Tag Archives: Major Prophets

On Racing Against Horses

The prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament complains to God that men in his hometown are plotting to kill him. He has had a difficult ministry towards unwilling people. You would think God would say something like, “that’s okay, Jeremiah, just trust in my grace.” Instead God says, in effect, “suck it up. It’s gonna get harder.”

If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?
(God’s word to Jeremiah, Jer. 12:5)

At first, it does not sound encouraging. G. Campbell Morgan points out though, that Jeremiah had raced with men. God didn’t say he failed. He had done well in a ministry that was filled with conflict. He had already preached boldly in a temple to religious people who had missed the entire point of the temple. He had brought some brutal, yet God-sent words. The nation was in danger—not because of karma, but because God couldn’t allow himself to be misrepresented ad infinitum.

And it was going to get harder! Sometimes we expect God to set us up for success and affluence, but he sees all the chess pieces, and he knows what we can handle. He knows that he can ask us to face something that is more difficult. The logical inverse, though, is that God wouldn’t send Jeremiah to race horses when he hadn’t won against men. God knows what’s too hard for us, and the Bible says that he doesn’t ever send his children to a battle that they can’t fight with his help.

In connection with this, I have been asking, is it possible to race horses? The metaphor sounds fantastic, but there are at least two races that have pitted men against horses in long-distance running: one is a 22-mile race in Wales, and one is a 50-mile race in Arizona. In 2004, for the first time a man won the race in Wales. In Arizona, the horses have never lost, but the race is often close. In 2009, the race director said that the first man, Jamil Coury, clocked in just over seven hours for 50 miles of running, and could have beaten the first place horse if he hadn’t gotten off course.

So God’s question—how will you compete with horses? is not only relevant to long-distance runners. A man can’t compete with a horse over short distances. But it is possible for a human to beat a horse, if the human doesn’t quit. Maybe that was really God’s key to facing difficulty in ministry anyway.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(Paul to Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:5)

Ezekiel: A Prophecy of God’s Glory

EZEKIEL
is a book about
GLORY
in which God is
GOD.

“God is God, and I am not”
– Winkie Pratney says that the above statement can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars of theological education.
– This summarizes Ezekiel’s preaching and prophecy, as well as the reason for his evident hope in the midst of judgment; the statement “I am the LORDis repeated in his prophecy some 92 times by my count!
– While God is always God, we don’t always know it or act like it; thus, in Ezekiel the objective of God’s activity is that people would “know that I am the LORD.” (5:13, etc.) A change must take place in us, and God must take His place as glorified Lord in our lives.

Ezekiel: Prophet of Holiness
Holiness is Ezekiel’s concern as both priest and prophet. More than other prophets, his book focuses on ritual holiness that Israel lacked.
– In ch. 1, Ezekiel has the vision of God’s glory that leads seamlessly to his great responsibility as prophet (ch. 2-3, 33, also cf. Isaiah 6.)
– As A.W. Pink said, “God is sovereign, and man is responsible”; these twin ideas exemplify Ezekiel’s focus on both God’s holiness and man’s obligation. The two ideas are constantly and completely connected.

Israel: A Holy Nation,
– Ez. 2 to 24 focuses on prophecies of judgment against Israel. God’s anger is placed in the context of his choice of Israel and Jerusalem as the epicenter of His self-revelation (5:5-8), and the weight of such a rejection (16:47).
– The Jewish captivity (ch. 3) and the fall of Jerusalem in 588/587 BC (see 33:21) provide the historical backdrop against which God spoke through Ezekiel in judgment of the nation that had forgotten him.

Glory: “For My Name’s Sake”
– Jeremiah deals with God’s judgments in terms of what God feels—grief; Ezekiel deals with God’s judgments in terms of what God wants—glory.
– For Ezekiel, judgment contains a revelation of God—often God says that when they are chastised, “they will know that I am the LORD.” Yet even this revelation is not for their sake, but “for [his] name’s sake” (20:9, 36:22, etc.)

Glory: The Importance of God’s Presence
– Ezekiel’s book begins and ends with the glory of the LORD, as does the book of Revelation. The presence and intimacy of God finally cherished among his holy people is the ultimate fulfillment of all biblical prophecy (Ez. 48:35, Rev. 21:11, 21:23, 22:4).
– In the narrative, God’s glory departing (ch. 8-10), and later returning to a new Israel (43-44), form the most central images in the entire narrative.
Glory (Heb. kabod=weight, honor, importance) in the OT is related to God’s physical manifestation 45 times; Kittel calls it “the force of His self-manifestation,” or “that which makes God impressive to man.”

Pride: Rebelling Against God’s Glory
– Ezekiel deals with Israel’s wicked elders at length (ch. 8, 11, 14, 20), as well as false prophets (13), selfish “shepherds” (34), and laments for Israel’s princes (19). He deals with pride in high places quite extensively.
– Ezekiel also prophesies against wicked Gentile leaders in ch. 29, 32, 38, and 39. This reaches its apex in ch. 28 with the prince of Tyre, a kind of spiritual carbon copy of Satan in his original calling and rebellion. Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 give us the most biblical insight into the independent spirit—which is what made Satan into Satan.

Making Israel Homesick
– In ch. 20, the Lord hearkens to Israel’s history in detail, recounting the story of the exodus. As with Jeremiah and Hosea, broken covenant is the background for both judgment and renewal (Ez. 16 & 23, Dt. 31:16ff).
– God’s covenant with the nation of Israel in Ex. 19 involved a new land, a dwelling-place for God, and a calling to holiness (Ex. 19:3-6, Ez. 20); inasmuch as Israel had persistently violated its calling, God did not want to dwell among them (Ez. 11:23, Dt. 32:30) or keep them in the land he had promised (Lev. 26:15ff, note v. 33).
– For these covenant promises to be renewed, Israel would have to remember the covenant and live holy (Ez. 11:17-25, 36:16-38, Lev 26:40-45).

Millennium: Israel Restored
– Ez. 36-48 especially concerns the restoration of Israel; the regathering of their nation has begun in our time, but it is obvious that the wars (38-39), restored temple (40-42), worship (43-46) and land (47-48) are yet future.
– New Jerusalem has no death (Rev 21:4, cf. Ez. 42:13) and no temple (Rev. 21:22), so this leads most to think that Ezekiel 40-48 was not describing the new heaven and new earth. Rather, comparison with similar passages (Isaiah 66, Rev. 20) bears witness that this is the longest prophecy about the Millennium in the entire Bible.

Book Recommendations:
Two books that I highly recommend on the person and character of God are Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, The Nature and Character of God by Winkie Pratney. Tozer’s book is devotional, while Pratney’s book is an accessible manual to key concepts about who God is and what he is like.

Winkie Pratney also deals with many themes relevant to the study of Ezekiel in the 21CR Conference, Session 5 (“The Chief End of Man”). For more material specific to Ezekiel, see my general recommendations.

Key Passages:
The (manifest) glory: ch. 1, 8:2-4, 9:3a, 10:4, 10:18, 11:23, 43:2-6, 44:2-4
Covenant renewal: 16:60-62, 37:26
The land of Israel: 20:42, 28:25-26, 37:15-28
Dwelling/sanctuary defiled: 23:38, 36:17
Dwelling/sanctuary cleansed: 37:23,27-28, 48:35
Purpose of judgment: 35:11, 39:21-23
Purpose of the temple vision: 43:6-11, (also 44:6-8, 45:9)
See also separate page on “I am the LORD” in Ezekiel.