1 “The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying,” This formula, so familiar
in Isaiah and Jeremiah, appears for the first time in Ezekiel, but occurs repeatedly
afterwards, especially in this chapter (vs. 8, 17, 21, 26. and again ch.13:1; 14:2, et al.).
The teaching by “the visions of God” ceases, and that of direct message or symbolic
acts is resumed. In each case the point aimed at was the same. The people who heard
the one or saw the other were to be taught how utterly groundless was the hope that
was probably a short one, and the new teaching, we may conjecture, had its
starting point in the prophecies of a speedy deliverance which were current
2 “Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which
have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not:
for they are a rebellious house.” Which have eyes to see, etc. We note the
words in their relation both to like utterances in the past (Isaiah 6:9; 42:20),
and by Ezekiel’s contemporary (Jeremiah 5:21), and in the future by our Lord
(Matthew 13:13), by John (John 12:40), and lastly by Paul (Acts 28:27). The
thought and phrase were naturally as ever-recurring as the fact.
Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears (v. 2)
TRUTH. These blind Jews have eyes and the deaf have ears. Neither class
is deformed or mutilated in respect of their organs of sense. Here is the
paradox, the surprising situation. It is men with eyes and ears who are blind
and deaf. It is no wonder that the lower animals should live without man’s
religion in a life of brutish appetite. But it is surprising that beings endowed
with higher faculties should degrade themselves to such a life. That this is
the case with the most hardened and ignorant may be proved by the
experience of life.
Ø The most brutalized sinner was once a child. Then he had the child’s
wondering, open-eyed vision of truth.
Ø The most degraded have been restored. Then the faculty of spiritual
perception has been reawakened. This proves that it was only
dormant, not absent.
Ø Even in a condition of indifference a degraded, deadened soul may be
aroused. The bow drawn at a venture may send an arrow into a joint
of the armor of worldly thought and find the natural sensitiveness
beneath. (I Kings 22:34)
SPIRITUAL TRUTH. Their eyes are blind and their ears deaf. This does
not mean merely that they have not the gifts Joel referred to (Joel 2:28).
It means that they do not perceive the truth which is declared to
them by the messengers of God.
Ø The words spoken are not heeded. They are mere sound.
Immediately they are spoken in the ear a rush of unsympathetic
thoughts sweeps them away. It is like sowing by the wayside.
The seed is trampled underfoot. (Matthew 13:19)
Ø If the words are attended to, the personal significance of them is not
grasped. They are mere ideas unrealized. They are not felt to have any
relation to life. Thus a biblical scholar may be blind to the truth of God.
CAUSED BY SIN. The people are “a rebellious house,” and therefore they
cannot perceive the Divine message. We have come upon one of the worst
consequences of sin. It deadens the soul against its own guilt and against
the messages from God to the sinner. This is very different from intellectual
dullness. The will of God is so revealed that “the wayfaring man, though a
fool, may not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8). Indeed, mere intellectual acumen
does very little in helping us to perceive spiritual and moral truth. God has
hidden from the “wise and prudent” what He has revealed to “babes and
sucklings” (Matthew 11:25). The preaching of the cross of Christ is
foolishness to many of the world’s wise men (I Corinthians 1:18-19),
because they have not spiritual sympathy with it (Ibid. ch.2:14). Note the
blinding and deafening which are sometimes ascribed to God (e.g. Isaiah
6:9-10) — because it is the abuse of God’s action that leads to such a
condition, and because IT IS A CONDITION OF DIVINE JUDGMENT —
are here brought back to man’s guilt.
is one of guilt — for they brought it on themselves — and also one of
danger. But they are not left alone in it. Ezekiel is to proceed to more
simple and striking action, in order to extort attention from the indifferent.
We must shake the sleeper when his house is on fire. We want more
rousing preaching. God has pity on the blind and deaf, and it is according
to his mercy that every effort should be made to reach them. Christ gives
new sight and hearing (Luke 4:18).
