(33) Signs, Symbols and Ezekiel
While Jeremiah preached to the remnant in Jerusalem, Ezekiel and Daniel spoke to different groups of exiles in Babylon. What do you suppose these exiles missed most about their home, and especially about Jerusalem?
Ezekiel uses lots of symbols as he describes his visions. Why might symbols have been particularly important to exiles?
1. Read Ezekiel 1:1. The canal and associated flooded lands were probably near Babylon, at Nippur. If so, it was the site of some extensive religious buildings dedicated to Bel. Living there would not have been uncomfortable physically, but it would have been very foreign, probably very uncomfortable spiritually. How might we feel, living in a foreign land dedicated to foreign gods, or do we already live there?
2. Lacking a temple or any social structure of synagogues etc, the people probably gathered by the water to worship (Remember Lydia? Read Acts 16:13-14). Where would we gather?
3. Read Ezekiel 1:2-3. What do we know about Ezekiel from this? Do you suppose he supported or opposed Jeremiah before his exile? (Read Job 32:2) Do you suppose it matters?
4. Read Ezekiel 1:4-9 How might the original readers have reacted to
a. Whirlwind (Read 2 Kings 2:1, Job 38:1, Psalm 77:18 – each mentions whirlwinds in some translations)
b. Cloud with fire (Read Exodus 13:21, 40:38, Numbers 9:15)
c. Four (Read Genesis 2:10, Leviticus 19:23-24, Deuteronomy 5:9, Proverbs 30:18-24, Jeremiah 15:3, 49:36)
d. How do we react to these symbols? Are they more or less powerful today? What might we use as analogous symbols in speaking or writing about God?
5. Read Ezekiel 1:10 How might the original readers have reacted to
a. Lion (Read Genesis 49:9, 2 Samuel 1:23, 1 Kings 7:24-30)
b. Ox (Read Exodus 24:5)
c. Eagle (Read Exodus 19:4)
e. What impression might all these symbols have made on people who’ve lost their historic places, their Temple, and a sense of cohesive identity?
f. How do you react to all these symbols now? Do they help you see what Ezekiel’s talking about?
6. Read Revelation 4:6-8
a. What differences do you spot?
b. Why might symbols have been important to John? Or to his readers?
c. Do you think the similarity or the difference is more important?
7. Read Ezekiel 1:4, 15-16
a. What significance might the precious stones have? (Read exodus 28:15-21, Revelation 21:19-20).
b. What about the wheels? (Remember 1 Kings 7:24-30 from above)
8. Read Ezekiel 1:18-21 What is the significance of eyes? (Remember Revelation 4:6-8 above)
9. Read Ezekiel 1:26-28
a. What do you think Ezekiel is trying to describe?
b. How did John describe God’s glory (Read Revelation 1:12-20)?
c. How would you describe God’s glory?
10. What do you suppose the people worshiping around Ezekiel expected when he fell down before the Lord?
Whatever he may have believed about the exile before, Ezekiel now learns that it’s God’s will. How willing are we to learn that God’s plan is different from our own?
1. Read Ezekiel 2:3-5.
a. How might the listeners have greeted these words?
b. How do we feel when we’re reminded that we don’t deserve God’s favor?
c. Is there a sense in which it’s freeing to know we don’t deserve God’s favor?
2. Read Ezekiel 2:6.
a. How might Ezekiel feel at this point?
b. What risks will we take for God, and how will we know when we’re taking risks for him, as opposed to for ourselves?
3. Read Ezekiel 2:8-3:3
a. Assuming it’s metaphorical, what might eating the scroll mean? (Read Revelation 10:8-11)
b. What modern-day or recent-day analogies can you think of to “eating a scroll”?
4. Read Ezekiel 3:4-9. Ezekiel is told that the Babylonians would hear God’s word more willingly than the Jews.
a. Which Babylonian do we know heard messages from God?
b. Who can we think of who might hear God’s voice more easily than we do?
c. What stops us hearing God’s voice?
5. Later, the Gentiles were more willing to listen. Why? And what might this mean for Christians today?
6. Read Ezekiel 3:14-15. He starts and ends by the river. Where was he in between?
7. What might be the significance of 7 days? (Read Genesis 2:2, 4:15, 7:2-4, 8:10, 21:28, 29:18, 33:3, 41:2, 50:10, Exodus 1:5 etc)