Another repetitive phrase in Ezekiel is “This is what the Sovereign LORD says….” Accompanied with the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD,” these two phrases serve as a powerful reminder that Ezekiel does not speak on his own. He is speaking for the Sovereign LORD. Israel might have ignored the prophets of God, but they could not keep from happening what the Sovereign LORD vowed to do. The reaction of Israel in the days of the prophets is much like the reaction of many today in regards to the imminent return of Christ to make all things right. Because our LORD tarries in His return, many suggest that He is not coming. Just as Israel learned, just because someone does not believe the message of the LORD does not mean that they can thwart the purposes of God. Remember that when the Sovereign LORD’s words come to pass, then all will know that He is the LORD.
The repetitive phrase, “Then they (or you) will know that I am the Lord,” occurs approximately 30 times in the book of Ezekiel. Try to pay attention to this recurring phrase as you continue to read the book of Ezekiel. This phrase captures the essence of the book. In this phrase is the summary of the prophetic messages of Ezekiel. All that God was doing among unfaithful Judah and Israel was the result of their disobedience. However, the discipline was not merely punishment, but rather to show them that God was the Lord. Isn’t it interesting that this has been God’s plan for Israel since the beginning? God provided them the Promised Land to show them that He was the Lord. He provided them each military victory in order to prove that He was the Lord. Unfortunately, though many called him “Lord,” much of Israel did not recognize Him as Lord. The same is true today. What would you rather—to know Him as Lord in provision or punishment? One way or the other, God is striving to show the world that He is Lord. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
Ezekiel 1 recounts Ezekiel’s experience of a vision of God. This indeed is a difficult passage in Scripture. Our “inquiring minds” want to understand every detail of the vision and secure some kind of meaning in every detail. We would most likely be better off to understand the whole vision standing for the “glory of God” rather than trying to isolate a particular message from every detail. (For example, some would say that there is some meaning in the four sides.) The vision that Ezekiel saw that day was glorious. Does every part stand for something? I say “no,” because the text does not indicate that this is an analogy. For a different example, see Daniel 7 where the vision is interpreted. As a general rule, visions that are not interpreted by Scripture itself should be taken more general than specific. The last verse of chapter 1 seems to give us the point of the vision—the glory of the LORD.
We should also note that Ezekiel had a specific call experience just as Isaiah and Jeremiah. The call is recorded in Ezekiel 2. Just as with Isaiah and Jeremiah, God encourages Ezekiel not to be afraid. In addition, God alerts that those to whom Ezekiel is called to preach are a rebellious people. Notice especially 2:5, “Whether they listen or not . . . they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
I remind you that Jeremiah’s message has been consistent. We can summarize it with these statements:
1. Siege against Judah, total destruction, and exile at hands of Babylonians (Example: Jeremiah 21:3-8)
2. Judah should surrender to the Babylonians (Example: Jeremiah 21:8-10)
3. The exiles should make a life for themselves in exile (Example: Jeremiah 29:4-9)God instructs the exiles to settle down in the land of exile and to seek the welfare of that city. The idea is that they should live in exile exactly as they would in the land of Israel. The temptation would be to allow discouragement to lead to inactivity. God desired for them to carry on with life even in exile.
4. Israel will be restored (Example: Jeremiah 29:10-14 and Jeremiah 31)God is very specific that the exile will not last forever, but will be 70 years. God’s desire is not to discipline, but to bless.
Jeremiah has been preaching that God is bringing Judah into exile. He also provides the hope that the exile will last 70 years. As a way of putting Jeremiah to the test, he is asked to buy a field. The field that he will buy has already been taken over by Babylon. Jeremiah’s willingness to buy the field gives evidence of his faith in the message that God has called him to preach.
Notice the following features in Jeremiah 32:
1. God prepares Jeremiah to buy the field. (32:6-7)
2. Jeremiah is made to seal the deal in the presence of witnesses. (32:12) I think that the fact those witnesses
3. Jeremiah’s prayer after the purchase is his way of overcoming the doubts. (32:16-25)
4. God reassures Jeremiah that nothing is too difficult for Him. (32:26)
If people are going to believe our message we are going to have to live according to that message. The applications to this principle are endless.
The book of Lamentations contains the cries of the prophet Jeremiah over the fall of his beloved people and his beloved city, Jerusalem. The literary structure of the book is striking. Do you remember the structure of Psalm 119? The Hebrew alphabet was used to provide the structure of the book. In the same way, Jeremiah used the Hebrew alphabet in the first four chapters of the book of Lamentations. Chapters 1, 2, and 4 all have 22 verses. Verse 1 in each of those chapters begins with the Hebrew equivalent of “a.” Verse 2 in each of those chapters begins with the Hebrew equivalent of “b.” This continues through the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 has 66 verses instead of 22. In chapter 3 the same pattern flows except that it is tripled. Verses 1-3 begin with the Hebrew equivalent of “a.” Verses 4-6 begin with the equivalent of “b.” This pattern continues through the Hebrew alphabet to verse 66. For an unknown reason, this pattern does not exist in chapter 5. Chapter 5 has no striking literary structure, except that it has 22 verses like chapters 1,2, and 4. The author’s intent for the structure is not known for sure, but most interpreters certainly feel that the author took his time to make this happen. The implication most usually noted is the complete anguish that this structure shows. That is to say, Jeremiah is implying from “A to Z,” I am in mourning over what has happened.
Lamentations is most known for the faith statement of 3:22-33. Even in the despair, desperation, and depression that consumed Jeremiah, he is still able to say, “His compassions never fail” (v. 22) and “Great is Your (God’s) faithfulness.” (v. 23)
What a wonderful reminder for each of us! Even when things are at their worst, “Great is God’s faithfulness.” We can wake with this confidence each day.