3 “Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removing, and
remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place
to another place in their sight: it may be they will consider, though
they be a rebellious house. 4 Then shalt thou bring forth thy stuff by
day in their sight, as stuff for removing: and thou shalt go forth at even
in their sight, as they that go forth into captivity. 5 Dig thou through the
wall in their sight, and carry out thereby. 6 In their sight shalt thou bear
it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight: thou shalt cover
thy face, that thou see not the ground: for I have set thee for a sign unto
the house of
my stuff by day, as stuff for captivity, and in the even I digged through the
wall with mine hand; I brought it forth in the twilight, and I bare it upon
my shoulder in their sight.” Prepare thee stuff for removing, etc.; better,
equipment for a journey, with the implied thought that it is the journey of one
going into exile. “Bag and baggage,” all the household goods which an exile
could take with him (Exodus 12:11, 34 may supply an illustration), were to
be brought out in broad daylight and piled up opposite his door. Then in
the twilight (Revised Version, in the dark, and so in vs. 7, 12) he was to
go forth, not by the door of his house, but by breaking through the wall
(with such walls as those of ch. 13:11 the process would not be difficult),
as a man might do who was escaping secretly from a city through
the gates of which he dared not pass (v. 5), and was to start with his
traveling chattels upon his shoulder. Lastly (v. 6), as the strangest
feature of all, he was to go forth with his face covered, as one who
wished to avoid recognition, as one also who could not see one step of the
way before him. This, it is intimated, would startle even the most careless,
and in this way he would become, as he had been before in like symbolic
acts (Ezekiel 4., 5.), as Isaiah (Isaiah 20:2) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27:2)
been before him, a sign unto the house
8 “And in the morning came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,
9 Son of
man, hath not the house of
unto thee, What doest thou?” The commands were obeyed, and the prophet
waited fur the next inspiration, the next word of the Lord. It would seem as if
he had himself done what he was told to do without knowing what it meant. It
was not till night had passed to morning that he was able to answer the question
which the exiles asked him, What doest thou! At last the answer came.
10 “Say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; This burden
concerneth the prince in
are among them. 11 Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it
be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity.”
Literally, the prince is this burden in
sense of “prophecy,” so common in Isaiah and Jeremiah and other
prophets, as Hosea (Hosea 8:10) and Nahum (Nahum 1:1), is used
by Ezekiel here only. Possibly he on the whole avoided it, as having fallen
into discredit through its constant use by the false prophets (Jeremiah
23:33-38), and preferred the formula of “the word of Jehovah.” As
interpreted by Jeremiah 39:4 and II Kings 25:4, the “prince” is
Zedekiah. Possibly Ezekiel avoided the title “king,” as seeing in him one
who was a ruler de facto, but not a king de jure. The facts related in
Jeremiah 39:4 exactly correspond with the symbolic act. Zedekiah and
his men of war escape from the city by night, “by the way of the king’s
garden, by the gate between the two walls,” probably enough with faces
covered, as David’s was in his flight (II Samuel 15:30), to avoid
detection, or as a sign of mourning, and through some freshly made exit
from the palace. The further significance of the covered face is found in the
fact that Zedekiah was blinded at Riblah by Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, and
from that time could not see the ground on which he trod. Those who see
in every Old Testament prediction nothing but a prophecy ex eventu infer
from this that this section of Ezekiel was written after the destruction of
preceding chapters. We note in v. 11 the peculiar phrase, “I am your
sign.” Ezekiel, in what he does in the presence of the exiles, is figuring that
which, before long, will come to pass in
into captivity as he had gone. For they shall remove, the Revised. Version
gives, they shall go into exile.
