, but prayer continued. They thought she was “mad crazy” and said it must be an angel for they believed in guardian angels.

Peter still knocks. They were astonished at the sight of seeing Peter, and he beckons them with his hand and signals them to have peace. It seemed that he was quite hurried to get inside and explain the situation to them. Peter leaves them for a destination that he didn’t mention, and wanted to talk to them for a moment before he left. A brief conversation ensued, where he told them how the Lord delivered him out of prison. He wanted them to know it was the Lord and not some tall tale that the keepers of the prison would concoct. He admonished them to tell these things to James, the Lord’s brother, and to the rest of the brethren and he departed.

Herod’s wrath was vehement toward the jailers, for it was a matter of life and death to the soldiers when a prisoner was left in their charge. Herod then ordered an extensive search and finally the few guards were drilled and executed to save face for Herod. Herod then left Jerusalem and went to Caesarea where he stayed; the persecution seemed to subside for a season.

Usually, when a leader is over a team, whatever happened to the team or if they get in trouble, people then point to the leader for full responsibility. Herod had them executed so they didn’t try to put responsibility upon him for the escape. The Word of God “grew and multiplied.” Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem having fulfilled their mission. They had taken famine relief to the saints in Judea. John Mark joined them in this journey. Saul and Barnabas took Mark on their first missionary journey, but he got homesick and left the team. Saul and Barnabas separated over Mark at the beginning of the second missionary journey. Mark was a convert of Peter, and was then restored to Paul later.

The program began to gradually turn toward the Gentiles. It wasn’t that the Gospel had changed, but just began to move through the Gentiles because the Jews were quick to reject Christ. The Gospel Message began to “purge” out the demands of the Law of Moses. Quickly, Gentile Ministers came on the scene and Gentile Churches were formed. The Apostle’s council came to agreement for the program of the Gentile Church.

Peter gives second grand sermon: You Jews killed Jesus | Acts 3:12-26

“And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”

Commentary: Peter asked of the people, if they really believed that he or John had healed the crippled man at the gate. Peter said God healed him. In this same speech, Peter began blame the Jews that they killed God (Jesus) when He was man on the earth, and decided to keep a murderer (Barabbas) instead of a healing savior.

Jesus fulfilled all of prophecy about Him (Psalm 22:1); therefore, Peter encourages the people to repent, so the Lord would save them from their iniquity. What Peter is telling them is that they need to change their mind to accept that Jesus is the Messiah, and then receive Salvation by faith in Christ Jesus. Salvation is not of works; therefore, by following Moses’ prophecy, they must know that one shall be saved by faith only in Jesus Christ. Those who reject Jesus Christ will find themselves in Hell (the text renders “destroyed”). Overall, the Jews must realize their heritage, repent from their wicked ways, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 9:4).

Historical notes: The Jews have called Samuel the “master of the prophets.” Acts 3:24 mentions Samuel, who had referenced the coming of a great Savior in his books (2 Samuel 7:13). Also, the mention of Abraham in verse 25 (see Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16).

Other notes: In Acts 3:19, the mention of “times of refreshing” or “seasons of refreshing.” This is referring to the time of comfort and refreshment for God’s People, when the world is mostly at peace, and many judgments have ended. In history, the following have recurred several times: A. Man is fallen in great sin; B. God sends judgment upon the sinful; C. Many people come to Salvation in Him; and D. The judgment ends when God is satisfied.

Strange Tongues | Acts 2:5-13

“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.”

Commentary: There were many Jews and devout men (spiritual men of Godly character) in Jerusalem, and many of them were from various lands, which meant plenty of people to minister unto. Since the Jews did not readily accept Jesus as Messiah, the apostles and disciples needed to preach unto them, in hopes to convert them into Salvation in Christ Jesus.

Soon, strange language is heard among the brethren there, and many men were confused at this. It was noted that the works of God was being done here, for Peter explained that this was the spiritual experience of tongues – a different way to prophesy. The people were not, after all, drunk with new wine; rather, they were spiritually involved that the Holy Ghost was moving and speaking in and through them. What a marvelous experience!

