JESUS IN EZEKIEL: GOD SPEAKS OUR LANGUAGE
Ezekiel is called by God to deal with catastrophe. Babylon invaded Israel in the 6th century and things were very bad. Denial and despair are two common reactions to devastation. Denial refuses to acknowledge the facts acting as if everything is fine embracing distractions as a refuge. Despair is paralyzed declaring the absolute worst possible conclusion.
To Memorize the Bible is to memorize the mind of God. The giant killers reality is born from God’s perspective . It is God’s plan to reach us where we are, tell us what we need to hear, take us where we need to go and show us what we need to see. Ezekiel speaks of the four faces of God and reveals this fascinating progression that Jesus brings to all of our lives.
Ezek 1:10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. NIV
The face of the man speaks of pastors and teachers who meet us right where we are. The face of the lion speaks of the apostle who tells us what we need to hear. The face of the ox speaks of the evangelist who takes us where we need to go. The face of the eagle speaks of the prophet who shows us things we need to see.
The five-fold ministry expression of of Christ as described in Ephesians 4 is revealed in these faces of God. You’ll notice that pastors and teachers are coupled together in various translations of the Bible. This is because pastors must teach and teachers must pastor. These are very aligning offices revealing the “down to earth” heart of God. God is so down to earth he came down to earth to captivate our lives.
Jesus wants to meet every one of us right where we are. Realize he’s not meeting us there to leave us there. He’s meeting us to get us where we need to be. He’s not trying to take us where we want to go. He’s trying to get us where we need to be.
This is why the face of the lion is so important. God is a conversational father who loves to speak to his sons and daughters. He speaks our language in a way that we can understand it. Much like when adults start talking to infants they become very animated and their voice totally changes. God does the same for us.
The face of the ox helps us know where we need to go and strengthens us to make the journey. It won’t be easy. It will be hard. IT WILL BE WORTH IT! WHAT YOU DO WITH WHAT YOU HAVE IS WHAT YOU GIVE TO GOD SO BE DILIGENT WITH YOUR DREAMS. Diligence is doing a little thing for a long time until something big happens.
God’s purposes are progressively revealed and gradually released as we become increasingly faithful with the seasons and stages at hand. It's really tough to make progress at anything if you just keep on quitting every time it's not easy.
The face of the eagle challenges us to see the things we need to see. We are created to be fascinated.
Prv 29:18 If people can't see what God is doing they stumble all over themselves But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. MSG
The less we pay attention to the Holy Spirit the more we thirst for entertainment. The conversation of God through his Spirit and his Word are life-giving, history altering and legacy-shaping!
Ezek 3:1-4 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. 3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. 4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. NIV
GP4RL: Turn The Page. Purpose conversations with God every day this week.
I mentioned this in my message so I wanted to include it before we go deeper into the discussion of the four faces of God.
The 4th word of Genesis 1 seems to have been omitted from English translations. We read this text as:
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Actually there is a word that isn’t truly a word that simply doesn’t translate. It is simply the first and last Hebrew letter.
Jesus is actually being revealed in the very beginning of Scripture. We see that he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end when we read Revelation.
Rev 1:17 (Jesus declares) I am Alpha & Omega, the first and the last…
This same two letter expression is also found in Zechariah 12:10 saying, “They shall look upon (Alef Tav) whom they pierced. Once again we see clearly this is speaking of Christ. Jesus is revealed throughout the Bible for us to discover as the mystery of God hidden for us not from us.
The four faces of God reveal insights that are also seen in the 4 Gospels as well as the 12 tribes divided into 4 groups that surrounded the tabernacle.
The Apostle - is symbolized by the lion which explores into areas roaring and bringing others into order and accountability.
The Prophet - is symbolized by the eagle which soars to high regions enabling him to have an expanded vision of what others are soon to see.
The Evangelist - is symbolized by the ox which is faithful to plow the ground so seed can be sown and the work of the harvest of souls comes natural.
The Pastor/Teacher - is symbolized by the man which takes the vision to the people relating to them, teaching them, discipling them, shepherding them.
The four gospels seem to have the same attributes of these four faces which line up as follows. The Gospel of Matthew reveals Jesus as the “King of the Jews”, typified by the face of the Lion. The Gospel of Mark reveals Jesus as the “Suffering Servant”, typified by the face of the Ox. The Gospel of Luke reveals Jesus as the “Perfect Man”, typified by the face of the Man, and the Gospel of John reveals Jesus as the “Divine Son of God”, typified by the face of the Eagle.
God has confirmed that there are only four inspired Gospels. The different emphasis of the four Gospels brings out the beauty and perfection of Jesus.
Matthew carries the theme of the face of the Lion. The Lion stands for kingship. In the other gospels, Jesus is called the Lord.
Who Was He?
Matthew was written to the Jews. His purpose was to demonstrate who Jesus was; presenting overwhelming evidence that Jesus was Israel’s long awaited Messiah: The Lion of Judah, the King of Israel. The genealogy in Matthew begins with Abraham and runs through King David (Matt 1:1-17). The most frequently used phrase in Matthew’s Gospel is “it was fulfilled.” There are more references to events foretold in Old Testament prophecy and fulfilled in the Life of Jesus in Matthew than in any other gospel account. Partial copies discovered in the caves at Qumran suggest that Matthew may have originally been written in Hebrew. The first miracle in Matthew, the cleansing of a leper, was highly symbolic for Israel. Leprosy was viewed as a punishment for sin, and cleansing a leper signified taking away the sin of the nation. Matthew’s gospel ends with the resurrection signifying God’s promise that David’s Kingdom would last forever.
