EZEKIEL CHAPTER 3.
The Prophet’s Further Commission.
DIVINE STRENGTH IN THE FACE OF CERTAIN OPPOSITION. — V. 1. Moreover, He said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest, the book being something that he did not seek, but which was placed before him; eat this roll and go speak unto the house of Israel, to whom the first part of Ezekiel’s prophecy is addressed. V. 2. So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that roll, the prophet’s eating signifying his acceptance of the Lord’s commission. V. 3. And He said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee, so that the Word of God contained in the roll would, as it were, become the very substance of his being. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness, for, because its contents were the Word of God, expressed the will of Jehovah, Ezekiel delighted in them, painful though their import was with regard to his fellow-countrymen. Cp. Ps. 19, 10; 119, 103. The taste of the roll in his mouth filled him with a cheerful alacrity. Cp. 1 Sam. 14, 29. V. 4. And He said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, the members of the prophet’s own nation, and speak with My words unto them, the entire message being given by inspiration of God. V. 5. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, literally, “obscure of lip and difficult of tongue,” that is, a nation whose language was unknown to him, whose entire trend of thought was obscure, whose interpretation would offer unusual difficulties, but to the house of Israel, in whose case the language, at least, would offer no insurmountable obstacle; v. 6. not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, so that the learning of a number of languages and dialects would increase tile difficulties of communication and therefore of proclaiming the Lord’s will, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they, in spite of all the obstacles and hindrances just enumerated, would have hearkened unto thee, showing less obstinacy and thus a corresponding greater interest in the prophet’s message than the members of his own people. V. 7. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee, will show no interest in the prophet’s message, will refuse to he obedient; for they will not hearken unto Me, as the history of the last centuries had shown; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted, literally, “hard of forehead and stiff of heart are they,” thoroughly obstinate and rebellious. There was need of unusual firmness in dealing with this situation, and this the Lord provided for His servant. V. 8. Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, filling him with indomitable courage, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads, in unshakable determination. V. 9. As an adamant, the diamond, hardest of precious stones, harder than flint have I made thy forehead; fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, blasphemous and hostile though they were, though they be a rebellious house. Cp. chap. 2, 4-6. V. 10. Moreover, He said unto me, in further preparation for the work of his peculiar ministry, Son of man, all My words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart and hear with thine ears, in perfect obedience, in ready acceptance, with a willing understanding, so that they would be translated into right action. V. 11. And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, with whom the first part of his message was concerned, and speak unto them and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. This is the attitude which ought to characterize the Lord’s servants at all times: to preach the Word regardless of consequences. The plea of the need of pastoral tact which is often made by opportunists tends to make this a cloak to shield moral cowardice.
EZEKIEL AS WATCHMAN. — V. 12. Then the Spirit took me up, so that he would at once be placed into a position where he might perform the work of his calling, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, a tumultuous noise, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His place, going forth, from His throne, into all the world, manifested even in the great disasters which would strike the rebellious Jews. V. 13. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, literally, “kissed each other,” the one toward her sister, said of the gentle touch of the ends of the wings, and the noise of the wheels over against them and a noise of a great rushing, the vision of chapter 1 thus being brought into the closest relation to the commission of Ezekiel. V. 14. So the Spirit lifted me up, placing him into a state of ecstasy, and took me away; and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit, in deep sadness on account of the calamities of which he was required to be the unwelcome messenger; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me, holding him firmly in this strange conflict within him. V. 15. Then I came to them of the captivity, the main colony of the Jewish exiles, at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, joining them in their misery, and remained there astonished among them seven days, almost motionless, staring down before him, as one almost paralyzed with grief and horror. V. 16. And it came to pass at the end of seven days, the usual period of preparation for acts of special worship, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, v. 17. Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel, the seer on the watch-tower applying the revelations which are made to him for the weal and woe of the people entrusted to him. Therefore hear the word at My mouth, the message of commandment and threatened judgment, and give them warning from Me, by a continual appeal to the divine instructions received. V. 18. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, namely, paying the penalty for open transgressions of the holy will of God, and thou givest him not warning- nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in an urgent attempt to save him from his wickedness and its results, to save his life, which would otherwise be threatened with eternal perdition, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, being obliged, indeed, to pay the penalty of his sins; but his blood will I require at thine hand, as having caused the slaughter of an immortal soul by his negligence. V. 19. Yet if thou warn the wicked, performing the solemn duty laid upon him as watchman, unpleasant though this may be, and he turn not from his wickedness, the inner evil condition of his heart, nor from his wicked way, the outward manifestation of his evil heart, he shall die in his iniquity, on account of his deliberate, habitual wickedness, but thou hast delivered thy soul, having done his duty in sounding the warning in time. V. 20. Again, when a righteous man, one who has always lived an upright and honest life, doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die, for he has sunk to the level of the wicked; because thou hast not given him warning, to keep him from the path of sin, he shall die in his sin, whose guilt will certainly be charged to him, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered, will no longer count in his favor; but his blood will I require at thine hand, the watchman again being charged with negligence for failing to prevent the apostasy. V. 21. Nevertheless, if thou warn the righteous man that the righteous sin not, not yielding to any temptation which might come in his way, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live because he is warned, he has heeded the warning in time; also thou hast delivered thy soul, in performing the solemn duty included in his prophetical commission. God, indeed, tempts no one to sin, Jas. 1, 13, but He permits even the believers to he surrounded with conditions which put their faith to a test, as in the case of Job. Thus was the great and solemn commission transmitted to Ezekiel. V. 22. And the hand of the Lord was there upon me, symbolizing the fact that His power and authority was transferred to the prophet for his special sphere of labor; and He said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, down from the height on which Tel-abib was situated to the valley below, and I will there talk with thee. V. 23. Then I arose and went forth into the plain, whose solitude was favorable to the Lord’s plan; and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar, chap. 1, 1; and I fell on my face, once more overcome by the majesty of the vision. V. 24. Then the Spirit, as in the other instance, entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house, the purpose of this seclusion becoming evident from the connection, shut out from social intercourse, but not as if imprisoned. V. 25. But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, the Lord Himself putting the restraint of a strange ecstasy upon him, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them, this very fact being intended to arrest their attention, v. 26. and I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, before the very eyes of the rebellious people, that thou shalt be dumb and shalt not be to them a reprover, lest the words of his reproof might win the self-hardened sinners back; for they are a rebellious house, confirming themselves in their apostasy and obstinacy. V. 27. But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, in revealing the judgment of God upon his countrymen, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, He that heareth, let him hear, and he that forbeareth, let him forbear; for they are a rebellious house, and therefore would have only themselves to blame for the calamity which would surely strike them. Every pastor, as the Lord’s watchman in the midst of his congregation, has a tremendous responsibility resting upon him, both in calling sinners to repentance and in warning the believers against the ways of unrighteousness. One negligent in this duty is a murderer of souls.