Teaching by Example (v. 11)
The Jews had neglected the words of Ezekiel; the prophet is now to
attempt to rouse them by a fresh method, by an illustrative action. They
would not attend when he told them that the trouble was coining; he is
now to perform before their eyes an action illustrative of that trouble. The
captivity, and it would seem that their friends in captivity were in sympathy
with them in this respect, and could communicate with them. So Ezekiel
packs up his goods and removes his house, as a sign of the approaching
removal of the Jews into captivity. This is the most effective method of
Ø It is transparent. Deeds are more visible than words. Men of
various languages can understand the same facts. The bold
outlines of an event are more readily grasped than the floating
sounds of speech.
Ø It is impressive. We are struck by what we see with our own eyes far
more than by what is reported to us by others. The greatest deeds
recorded in history do not produce so much impression on us as the
much smaller things with which we have had personal contact
(I imagine that is why God has ordained for us to witness one on
One – CY – 2014); but those historic deeds are far more interesting
than abstract philosophical principles.
Ø It is suggestive. Deeds are more eloquent than words. They are
many-sided, and every face; is capable of reflecting some truth.
Thus the same illustration may convey various aspects of truth to
Ø It is enduring. The memory of events remains when that of words
has faded. Nothing dies so rapidly as the influence of an orator.
Facts live forever, while words of preaching vanish almost as soon
as they are spoken.
Ø That which is human. We may take illustrations from nature, and
read “sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in
everything;” but human life is more full of instruction — more
intelligible, impressive, suggestive, and enduring in its lessons.
Hence the inestimable value of honest biography.
Ø That which is personal to the teacher. It is good to be able to point to
great examples in history. But when the preacher himself does some
striking deed, his influence is far greater. Ezekiel was himself to
remove in illustration of the Captivity. We can teach best by our lives.
Ø That which involves self-sacrifice. Ezekiel’s action was one of trouble
and vexation. If our message costs us little, it may be lightly esteemed.
Nothing is so impressive as the evidence of pain and cost in the effort to
enlighten others. Self-denial is the most eloquent of persuasive influences.
He who thus puts himself to trouble proves his sincerity, and impresses
his neighbours with his own earnestness, and with the corresponding
weightiness of his message.
Here we are taught by the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of
Christ. Those facts are seen in the personal history of our great Teacher,
and pre-eminently in His sacrifice of Himself to the truth and for the benefit
of the world.
12 “And the prince that is among them shall bear upon his shoulder in
the twilight, and shall go forth: they shall dig through the wall to
carry out thereby: he shall cover his face, that he see not the ground
with his eyes.” For that he see not, read, with the Revised Version, because
be shall not see.
13 “My net also will I spread upon him, and he shall be taken in my
snare: and I will bring him to
yet shall he not see it, though he shall die there.” My net also will I spread, etc.
Compare the same image in Lamentations 1:13. The prediction of v. 12 is
reiterated with emphasis. Zedekiah shall be in
that he should not see
hardened himself in his unbelief. (Like people today who ignorantly look
for discrepancies in the Bible. (“…..some things are hard to be understood,
which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the
other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” II Peter 3:16 – CY - 20-14).
There is no reason, however, for supposing that Josephus had access to any
other records than the books of the two prophets, and his narrative looks
rather like an imagined history of what might have been.
God’s Net (v. 13)
Ø God will not leave guilty men free. They have a time of liberty, but
there will be a limit to this. Though they have a long tether, some
day its end will be reached. Freedom is given to allow scope for
choice. If the power of choice is abused, the freedom will be
Ø God employs means for restraining the liberty of bad men. He does
not lay hold of them with His hand; He uses a net. In the present
instance the net was Nebuchadnezzar. That heathen monarch did
not know that he was a mere instrument in the hand of God; yet did
God so completely hold him in this respect that he called the man
“my servant Nebuchadnezzar” (Jeremiah 25:9). Thus God overrules
the movements of kings.