Historical notes: During the Jewish feasts, the pilgrims of Judaism would organize in Jerusalem, and there would usually be at least 100,000 or more. On the day of Pentecost, there were at least 16 different countries or territories represented during this event. Imagine the overwhelm of the disciples and apostles to see so many people needing ministry.

Other notes: New wine usually was potent enough to make one become drunk easily, because the body was not accustom to it (“used to it”); whereas, cheap wine, the kind that people drank much more (because it’s cheap and easy to find), would take much longer for drunkenness due to the body’s accustom to it. When the body is accustom to a drug, it usually takes more each subsequent use, because the body requires more of it to product the same (desired) effect, which is why drugs are particularly dangerous for the body and soul. This is one of the most common causes of overdose, because the person has reached the point of too much accustomed, and consumes too much of the drug that it causes overdose requiring medical attention.

The apostles must choose Judas’ replacement | Acts 1:15-26

“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”

Peter presides in front of 120 disciples (with the other 10 apostles nearby most likely). As Peter presides, note his oratory here, as he speaks with confidence “Men and brethren.” He knows that God has brought them together to work together, so already he has dropped any leadership quirks such as titles, authority, etc. This is actually quite surprising due to Peter’s history of lacking understanding while a disciple of Jesus Christ. Peter told them that the Holy Ghost spoke through David that Judas would betray Jesus (Psalm 4:19).

Judas guided the law enforcement to where Jesus was. This was to bring forth the trials upon Jesus. Judas Iscariot was one of twelve disciples under Jesus, and received ministry from Jesus directly. Judas as well preached, did miracles with the others, and carried the bag as the treasurer stewarding God’s family in Christ. Of course, what Judas did not know was that even though people considered him untrustworthy (and it was already stated by Luke and Matthew well before of his untrustworthy behavior), Jesus had the knowledge of God and knew if Judas would mishandle what he had been placed steward over. It’s just that Judas’ heart was weak and easy to sway, which caused him to sin.

The original thirty pieces of silver? Judas gave that back. Good thing too, because just as Balsam with his soothsaying, such wages gained for wrong activities was called “wages of unrighteousness”. The chief priests felt they should take those wages of unrighteousness and buy a field that they could bury Judas (at a later time, it became a cemetery for the Gentiles). Just a little later… Judas hung himself and died. Upon dying, he eventually was reported to have fallen through the roof of a man’s house or have fallen from a branch, to which his belly had opened due to its putrefication (in a graphic way). Luke notes here that the field purchased by the chief priests to bury Judas was called the field of blood (Aceldama or Akeldama). This has been known traditionally to be located on the southern side of the Kidron Valley.

Judas’ place as an apostle has become vacant, and another person is to fill that by being called to do so. Peter thinks that the man chosen to fill Judas’ place as replacement apostle should be among the 120 before them. The someone chosen to fill Judas’ place must have been someone who would have witnessed most of Jesus’ Life from His Baptism from John the Baptist up until His Resurrection from the dead.

Joseph was first chosen and given the name Barsabas (a pseudonym or ministerial name), and Matthias was second chosen. Most Bible scholars agree that Joseph has three names total: Joses (translates to Joseph), Barsabas as shown here, and Barnabas. Therefore, when referencing the same person, you may read one of these three names (such as in Acts 4:36). Other references note, that similar to Simon Barjona, “son of Jona” (Matthew 16:17), Barsabas can be referred to as “son of Sabas.” Matthias’ name means, “gift of Yahweh.” Matthias had been known for a while, scholars suggest, since Luke references him in Luke 10:1.

The Lord God is the complete and noblest of all in knowledge, who looks at the heart and understands it fully. He sees everything, such as sin, disease, hurt, pain, joy, peace, laughter, anger, sadness, wealth, poverty, humility, pride, love, lust, and so many more things — nothing is hidden from the understanding of our Father God.

