‘Then They Will Know That I Am the Lord’: How Seeing the Structure in Ezekiel Shows Us the Gospel

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This post is part of a series of resources for the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan. This month I am focusing on Ezekiel.

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24 “And for the house of Israel there shall be no more a brier to prick or a thorn to hurt them among all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. Then they will know that I am the Lord God. 25 “Thus says the Lord God: When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and manifest my holiness in them in the sight of the nations, then they shall dwell in their own land that I gave to my servant Jacob. 26 And they shall dwell securely in it, and they shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall dwell securely, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt.Then they will know that I am the Lord their God.”
Ezekiel 28:24–26

Galatians 3:8 says that God preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham. As he promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations, God revealed his gospel purposes for the world. This truth has many implications, but one of them is that the gospel is something that goes back to the beginning—even to the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 3:15). Accordingly, whenever we read the Old Testament we should expect to find gospel promises of salvation and hope. Even in books that focus on the righteous judgments of God, there will be promises of grace and forgiveness.

This is the gospel message—that God will make a way of salvation for those who deserve eternal condemnation.

God gave this promise to Israel first (Rom. 1:16–17), but he always intended for his salvation to go from Israel to all the nations (Gen. 12:1–3; cf. Rom. 9:25–29; 10:18ff.). In the New Testament, we learn how this works. But we also find how this works by reading the Old Testament in light of the New. In the Prophets especially, we find new covenant promises that are given to Israel and the nations.

Over the last two months, I have focused on Isaiah  and Jeremiah and the gospel hope found in each. This month, I turn to Ezekiel. And again the pattern of salvation and judgment remains. The message of the gospel is found scattered throughout Ezekiel, but it is also seen in the book as a whole.

In this blogpost, I want to offer some help on how to read Ezekiel, so that you can see the gospel in Ezekiel. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel is challenging because it is so large. But it is also challenging because of how Ezekiel speaks and acts. Therefore, to get a better grasp on the book, I am turning to one of my seminary professors and his book on Ezekiel.

Daniel Block taught Old Testament when I went to Southern Seminary, and his collection of essays on Ezekiel (By the River Chebar: Historical, Literary, and Theological Studies in the Book of Ezekiel, 2013) nicely complements his massive, two-volume commentary on Ezekiel. In class, I remember him saying that his kids grew up with Ezekiel in the house, as he spent fourteen years (!!) working on his two commentaries. To such labor, we are indebted. And to those who read his work on Ezekiel, they will find excellent scholarship and great help for reading this prophet.

In what follows, I am summarizing Block’s introductory notes to Ezekiel. Continue reading

Looking for the Kingdom of God in the Book of Ezekiel

When was the last time you preached Ezekiel?  Not from Ezekiel, but Ezekiel.  Not Ezekiel 16 and God’s graphic castigation of Israel’s spiritual whoredom; not Ezekiel 36 and the promise of a renewed heart and a clean spirit; not Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones; I mean Ezekiel, the whole thing? 

If you did decide to preach Ezekiel, where would you try it out?  Would it be a trial run in a Sunday School class?  Would it be at youth lock-in–you’ve got to be there all night anyways?  Would it be to a group of eager seminarians?  Or would it be at one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention?

This weekend, a good friend of mine, Grant Gaines, had the opportunity to preach to Bellevue Baptist Church (Memphis, TN), and he delivered an outstanding message. Challenging BBC to see the kingdom of God, he preached the whole book of  entitled: “Looking for the Kingdom: The Message of Ezekiel.”

His three points were: There is Sin to be Punished, chapters 1-24; There is an Enemy to be Defeated, chapters 25-32; and There is a Kingdom to be Established, chapters 33-48.  His faithful message exemplifies canonical preaching, biblical theology, and a Christocentric hermeneutic.  I encourage you to listen to it yourself, to consider his example, and to look for the kingdom–and if you have the chance: Preach Ezekiel! 

For more examples of preaching the Bible book-by-book, see Mark Dever’s The Message of the Old Teastament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept .

May we all be unashamed to preach Christ from every verse, chapter, and book of God’s inspired Word.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss