Their Problems And Ours
EasyEnglish Bible Studies 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.
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.
God sometimes appeared to great Old Testament leaders in dramatic ways.
There was Moses (Exodus 3:1-4; 19:16-20; 20:18-21). There was Elijah (1
Kings 19:9-13), and there was Ezekiel too (Ezekiel 1:4). Why do you
think that God did that? Was it to get their attention and to emphasise
the importance of the message? Or, is there a more important reason
2. Ezekiel was a priest. God showed him great truths in ‘word-pictures’ that everyone could remember. We noticed three of these (Ezekiel 1: 5-14, 26 and 28). (They are living creatures, a throne and a rainbow.) Are there other ‘word-pictures’ in that first chapter (Ezekiel 1:1-28)? If so, what are they? And what truths do you think that they intend to show us?
3. Ezekiel had a *vision about Jerusalem city’s ‘secret sins’ (Ezekiel 8:1-18). It reminds us in a definite way that God sees everything. And it reminds us that he knows everything. (Note Ezekiel 8:12.) How can we understand that truth best? (Read Psalm 139: 23-24; Jeremiah 16:17; 23:24 and Hebrews 4:12-13.) We want the truth to help us in every part of our daily lives. How can we do this?
4. Sin can spoil the best things that are in life (Ezekiel 8:1-18). This could happen even in a place that seems to be holy. Or it could be in a place where people are very religious. How can we make sure that this does not happen to us?
5. Jerusalem city’s leaders were worshipping false gods (Ezekiel 8:1-18). How can we make sure that we are not like those leaders? Remember that there are warnings in the New Testament about false gods. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:6-7 and
1 John 5:21.)
6. God told Ezekiel not to be afraid (Ezekiel 2:1-3:15). Think about your study of this passage. And think about other passages in the book. What might have been the reasons for Ezekiel’s fear? And how did God support him?
7. Ezekiel and the people of that period had problems. And you might have problems in the same way. What help might you get from one of the *visions that encouraged him? Some examples are the visions in Ezekiel 37 or in Ezekiel 47:1-12.
In Chapter 1, Ezekiel tried to describe a *vision. And it was not easy
to put it into words. Notice that he repeated words that are similar to
‘looked like…’ (Ezekiel 1:13, 16, 22, 24, 26, 27 and 28). But the
details must mean something. For example, do the creatures’ different
faces (Ezekiel 1:10) mean something that is special? What about the
‘fire that was flashing’ (Ezekiel 1:13-14)? What might the ‘wheels’
mean (Ezekiel 1:15-21)? And why were their edges ‘full of eyes’
(Ezekiel 1:18)? Do such details have a message for us?
2. There are large numbers of people who have no homes. They are trying to find a better life in other countries. This is one of the awful things about our own time. And Ezekiel, too, had to work among refugees. The enemy had destroyed the Jews’ capital city, Jerusalem. They had destroyed Jerusalem’s *Temple and the people’s homes. God had to correct the refugees (Ezekiel 7:8-9; 36:16-23). But God’s plan was that they would return to their own land. And they would have a better future. At that time, they were in the foreign land of Babylon. But God continued to love them and to provide for them. (Read Ezekiel 34:11-16; 36:1-37:15.) How did Ezekiel try to convince such unhappy people that this was true?
3. God told some Old Testament *prophets to do things that would be difficult for anyone. (These things were part of their message.) For example, God told Jeremiah not to marry. And he must not attend funerals, feasts or weddings (Jeremiah 16: 1-9). God told Ezekiel not to show his grief publicly when his precious wife died (Ezekiel 24:15-18). Why did God do this? There were such very difficult events in the personal lives of these prophets. And they had to suffer these things in public. What truths did God want to show to the people?
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.
LINGUISTIC CHECKER: Sue Hunter
© 1999-2014, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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