Ø These means may not be perceived by the unhappy victims. The net
is a snare, and “in vain is a snare spread in the sight of any bird”
(Proverbs 1:17). We must not suppose that God really deceives
His children. The Jews had been warned. But their eyes were
blind and their ears deaf (v. 2). The danger is not the
less because men do not perceive it. Just when a man boasts of his
greatest triumph the meshes of a Divine judgment may be drawing
together about his doomed life.
Ø He designs the net for particular persons. In the verse before us it is
spread for one man. There is no element of chance in the judgments
of Heaven. God considers the case of each soul, and acts accordingly.
Ø All the men caught in God’s net are sinners. He has no terrors for the
good. He is not like the tempter, who ensnares men into evil. Every
man who is caught in God’s net of judgment has been first ensnared
in the devil’s net of sin.
Ø The greatest are not beyond the reach of this net. In the present
instance the net is spread expressly to catch no less a person than
Zedekiah, the King of
ranks of a mighty army cannot keep off the invisible entanglement
of the net of judgment.
NET. Its threads may be fine as gossamer, but they are strong as steel.
Zedekiah was to be taken in the
snare, and brought to
helpless a state that he would not even see the place, for, as the event
proved, his eyes were to be put out.
The king fled by night from
but was caught by the Chaldeans near
courses fought against Sisera” (Judges 5:20), the course of armies and
nations turned against the guilty Jews and their wicked king. There is NO
HOPE FOR THE IMPENITENT!
apostles that they should be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), and He
compared the kingdom of heaven to a dragnet (Ibid.ch.13:47). The
only way of escaping from the awful net of judgment is to permit one’s
self to be taken in the saving net of the gospel.
14 “And I will scatter toward every wind all that are about him to help
him, and all his bands; and I will draw out the sword after them.
15 And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall scatter them
among the nations, and disperse them in the countries.
16 But I will leave a few men of them from the sword, from the
famine, and from the pestilence; that they may declare all their
abominations among the heathen whither they come; and they shall
know that I am the LORD.” And I will scatter. The capture of the king would
naturally be followed by the dispersion of his adherents, some of whom
would fall by the sword, while a few (Hebrew, men of number, i.e. easily
counted) would escape to some neighboring country, where they might
hope to find a refuge. There they would have to tell their tale of shame,
and to let the heathen know that Jehovah was thus punishing their
abominations (compare ch.14:22-23). The prophecy ends with the
familiar formula, They shall knew that I am the Lord.
17 “Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,”
The opening words, The worn of the Lord came to me,
imply an interval of passivity and silence. One conscious burst of
inspiration came to an end, and was followed, after a time, by another.
18 “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with
trembling and with carefulness; 19 And say unto the people of the land,
Thus saith the
Lord GOD of the inhabitants of
with astonishment, that her land may be desolate from all that is therein,
because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. 20 And the cities that
are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall
know that I am the LORD.” Eat thy bread with quaking, etc. No special stress
is to be laid on the fact that only bread and water are named. The prophet is not
dwelling now on the scarcity of food in the besieged city, as he had done in
ch. 4:9-17, but on the fear and terror which should haunt the lives of the
besieged. Here again we can scarcely doubt that, as in v. 11, Ezekiel was a
sign to those among whom he lived. Outwardly and visibly
he was seen after his strange flitting, cowering in a corner, as one hunted
down and dreading pursuit, with every look and gesture of extremest
terror. This was to be the portion of those who escaped and whose life was
“given them for a prey” (Jeremiah 45:5). The strange act was to be explained
to “the people of the land,” i.e. the exiles among whom Ezekiel lived. The short
prediction ends with the usual formula. There is another interval, and then
Fear (v. 18)
Ezekiel, in conformity with his new, desperate method of rousing the
heedless Jews, is now to dramatize Fear in his own person and action, as a
sign of the terror that will seize upon the inhabitants of
days of its overthrow.
healthy circumstances should not know fear. Observe some of the causes
Ø Ignorance. “Fear always springs from ignorance,” says Emerson.
