The Plan

Last time we looked at the importance of knowing the prophet, his audience, the nature/structure of the book, his message, and his rhetorical and homiletical strategy in chapter one of Daniel Block’s By the River Chebar. This rhetoric includes Invention (receiving the materials), Arrangement (crafting it for the purpose of getting the audience on the prophet’s side), Style (different forms of Ezekiel’s teachings), Memory (how the speeches are remembered and to be remembered), and Delivery (the technique in giving the speech).

Finally, the preacher must not only understand Ezekiel’s rhetorical and homiletical strategy, but he must also plan carefully.

Preaching from Ezekiel is not easy. Preaching part-by-part, Block says Ezekiel “would take two years,” and “none would have the patience for this kind of series on Ezekiel” (p 16).

What’s a Preacher to Do?

  • Recognize that much of the church today is ignorant of the OT. Many don’t see the significance of the OT, especially not Ezekiel, and they will need a lot of practical theology/application in their journey. While Block says a series on Ezekiel should last at most between 25-30 weeks, the preacher should inspire his readers to be bold enough to read the difficult texts, while providing them with the guidance to read those same obscure texts.
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  • The sermon series should be based on several principles:
    • Texts in which the church is moderately familiar with:
        • The opening vision call (ch 1-3)
        • The sermon on sour grapes (ch 18)
        • The good Shepherd (ch 34)
        • The heart transplant (ch 36.22-32)
        • The resuscitation of the dry bones (ch 37.1-14)
    • Include texts from every part of the book, not just the easy ones.
    • Include texts that represent variety of rhetoric and literary forms (of course, this means the preacher has to know those various forms!)
    • Include both judgment and restoration texts
    • Important: “Be sure every sermon offers grace to the congregation. Not all texts in the book include notes of grace, but they all assume Israel’s past experience of grace and/or anticipate a future work of grace” (p 19).
  • Let the people hear what God intends them to hear by reading the whole literary unit, not simply a few verses, then develop the unit’s theology and meaning.
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  • The people should be prepared well (reading during the week in advance, or notes, explanations, and diagrams provided).
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  • Carefully analyze the specific passage selected. This, of course, would be expository preaching. This kind of preaching is important for we take out what is in the text, rather than imposing our own 21st century notions onto the text. It is important to understand the genre, structure, and vocabulary before moving on to the homiletical thought (the application).
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  • “Make appropriate application.” Ezekiel was not preaching to the world (like Jonah was to do), but was speaking to God’s own special, chosen people. These were people who claimed to be the people of God, yet the way they lived was in a 180º opposite direction.
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    “Israel was to be a light to the nations, to embody righteousness and declare her well-being the glory and the grace of her Redeemer and covenant Lord” (p 21),  just as believers are to do today. Yet Israel defaced God’s glory by their sinful lifestyles and by being in exile.

      • The task of the preacher is to establish the theology and transfer it into the realm of the known, what is understandable. This can be done by asking what each text tells us about:
        • “God .
        • The world and society in general.
        • The human condition, the nature of sin, the destiny of humankind.
        • The way God relates to his creation in general and human beings in particular.
        • An appropriate ethical and spiritual response to God’s work of grace in our lives” (p 21).

In Closing

The preacher has much to think about when preaching through Ezekiel, not to mention the whole Bible. But Block, having spent many years with this strange prophet, provides us with the proper guidelines on how to preach and teach Ezekiel well. I hope this has been useful to you, even if you are not going to be preaching Ezekiel any time soon. And if not, rather that it still succeeds in helping you in all of your studies. The OT and NT are intertwined in many ways that we will always be learning. The more we figure out, the merrier. But it must be done properly.

Next time we will be looking at preaching Ezekiel 16.1-14 as a test case to preaching “the gospel according to Ezekiel.”

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