Ezekiel was a prophet in exile. Along with other Israelites, he had been captured and sent to Babylon several years before Jerusalem was finally destroyed. In Jerusalem, Ezekiel would have been a priest serving in the temple. In Babylon, he was among “them of the captivity,” and he “sat where they sat” (Ezekiel 3:15), hundreds of miles from the temple and with little hope of returning to the beloved house of God. Then one day Ezekiel had a vision. He saw “the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28)—not back in the temple at Jerusalem but there in Babylon among the exiles. The wickedness in Jerusalem, he learned, had become so severe that God’s presence was no longer there (see Ezekiel 8–11; 33:21).
One of Ezekiel’s tasks was to warn the Israelites about the consequences of their rebellion—a warning that largely went unheeded. But there was more to Ezekiel’s message: he prophesied that, despite how bad things became, there was a way back. If God’s people would accept the invitation to “hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4), what was once dead could be revived. A “stony heart” could be replaced with “a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). “[I] shall put my spirit in you,” the Lord told them, “and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:14). And in the last days, the Lord would establish a new temple and a new Jerusalem, “and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).