There is a sense of the mysterious and uncertainty about it. When we
perceive an approaching calamity, we may shrink from it and feel the
keenest distress; but the peculiar agony of fear lies in the darkness of
futurity. This, of course, implies nothing morally defective, for we
are necessarily limited. Childish fears naturally haunt childish
ignorance. But though not morally wrong, except in the careless
and wilful, ignorance is an evil circumstance to be conquered.
Ø Weakness. There is a weakness of nerve which belongs to one’s
bodily condition, and so some are constitutionally timorous. But
the worst fear springs from cowardice, i.e. from a culpable laxity
of moral fiber.
Ø Guilt. Fear followed the Fall. “The wicked flee when no man
pursueth.” (Proverbs 28:1) We know that we deserve ill; therefore
we cannot be surprised if we are to receive it. This is an intellectual
conception; but the moral effect of sin is stronger. The man who is
conscious of his sin feels ashamed, smitten with helplessness; and
the heavens gather up black thunderclouds over his head.
Ø It is one of the most painful elements of punishment. The murderer
suffers infinitely more agony in the condemned cell than he can ever
feel on the gallows. “There is but one thing of which I am afraid,”
says Montaigne, “and that is fear.” (“For God hath not given us
the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 1:7)
Ø Fear is a cause of disaster. “The direst foe of courage,” says George
Macdonald, “is the fear itself, not the object of it; and the man who can
overcome his own terror is a hero and more.” We are paralyzed by fear.
As in dreams the limbs are heavy, like lead, when a terror is approaching,
so in waking life we find that the terror which threatens fascinates us
Ø Worse than all this, fear is morally degrading. “Fear is cruel and mean,”
says Emerson. It is a selfish passion, and it lowers our whole tone and
will exclude the possibility of fear. “Fear!” exclaimed the hero Nelson,
when only a boy, to his grandmother, who had asked if he had not met fear
when he had lost his way, “what is it like? I have never seen it.” Such
incapacity for fear is a splendid natural endowment, but it has not the moral
character of victory over fear in those who are capable of its pangs. The
true antidote to fear is FAITH! We cannot know everything, and so dispel
the ignorance out of which fear springs; nor can we create in ourselves the
strength of a hero by a sheer act of will; nor can we deny or repudiate our
guilt. But we may:
Ø trust God’s protection in the darkness,
Ø lean upon His strength in the hour of need,
Ø rely upon His pardon when we repent of sin and
Ø turn to the grace of Christ.
So the feeblest can say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then am
I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10); “I will go in the strength of the Lord God”
(Psalm 71:16). Moreover, the work of faith will be completed by love,
for “perfect love casteth out fear.” (I John 4:18)
Deprivations Caused by Sin (vs. 17-20)
“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, eat thy
bread with quaking,” etc. This paragraph was addressed to Ezekiel’s fellow
exiles. “Say unto the people of the land;” i.e.
to discourage the false expectations of the captives, who were looking
forward to an early season of prosperity for their native land, in which they
hoped to share. To this end the prophet shows to them that, in respect to
their fellow countrymen in
physical comforts of life, great anxiety and distress of mind, and sad
devastation of both cities and country, and all these things because of the
sins of the people, or “for the violence of all who dwell in it.” Several
things call for attention.
LIFE. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water with
trembling and with carefulness; and say unto the people of the land, Thus
saith the Lord God of the inhabitants of
drink their water with astonishment.” These words point to the cutting off
of the comforts of life, and the possession of the mere necessaries thereof.
But not always does sin produce consequences such as this. Sin and secular
prosperity have often gone hand in hand (compare Genesis 13:10, 13;
Psalm 73:3-12; Luke 12:16-20; 16:19-26). But in these cases the prosperity
was precedent to the Divine judgment or to the full development
of sin (Genesis 15:16). When that development had taken place, and that
judgment was being exercised, there was a striking reversal of circumstances
in each case. In the
comforts and luxuries disappeared, and long before its close men deemed
themselves fortunate if they could secure bread and water. And in our age
the wicked may prosper in the world and increase in riches; but in the time of
retribution, whenever it arrives, sin will be found injurious to all THE TRUE
INTERESTS OF MEN! Sin often strips the sinner of physical comforts,
and even of the bare necessaries of life. Drunkenness, gluttony, indolence,
wastefulness, bring many a person and many a family to abject poverty and
want (compare Proverbs 6:9-11; 19:15; 23:21; 24:30-34).
