Their Problems And Ours
EasyEnglish Study Units (Level B) that show that God is sufficient whatever the problem
Ezekiel: The Problem Of Times Of Trouble
by Raymond Brown, M.A., M.Th., Ph.D.
translated into EasyEnglish by Mary Read
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Paul says: ‘Everything that people wrote in the past was to teach us. They wrote those things so that we could have hope. That hope comes from the patience and strength that the Bible gives to us’ (Romans 15:4).
Here Paul suggests reasons why we should study the OT. (OT means Old Testament, the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Jesus’ birth.) The OT is history. It also has stories about people’s lives. These great OT stories:
· teach the mind. (Read 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:11.)
· encourage the heart. One translation of Romans 15:4 uses this word. The OT stories encourage us. We all have times when we desire some word from God. We know that this would encourage us. It would help us in our difficulties.
· make the will strong. (Note: The will is the part of us that makes us able to choose). The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to continue when things are hard.
Jerome K. Jerome writes funny books. His most famous one is ‘Three Men in a Boat’. The man who is telling the story visits a library. He wants to know what to do about a minor illness. He finds that he seems to have 101 serious diseases! That is not the purpose of this book! Nobody will have all the problems that are in this book.
But all of us have bad times. We may have problems. We may feel sad. One trouble often leads to another too. Some of the subjects are very similar. They may go with each other. So, fear and worry may go together. But they are separate here. One situation may not be the same as the reader’s situation. Another one will be. There is something else important. We may not have these difficulties ourselves. But we may need to help people who do have them.
God called Ezekiel to be a *prophet. God had a special task for him to do. It was at a most difficult time in the *Jews’ history. His service was to a particular group of people. They were *Jews who were far away from their own land. Their enemies had taken them to Babylon. So, they were feeling very hopeless and sad. They thought that God did not care about them any more.
Ezekiel’s task was to declare God’s message to them. He had to tell them the reason why they were in Babylon. God was punishing them. This was a very serious matter. Ezekiel must also call them to a holy life. Then he could give them the good news. God had a better future for them.
The people did not have hope about the things of God. They did not have much national hope. So, the task would be very hard. It was natural for the *prophet to hesitate about doing it. He must speak in a helpful way. In times of serious trouble, this is never easy.
We can all learn from the *prophet. He had to deal with the national problem. He had an awful personal experience too. There are certain principles that can guide us. We learn how to help other people when they, too, are in trouble.
Two things were special to every *Jew. First, there was their capital city, Jerusalem. Then, there was something else. This was even more important to them. It was the *Temple. They felt that the building itself was important. (Read Jeremiah 7:10, 12.)
But their last sight of that *Temple was an awful one. The huge and beautiful building was burning. The flames went high into the sky. Huge stones fell. The great wooden parts crashed as they burned. The *Jews’ enemies from Babylon burned the king’s palace. They burned all the homes in Jerusalem. (Read 2 Kings 25:9.) It must have been a terrible sight.
The *Jews had to leave their city and land. They had to walk more than 700 miles through the desert. So, the burning city was behind them. An unknown future was ahead of them. But there was something even worse. They felt that God was against them.
God calls Ezekiel to serve these people. They were not all prisoners. We know this from Jeremiah 29:1-23. Many of them had a lot of freedom. But something else was upsetting hundreds of them. They knew why all this had happened. It was God’s punishment. They had offended God. But they still knew that God had a purpose in it all. He would use this time in a foreign land. God would use it for good in the life of their nation.
The enemy king was proud of himself. He had defeated the *Jews. His military plan was clever. He thought that this must be the reason for his success. But really, it was all part of God’s plan. God was using the king as his servant. (Read Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6 and 43:10.) God had done something like this before. He had used the armies of Assyria (Isaiah 10:5). He would do it in the future too. He would use Cyrus to save them. (Read Isaiah 44:28; 45:1 and 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.)
We read about Ezekiel’s reactions to this situation. Then, we can learn how to help people who are in trouble.
This is true in any kind of trouble. Our circumstances may change. Our attitude to life may change. But God is the same. He knows all about our trouble. He has not left us alone in our world. He is with us in our suffering and despair. He also gives us all the power that we need to deal with life. This is true whatever those problems may be.