The gospel of Mark has the theme of a servant or a laborer. This would be the Ox, as the face on the left side of the living creature. Throughout the book we see the labor of Jesus that Mark has recorded. There is no geniology or elaborate record of Jesus’ birth and early life, but after baptism goes straight to work with the sick and hurting of the people.
Mark 1:33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. V.34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.
What Did He Do?
Mark’s gospel is actually Peter’s account and was written to the Romans. His purpose was to portray Jesus as the obedient servant of God. Since no one cares about the heritage of a servant there is no genealogy in Mark. The most frequently used phrase in Mark’s Gospel is “straight away” sometimes translated immediately, so Mark is called the snapshot gospel, giving us picture after picture of Jesus in action. The first miracle is the casting out of a demon, demonstrating that the God whom Jesus served was superior to all other gods, a matter of great importance in Rome’s polytheistic society. Mark’s gospel ends with the ascension, signifying that the servant’s job was finished and He was returning home.
The gospel of Luke has the theme of the face of a man. This face is on the right side of the living creatures, seen by Ezekiel. This gospel was written by Luke, and he was the only author that did not see Jesus but investigated the information to be recorded. Luke was a physician and took very high regard to details. He began with the actions of Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, acting out his priestly duties in the temple and took careful detail to record as much of the information he could find. He also recorded a lineage of Christ that is unlike the one in Matthew that follows Joseph’s lineage. Luke’s list follows Mary’s lineage. The Jewish customs refuse to acknowledge the women’s lineage, so it is labeled as Joseph’s according to Jewish custom.
What Did He Say?
Luke’s account portrays Jesus as the Son of Man, a title Jesus often used of Himself, and was written to the Greeks. It presents the human side of Jesus and emphasizes his teaching. Greeks were famous for their story telling form of oratory, so the most frequent phrase in Luke is “and it came to pass.” Most movies of the life of Jesus rely primarily on Luke’s gospel because of its flowing narrative form. Luke’s genealogy traces Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man (Luke 3:21-38). Since the Greeks, like the Romans, were a polytheistic society, Luke used the casting out of a demon as his first miracle, and ended his gospel with the promise of the Holy Spirit, uniting man with God.
The gospel of John carries the theme of the Eagle, which stands for "divinity." Most of the book of John centers on showing the divinity of Jesus.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
How Did He Feel?
John wrote to the church describing how Jesus felt about peoples’ reaction to His ministry. His gospel is the most unique, based upon 7 miracles, 7 “I Am” statements and 7 discourses. John pays little attention to chronology, sometimes placing events out of order (like the Temple Cleansing in Chapter 2) for their effect in presenting Jesus as the Son of God. John’s gospel covers only about 21 days out of the Lord’s 3 1/2 year ministry. 10 chapters are devoted to one week and 1/3 of all the verses in John describe one day. His genealogy begins before time and identifies Jesus as the Eternal One Who was with God and Who was God (John 1:1-2). The most frequently used phrase in John is “Verily, verily”, or truly, truly. His first miracle was changing water into wine, an act of enormous symbolism by which He “revealed His Glory and His disciples put their faith in Him” (John 2:11). John’s Gospel ends with the promise of the 2nd Coming. So why four gospels? Because no single one is big enough to contain all of the attributes of Jesus. It took all four to show His four faces as The Lion of Judah, the Obedient Servant, the Son of Man, and the Son of God. Trying to put all four perspectives into one account would have left us hopelessly confused. Understanding all of Who Jesus was and is requires reading all four Gospels.
Among Biblical writers, Ezekiel is our master at dealing with catastrophe. When catastrophe struck–it was the sixth-century B.C. invasion of Israel by Babylon–denial was the primary response. Ezekiel found himself living among a people of God who (astonishingly similar to us!) stubbornly refused to see what was right before their eyes (the denial crowd). There were also some who were unwilling to see anything other than what was right before their eyes (the despair crowd).
But Ezekiel saw. He saw what the people with whom he lived either couldn’t or wouldn’t see. He saw in wild and unforgettable images, elaborated in exuberant detail–God at work in a catastrophic era. The denial people refused to see that the catastrophe was in fact catastrophic. How could it be? God wouldn’t let anything that bad happen to them. Ezekiel showed them. He showed them that, yes, there was catastrophe, but God was at work in the catastrophe, sovereignly using the catastrophe. He showed them so that they would be able to embrace God in the worst of times.
The despair people, overwhelmed by the devastation, refused to see that life was worth living. How could it be?
They had lost everything, or would soon–country, Temple, freedom, and many, many lives. Ezekiel showed them. He showed them that God was and would be at work in the wreckage and rubble, sovereignly using the disaster to create a new people of God.
Whether through denial or despair, the people of God nearly lost their identity as a people of God. But they didn’t. God’s people emerged from the catastrophic century robust and whole. And the reason, in large part, was Ezekiel.
Ezek 33:31-32 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.
32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. (NIV)
Today we are plagued with tremendous teaching, preaching and insights that dazzle us to the point of spiritual gluttony. The fact is that the church today is far more educated than they are obedient!
God’s people had lived for so long in sin and rebellion, confident in their own strength and that of the neighboring nations, that they needed God to remind them of His holy nature and their humble identity in a most dramatic way. After centuries of warnings, prophetic messages, and invasions the people were finally uprooted from their homes and livelihoods living out their days in a foreign land.
After five years God sent Ezekiel with a message bringing them face-to-face with the consequences of their own neglect. The book of Ezekiel reminds us to seek out the Lord in those dark times when we feel lost, to examine our own lives, and to align ourselves with the one true God.