“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. - Ezekiel 36:22-23  (ESV)

The book of Ezekiel contains the prophetic oracles of Ezekiel, an Israelite living in exile after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel contains some of the strongest imagery in all of the Bible, as Yahweh is at pains to communicate just how awful Israel’s unfaithfulness was to the covenant with Yahweh. But Ezekiel is not without hope. As strongly negative as Ezekiel is, it also contains striking and stirring language regarding the new covenant and how Yahweh will work in his people’s hearts the changes that only he can. 

The Big Idea of Ezekiel

I have taught the Big Idea of Ezekiel as the following: Yahweh judges and saves his people for his own sake. This is represented clearly enough in the passage cited above, in which Yahweh makes it very clear that his priority is his name. His name is holy, but Israel has profaned it. This is to say that Israel’s actions have given the impression that Yahweh’s name is just another name for another god on the long list of gods that the peoples worship. But Yahweh’s point is that he is not like other gods. He is Yahweh, Yahweh God, and the message through his prophet Ezekiel is that he will vindicate his holiness before the nations through Israel. 

An Outline of Ezekiel

1-10: Judgment and Forsaking

In Chapters 1-10, Yahweh judges and forsakes Israel. This is epitomized in Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of Yahweh as it rises with the cherubim and exits through the east gate of the temple (Ezekiel 10:18-19). There could hardly be a more conclusive picture of the forsaking of Israel by Yahweh. It was by Yahweh’s special guidance in the cloud and pillar that the people had escaped Egypt and were guided to the Promised Land in the first place. It was Yahweh’s presence that summed up the uniqueness of Israel among the peoples of the earth. But within what we know as the first ten chapters of Ezekiel, the decisive blow has already been struck.

11-24: Sin and Sentencing

Chapters 11-24 of Ezekiel are about sin and sentencing. In these chapters, Yahweh roundly and vividly condemns Israel for their unfaithfulness toward him. This section is represented well by Ezekiel 11:8-10, in which Yahweh tells Israel that he will bring the sword upon them and remove them from the land. Nevertheless, despite very graphic descriptions of Israel’s unfaithfulness (cf. Ezekiel 23:1-21), Yahweh maintains that there is hope for Israel because of the covenant that he will establish by atoning himself for all that they have done (Ezekiel 16:59-63).

25-32: Other Judgments

Chapters 25-32 feature judgments against foreign nations, including Tyre, Moab, Seir, Edom, Philistia, Sidon, and Egypt. One summary reason is given for these judgments by Yahweh when he remarks that these are all neighbors who have treated Israel with contempt (Ezekiel 28:26). 

33-39: Promise, Hope and Covenant

Chapters 33-39 revolve around the themes of promise, hope, and covenant. The section begins with Ezekiel designated by Yahweh as the watchman of Israel (Ezekiel 33:7). Ezekiel is thus charged with warning Israel regarding their sin and the judgment that is coming. Following this, Yahweh roundly condemns the leaders of Israel in chapter 34, in response to which he will lead the people himself, including making a covenant of peace with them. Yahweh continues this theme in the following chapters, promising to put his Spirit within the people and give them a new heart, speaking of the new covenant (Ezekiel 36:26). Yahweh demonstrates what kind of power he will work through the preaching of the word by resurrecting a dead army through Ezekiel in chapter 37, following which Yahweh makes further prophecies regarding the final battles of history before he finally sets his glory among the nations (cf. Ezekiel 39:21). 

40-48: Restoration and Return

Ezekiel’s final nine chapters revolve around the themes of restoration and return. That is, the restoration of the people and their return to Jerusalem. These chapters describe the Temple and its courts according to a vision that Ezekiel receives. Along with the description of the Temple, Yahweh gives Ezekiel instructions regarding the sacrifices, feast days, and services of the priests and levites. The book ends with instructions for how to allot the land to each tribe of Israel, ending the book with the prediction that one day the place will be called, “Yahweh Is There.”

Benefits of Ezekiel

Ezekiel is a fascinating book to read for many reasons. But it is not only an interesting book. It is also one that is instructive for believers today. How does Ezekiel help or motivate us to live for God through Christ? 

Ezekiel teaches us the seriousness of sin. Over and over again, the people seemed not to take seriously the nature of their sins against God. So often, God takes our sin much more seriously than we do. The descriptions of the heinousness of Israel’s sin can help us to recognize the heinousness of our own, and to confess and repent of it before it is too late. 

Ezekiel also shows us God’s holy passion for his glory through his people. Ezekiel orients us to what it means to live for God. Yahweh makes so clear in Ezekiel that he wants to make his glory known among the nations, and that this is a large part of the motivation for the mercy he will show to the people of Israel. It is not that they deserve it, but because they do not, that Yahweh will receive glory. If we think that living for God means something other than living for his glory, then we misunderstand what it means to live for God.

But Ezekiel does show us the compassion and kindness of Yahweh. As stubbornly sinful as Israel was, Yahweh promised to restore them and make a new covenant with them, providing a new heart in place of their old one. This is precisely what happens in the new covenant in Christ. As we read Ezekiel, we understand that God’s highest priority is himself, but our greatest good is precisely in how God gets glory for himself through saving sinners like us and enabling us to live for him through Christ and by the Spirit.

On Ezekiel and Living for God Through Christ