Ezekiel sees a *vision. This is before he speaks to the people. A great picture fills his mind. It is a picture of God’s throne. (This is a special king’s chair.) It was like a very unusual vehicle. The picture language is clear. But it sounds complicated. (Read Ezekiel 1:1-28.)
We will study 3 things in the *vision. These 3 things emphasise that God never changes. The *Jews needed to be sure of this in their trouble. We need to know it too in our bad times or sad times.
Ezekiel was a priest (1:3). So, it was natural for God to speak to him as he did. God used picture language. He used the language of the *Temple. He used the traditions of their religion too.
They were probably special *angels of God. (Their name was cherubim.) There were many pictures of them. So they were famous to *Jews. Pictures of them were on the doors and walls of the *Temple. (Read 1 Kings 6:25-36.)
The fire burnt the whole *Temple. But all that it represented remained. The *Jews saw these *angels as servants of God. They were always serving God. (Read Isaiah 6:2, 3.) The fire burned the *Temple doors too. But God was still the same. The *angels were still serving God. So, it was these *angels who spoke to the *prophet. They reminded him that God never changes.
We may be in times of trouble. We, too, should remember this great fact. Our circumstances can change. But God is always the same. (Read Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:11; 13:8; James 1:17 and Revelation 1:4.)
We can feel that we have lost everything. We have lost all that really matters. This can happen when we are suffering and in pain. Sometimes it may even seem that God has left us too. But this is not so.
(Read Ezekiel 1:15-21; Daniel 7:9.) The wheels show that God is *sovereign. The *Jews were feeling depressed. They were in a foreign land. So, they were far away from home. Perhaps they felt that God was still in the burnt city. The wheels reminded them that God rules the whole world.
Nothing happens to us by chance. God has full control of each part of our lives. He is not just in some situations. H. L. Ellison wrote a study on the book of Ezekiel. He notes a strange fact. The throne vehicle is coming ‘out of the north’ (1:4). Yet, Jerusalem was in the west.
The north was the direction that the prisoners themselves came from. They took that route to avoid extra hard areas of the desert. In this *vision, the throne vehicle comes along the same way. So, God was ruling over their lives. But it was more than that. God felt sympathy and pity for them. He was sharing their troubles.
There is something else that is interesting. It is about something that the people in Babylon believed. They believed that ‘the north’ was where their gods lived. Ellison gives a meaning for these words. God was showing that he had defeated any gods that might live there. (Note: the book by Ellison is: ‘Ezekiel: the Man and his Message’.) So, the great God feels for his people. He also defeats their enemies. You may be in trouble now. Then you, too, must accept this truth.
This declares that God is *faithful. (Read Genesis 9:12-17 and Revelation 4:3; 10:1.) The rainbow in the clouds has a message. It continues to remind us about God. He makes promises and keeps them. When he promises to do something, he does it. You may feel depressed. Life may be very hard. But God is faithful. He will never leave you alone. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 10:23; 11:11 and 13:5-6.) The rainbow of promise is there. It surrounds the *prophet. As he realises its meaning, he feels encouraged.
These 3 parts of Ezekiel’s first *vision are special. They are vital in any time of trouble. We need to remind each other about them in hard times. Our God is *sovereign. Our God is *faithful. He never changes.
God is *sovereign. So, we must choose to follow his purposes. This must be so, whatever our troubles may be. There were various parts of the throne *vision. (A throne is a king’s special chair.) They were not just for the mind to think about. Ezekiel must react to them. His reaction was to fall to the ground, with his face close to the ground.
We often make things worse for ourselves. When trouble comes, our reactions are wrong. There is resistance to God’s authority. We become bitter and angry. We look at our awful troubles. Then we see that other people always seem to have success.
It is much better to do what Ezekiel did. God loves you. Tell him that you are nothing and that he knows best. Amy Carmichael was a great Christian. She suffered very much. But she said that when we accept things, we have peace.
You want your life to be content. You want to be calm. Here is the solution. Come to the throne of a holy and loving God. Declare that he is *sovereign *Lord of your life. Dr. W. E. Sangster was a famous church leader. He tells about an old lady in one of his churches. Troubles often surrounded her. She would sigh, then smile. Then she would say slowly: ‘Well, have it your own way, Father.’
