I had a nice opportunity this afternoon to speak at LTS on preaching through Ezekiel. David Green, the assistant principal lectures on Ezekiel and is aware that I have preached through it and fancied the idea of having me in to discuss it,which I was happy to do. I began with an intro and then we discussed things using my sermons (which can be found on my preached sermons blog). I began by saying
Any minister who is committed to the idea of systematic expository preaching will need to consider at some point what he is going to do with the Book of Ezekiel. You may well have heard, perhaps, that story from Andrew Bonar of a Christian getting to heaven and meeting Ezekiel and other prophets. Ezekiel looks at the believer and says eagerly 'What did you make of read my book?' How embarrassing if the truth is that we made very little of it and never even got round to preaching it.
In practically every case, it will not be the first book that a man preaches on or even the second for that matter. However, there may be situations where a fairly lengthy pastorate has preceded yours or is progressing alongside the new ministry and so with the more obvious books, such as the Gospels, epistles, Psalms, minor prophets and Isaiah all covered, Ezekiel may be brought up the rankings.
The problems facing anyone who wants to preach Ezekiel are many. Let me mention five.
1. It is an Old Testament book
Generally speaking, Old Testament books are more difficult to preach than New Testament ones. As Donald MacLeod notes
The hermeneutical barriers which separate us from the world of the Old Testament are enormous. Everything is on a grander scale than the difficulties of New Testament exposition. The time is more remote. The language is more alien. The culture is more unfamiliar.
Ezekiel is steeped in Old Testament Temple ritual that has to be explained to some extent. That makes for difficulties.
2. It is a very long book
In fact, it is the third longest book in the Bible. Psalms is obviously first, then Jeremiah. Genesis is fourth, Isaiah fifth (though it has more chapters than Ezekiel it has well over some 2,000 words less). It is easy to weary a congregation with a long series. Of course, the answer to this is to take it in sections. One preacher wisely says
If a series grows so long it tends to weary the congregation, I do not hesitate to break it off in favour of another, but will come back later and finish the original series.
(To be continued)