THE FOUR SECTIONS OF EZEKIEL
Ezekiel is a book of visions. The first section of Ezekiel, which is all of chapter one, presents a vision of the appearance of the glory of the Lord. It reveals how God is manifested, how God moves, and how God administrates His government through the four living creatures. Through their coordination, God is able to move and administrate. In the second section, from chapter two through chapter thirty-two, God comes as the consuming fire to judge His people and the heathen nations. After the judgment, God comes in to recover His people by life. The third section, that of recovery, begins in chapter thirty-three and continues through chapter thirty-nine. The fourth section, concerning the holy building of God, comes out of the recovery by life and consummates the whole book. Thus, Ezekiel begins with the appearance of the glory of the Lord and ends with the holy building of God. This indicates that God’s goal and purpose is the building.
INTRODUCTION TO EZEKIEL
Now we come to the first three verses in the book of Ezekiel. These verses are an introduction which open the content of the book to us. They are a very special, specific, and extraordinary introduction. Every one of the sixty-six books of the Bible begins in a unique way. For instance, Genesis begins in this way: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Matthew begins in this way: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." The Gospel of John begins in this way: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Ezekiel begins in a very peculiar, apparently meaningless, way. Let us read these three verses: "Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him." What is the meaning of these verses? What is the meaning of the thirtieth year? of the fourth month? of the fifth day of the month? Apparently, these three verses have little meaning; yet actually they are very significant. In these three short verses of introduction, four main things are covered. This is a book of visions, and these three verses first show us the year, the month, and the day that Ezekiel saw the visions. Second, these verses also show us the place where he saw the visions. Third, they show us the man, the person, who saw the visions. Fourth, they indicate to us the conditions, the situations, at the time of the vision. Thus, this short introduction shows us the date, the place, the person, and the conditions at the time of the visions.
THE DATE OF THE VISIONS
The Thirtieth Year
Let us now consider these four points in more detail. First is the date, with the year, the month, and the day. The year was the thirtieth year. It is really difficult to understand the meaning of the thirtieth year. If we study the whole of Scripture, though, we can be clear that the thirtieth year means the thirtieth year of Ezekiel’s life. At that time, Ezekiel was thirty years of age. According to Numbers 4:2-3 and 1 Chronicles 23:3, a priest, a Levite, started to serve the Lord when he was thirty. The Lord Jesus also started to serve God in His ministry when He was thirty. As a priest having reached the age of thirty, Ezekiel was qualified to start his priestly ministry. Here we discover a principle: to realize spiritual things and to see heavenly visions, we need the maturity of life. The age of thirty signifies the maturity of life. By the age of thirty, all the priests were mature. By this age, Ezekiel was mature. By this age, the Lord Jesus Christ was also mature. This indicates to us that if we would see the visions in this book, we need a certain measure of maturity in our spiritual life. Christians today have difficulty understanding this book because most of them are so young in life. Spiritually, some may be only five years of age. Others may be twelve years of age and others even fifteen years of age, but not many have reached the age of thirty in spiritual maturity. It is difficult for a childish Christian to understand the visions in this book. The one who saw these visions was full of maturity. He had reached the age of thirty. The number thirty is also used in Ezekiel 40 through 48, the portion regarding God’s building. The outer court of God’s temple in 46:22 has four corner courts, each of which has a breadth of thirty cubits. These four corner courts are the places for the priests to prepare the offerings for the people to eat and enjoy. Furthermore, in 40:17, the outer court of the temple has thirty chambers. When the people come together to worship God, they enjoy the rich offerings in these thirty chambers. Ezekiel 41:6 mentions another thirty side chambers. These are around the temple on three sides, in each of the three stories. In every story there are thirty side chambers. All these side chambers indicate the fullness of the temple.
By putting all these verses together, we can understand the meaning of these things. We can see that the number thirty is a number related to preparing Christ, ministering Christ to others, enjoying the riches of Christ, and expressing the fullness of Christ. What is the meaning of the number thirty in the Bible? It signifies the maturity of life; it signifies the ability to prepare Christ for others to enjoy and for you to enjoy; and it indicates the capacity to express Christ in all His fullness. When Ezekiel saw the visions, he was thirty years of age, and this means that he was a mature person. He was able to prepare Christ and minister Christ for others to enjoy. He was also mature and able to enjoy all the riches of Christ in all His fullness. The number thirty is not only for Ezekiel, but also for us. We must be mature in our spiritual life so that we can see the visions concerning Christ and His Body. Then, we can prepare food for others’ enjoyment, and we ourselves can enjoy all the riches of Christ and become the side chambers of the temple, the fullness of Christ.
The number thirty is constituted in two ways in Ezekiel. It is constituted of five multiplied by six and also of three times ten. Mainly, it is constituted of three times ten. The number ten in the Bible is always composed of two fives, not four plus six or three plus seven. In Matthew 25, there are ten virgins. Five virgins are wise and five are foolish. With the Ten Commandments, there are five commandments on one tablet and five commandments on another tablet. What is the meaning of the number five? Five signifies the responsibility that you can bear by having God added to you. Consider the four fingers plus one thumb. With these five fingers, you can bear the responsibility to do things. The number four is the number of the creature, and the number one is the number of the Creator. When the creature has the Creator added to him, he can bear responsibility. Thus, you can see that ten is composed of two times five, and this means that we are the creatures who have God added to us in order that we can bear responsibility. This responsibility is in three layers as shown in the following chapters. These three layers, or three stories, signify the three persons of the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
Thus, the number thirty means that the creatures have the Triune God added to them so that they can bear responsibility. This is the maturity of life that we need to prepare Christ for others’ enjoyment, to enjoy Christ in a full way for ourselves, and to express Christ in His fullness. Before we were regenerated, we were the creatures having only the number four. But one day we received God into us and became the number five. We all must have God added into us in the three Persons of the Triune God. By that addition, we can become the number thirty, full of maturity. We all need to be Ezekiels who are thirty years of age. As such, we can see the vision, we can prepare the offering for others’ enjoyment, we can enjoy all the riches of the offerings for ourselves, and we can express Christ in a full way.
(The Visions of Ezekiel, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)