Ezekiel recognised 3 things about God. There was the fact that God never changes. There was the fact that God is *sovereign. Then there was the fact that God is *faithful. When Ezekiel did this, he heard God speaking to him. The proud person can never expect to receive a word from God.
We must recognise certain things. They are important things. We must have pity and sympathy for them. We must share their suffering. Read Ezekiel 3:15, 16. He says: ‘I sat where they sat…’
For a whole week, he did nothing. He noticed the awful state of his own people. They did not share his trust and confidence in God. He just sat among them. He shared their pain and despair. The *prophet had no easy solution for their situation.
We want to be of use to the *Lord. We want to serve those in trouble. Then we must learn to be quiet. We must not speak immediately. Charles Lamb lived from 1775–1834. He was a famous English writer. He once asked his friend a question. ‘Have you ever heard me preach?’ (This usually means to speak God’s word in public. It can also mean to tell people what they ought to do.) The friend’s reply must have made him feel very upset. The friend said ‘I have never heard you do anything else.’ We must learn to listen.
Then we can help other people better. (Read Ezekiel 24:15-27.) It is a very sad story about Ezekiel. What an awful day it must have been. (Read 24:16, 18.) His situation was very hard anyway. Now, he knew that his wife would be dead by evening. But he still went to his work in the morning. He accepted God’s purpose. The evening came. His very dear wife was dead. His first reaction to this news was vital. It would be a lesson to the *Jews.
God does not use only our words. He uses us as a model. He uses our actions. He uses our reactions to life’s troubles. Ezekiel must not cry aloud. (Read Jeremiah 16:5.) The day after his wife’s death was the same as usual. He did his work as a *prophet (24:18). So, he had a great chance to speak God’s word. His own sad loss became part of his message. It can be the same with our troubles. We can use them to show truths about God.
It is true whatever our troubles may be. God is eager to lift us out of our pain and despair. He wants to give us new life. We began this brief study with Ezekiel’s first *vision. We end it with his most famous *vision. It is in Ezekiel 37:1-14. It is the *vision of the valley of dry bones.
The *Jews’ present state was as bad as these bones (37:11). The bones were’ very dry’ too (37:2). There was no hope. This is just how the *Jews felt. They were in a foreign land. Everything was ruined. They felt depressed and hopeless. Someone needed to remind them about God’s power. They needed to know about God’s Spirit. They needed certainty about the future too.
Better days were coming. They would return to their own land. God says: ‘I have promised that I would do this – and I will. I, the *Lord, have spoken’ (37:14). So, God used Ezekiel. He encouraged the people to hope. He made their trust and confidence in God stronger.
This *vision referred to the *Jews’ national life at that time. But it has importance for us too. We may feel very depressed. But God is sufficient for us. This is true whatever our personal pain and despair. He desires to make our love for him new again. He wants us to have a stronger confidence and trust in him.
AD ~ these letters are for 2 Latin words; the words are Anno Domini; they mean ‘in the year of our *Lord’; so AD is any date after the birth of Jesus.
angel ~ a being from heaven; God especially created angels to serve him; God sends them to serve people too (Hebrews 1:14).
faithful ~ loyal; true; God is always faithful; we can trust God completely; he will never disappoint us; he always does all that he promises; he wants his people to be faithful too.
Jew(s) ~ person or people from the Jewish nation; God chose them to be his special people (read Deuteronomy 7:6-8); our Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) tells their history; their language is Hebrew; Jesus was a Jew.
Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we do what they say.
prophet ~ a person whom God chooses; he gives special messages from God.
sovereign ~ a ruler with all authority and power; this can be a name for a human king; but God is the only true Sovereign.
temple ~ the *Jews’ special building for God; it was in Jerusalem; the enemy destroyed it in *AD 70; since that time, *Jews’ special buildings are called synagogues.
vision ~ it is like a dream; but the person is often awake; the person sees things happen; but nobody else can see them; God sometimes speaks to people in this way.
It has not been possible, so far, to discover the copyright holder of this book. If this information becomes available, WA will gladly recognise the publisher fully. The original publisher was Oliphants (1969) SBN 551 00136 4
Wycliffe Associates (UK) EasyEnglish(C) Translation (Level) B
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglishÓ TRANSLATION (Level B) Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER Sue Hunter
© 1999-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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