These two, Barsabas and Matthias, have been shortlisted by the apostles, and the apostles are praying to ask the Lord who it is to be chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot. The ideal one selected should be given issue to ministry and apostleship – and believe it, it is not fortune and fame that is at stake here. The man chosen would not be given a special title or authority; rather, he would be given servant leadership and responsibility to help lead disciples and conduct ministry journeys to commit evangelism unto the Jews and eventually unto the Gentiles. A servant leader is to set an example for other disciples to follow.

The apostles drew lots, a common way of election in especially antiquity. They intended to find the man who would be called to be the next apostle. It seems that the lot fell on Matthias after probably receiving the most votes, as God likely laid upon the apostles’ hearts the man of His Choice. Matthias is then given the designation of twelfth apostle numbered, and now there are once again twelve apostles. Now they shall prepare for a special celebration… Err, well, maybe an impartation would be better wording.

Also in antiquity, people tended to discern God’s Will by three different methods that have been usually or unusually noticed: 1. Drawing lots; 2. Dream incubating; or 3. Inspiration (such as prophetic). Oracles were frequently sought by the pagans, but the Jews knew this taboo method was risky – especially due to idolatrous behaviors. Proverb 16:33 had great confidence in the lots method, because Solomon and other wise men were confident that God had every decision of the lots. It is not unlike God to impress upon the heart His Will, in which this may be true. Pagans always thought lots were the best method, so their eyes were smiling when the Jews regarded lots – incidentally, there were times the Jews were tricked by pagans in this (see Jonah 1:7 and context; 1 Samuel 14:41; Isaiah 34:17; etc.).

Historical notes: The Jewish Diaspora

The type of Jews that were living outside of Israel were known as the Jewish Diaspora, also called Dispersion (see James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). They were not discriminated, as some might assume, for Peter and James thought highly of them. It was hard to imagine why the Jews were pushed to outside of Israel; however, we look at 722 BC where the first dispersion occurred under the Assyrian capture of the northern Kingdom of Israel, sending many Jews into exile in Mesopotamia (2 Kings 17:6). Then, also notice the Babylonians’ southern kingdom capture to deport Jews to Babylon (2 Kings 25:21). Otherwise, some Jews emigrated to Egypt (2 Kings 25:26), and others relocated to avoid circumstances under the three grave generals who submitted unto Alexander the Great. Some ancient scholars reported the relocation of 2,000 Jewish families around 210 BC under Antiochus III’s reign.

The apostles travel to the upper room | Acts 1:12-14

“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

The apostles went back to Jerusalem to Mount Olivet (Mount of Olives), likely speechless from their experience seeing Jesus ascend into Heaven before their eyes. Mount Olivet was on the eastern side of Jerusalem, and it is named as so due to the abundance in olive trees that are upon the mountain. They returned to Jerusalem with “great joy” (Luke 24:52). From Mount Olivet to Jerusalem is about a 1 day journey approximately. The Syriac notes that it is “about seven furlongs”, or nearly a mile. Although the Jews seem to think a sabbath day’s journey was about two-thousand cubits (see Numbers 35:4), which is equivalent to about 0.56 of a mile (a little over half a mile). Jews were usually prevented from going more than 0.75 of a mile (three-quarter mile) on the sabbath, which is why the Greek idiom is used “a sabbath day’s journey.”

As all eleven remaining apostles had gathered in the upper room, one may note that Jesus had twelve disciples/apostles; however, remember that Judas Iscariot took his own life, which brought the number down to eleven. The apostles prayed alongside Mary (Jesus’ mother), brethren, and other women – most likely to pray for the ministry they were about to do and pray for whom the next apostle would be. Supplication is usually supplemented to the word prayer, which means “urgent and/or earnest prayer.” The apostles had reason to expect Jesus’ promise shall be fulfilled unto them, and they have kept faithful unto Him. Mary, Jesus’ mother, seemed to stay by the apostles’ sides, but this seems to be the last place we hear about her. Mary may have stayed with them since it was in her piety to do so, or that she felt it necessary especially in memory of Jesus. It is assuredly true that the apostles had many stories to tell about Jesus, and Mary was fond of hearing such stories.