And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 6:7).
Thus we see the first example of a persistent theme throughout Ezekiel’s prophecies– the LORD (YHWH) has made a decree of violence, pestilence, plague, and famine against Judah and Jerusalem, and when the terrible events of the destruction of Jerusalem and Temple and the Babylonian Captivity come upon the people of Judah, they will know that “I am YHWH.” This phrase– “they/you will know that I am YHWH”– occurs repeatedly throughout Ezekiel (e.g. Ezekiel 6:10, 13, 14, 7:4, 7:27, 11:10, etc.). But why is this such a major theme in Ezekiel?
Is it because the Israelites do not know anything about YHWH? One would be forgiven for receiving such an impression throughout the Old Testament. Yet we see in Ezekiel 8:12 that the people speak about YHWH; false prophets bring messages of peace to the people in the name of YHWH (Ezekiel 13:2, 10). If you were to ask the people of Judah about YHWH, they would agree that YHWH is God, that He is the God of Israel, and even that He delivered the Israelites out of the land of Egypt long before. So how come we have this persistent declaration that the people of Judah will know that “I am YHWH”?
Is it because they do not believe that YHWH is Lord? This again is hard to believe. While other prophets speak in the name of YHWH, Ezekiel often declares that he speaks in the name of “Lord YHWH” (cf. Ezekiel 2:4, 3:11, etc.; this is often missed in translation because it will be rendered as Lord GOD or something of the sort). We never see anyone challenging Ezekiel, declaring that YHWH really is not Lord. Furthermore, we do not see God saying that the people of Judah will know that He is “Lord YHWH.” No; Lord YHWH is speaking to them, declaring that they will “know that I am YHWH.”
So if the people of Judah know that YHWH is God, Lord, even the God of Israel, why do they have to learn that He is YHWH?
The people of Judah do not really accept that He is YHWH, for they have been serving other gods and committing all sorts of abominations (cf. Ezekiel 6:3-13, 8:5-18). They might admit that YHWH is God, and that He is the God of Israel, but that does not stop them from believing in Tammuz the god of the Mesopotamians, the Baals, Molech, the Queen of Heaven, and to do all sorts of things that YHWH condemned.
Ezekiel is rather likely going beyond the surface of the statement to its inner meaning. Sure, Israel believes that YHWH is her God. But YHWH is not just “a” god– He is God, the Existent One. In Ezekiel 8:12 some of the people believe that YHWH does not see them. How can the Existent One not see them? How can they think that the Existent One is not entirely and always aware of their thoughts, intentions, and actions?
Therefore, the Israelites know YHWH only as one god among many; they do not know YHWH as the Existent One, the One, the Only, All-Sovereign God. They will only come to terms with this reality when everything they have is taken from them. Only then can they see clearly that all the other gods are nothing, and in serving them they have offended the Existent One.
Do people today know YHWH? Most people profess to know God the Father and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Most people believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, that He is Lord, that there is a heaven and a hell– and most believe that they are going to heaven. But do they really know YHWH the Existent One? Not when they go and serve other gods; not when they hold firm to their own views of how God “must be” even if those are contrary to the way that He has revealed Himself; not when they pursue after the things God warns His people to avoid, and run from the things which God tells His people to pursue. We only can demonstrate that we know Lord YHWH when we submit to His Son to seek to accomplish His will and not our own (Romans 12:1, Galatians 2:20).
The day is coming when everyone will know that “I am YHWH” (Acts 17:30-31, Romans 2:5-11, Philippians 2:9-11). And, just as with Israel, when that day comes, it will be too late for the people to come to repentance (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, Hebrews 9:27). It will be a fearful day if we only come to know that “I am YHWH” on the final day, having spent our lives in foolishness that greatly offended the Existent One. Should we think that the Existent One is not entirely and always aware of our thoughts, intentions, and actions? Should we be so foolish as to think that “YHWH does not see us”–or, its modern variant, “God is dead”? The Existent One is always there. It is in Him that we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28); nothing will escape His notice. Everything will come under judgment. Therefore, let us submit to the Existent One as He truly is while we still have time– let us serve God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ and know that He is YHWH!
Ethan R. Longhenry