SPIRIT. “Son of man, eat thy bread with quaking, and drink thy water
with trembling and with carefulness.… They shall eat their bread with
carefulness, and drink their water with astonishment.” They would eat
even the necessaries of life, not in peace and comfort, but in anxiety and
alarm. Their distress may have arisen from fear lest their scanty supplies of
food should fail them, and so they ate “their bread with carefulness.” And
to this was joined terror of their enemies who surrounded them, causing
them to take of the sustenance of life “with quaking, trembling, and
astonishment.” It is of the nature of sin, when it is developed, to destroy
peace and calmness of mind, and to produce terror and distress. “The wicked
are like the troubled sea,” etc. (Isaiah 57:20-21). Without doubt we may often
find the wicked in their sad career untroubled either by guilt or fear; but
for everyone the time of awakening comes, and with it security departs and
terror arrives. “When the pleasure has been tasted and is gone,” says Mr.
Froude, “and nothing is left of the crime but the ruin which it has wrought,
then the furies take their seats upon the midnight pillow.” “The wicked flee
when no man pursueth” (Proverbs 28:1). “The sound of a shaken leaf
shall chase them; and they shall flee as fleeing from a sword; and they
shall fall when none pursueth.” (Leviticus 26:36)
COMMITTED. “That her land may be desolate from all that is therein,
because of the violence of all them that dwell therein. And the cities that
are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall be desolate.” Instead of
“That her land may be desolate from all that is therein,” the margin reads,
“from the fulness thereof.” The meaning seems to be that the land would be
of all its inhabitants and of all its wealth.” The
once fair and fertile — “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of
fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills,” etc.
(Deuteronomy 8:7-9). In the time of Solomon the Tyrians received
large quantities of corn and wine and oil from this fruitful land (I Kings
5:11; II Chronicles 2:10). But what is its condition now? And what has
been its condition for ages past? “He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness,
for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” “The plain of Jordan, well
watered everywhere, and as the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10) is
not the only example of fertility, being changed into barrenness because of
the sins of the people. Other lands have had a similar fate, but by a different
process. There are sins by which lands are still laid waste. Indolence,
effeminacy, self-indulgence, delight in war, and social oppression, in every
age produce impoverishment and desolation in any country where they
KNOW THAT JEHOVAH IS THE ONE LIVING AND TRUE GOD.
“And ye shall know that I am the Lord” (see our notes on these words in
ch. 6:7, 10; 11:10).
21 “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
22 Son of
man, what is that proverb that ye have in the
saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth?”
What is that proverb, etc.? The words indicate how the previous messages
been received. Like the men of
that the judgment was so near. They said, in words that had become proverbial:
that they had so passed since Ezekiel began his work), “and yet the end
comes not.” Such throughout the world’s history has been the cry of
those of little, or of no, faith (Amos 6:3; Isaiah 5:19; Jeremiah 17:15;
Matthew 24:48; II Peter 3:4).
heard of many such visions, yet still all things continue as they were.”
The most dangerous proverbial expressions are those that flatter ourselves. With the
Jews the favorite proverb was one that postponed the prospect of the evil day and
threw doubt on the Divine message. Cynical unbelief is full of sell-assurance. But
it is not safe to trust to it simply because it may be clever or prevalent. Every idea
that denies the Divine word is sure to prove delusive.
This sinful misinterpretation of the
Divine dealings is not confined to that generation or to that people.
23 “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will make this
proverb to cease, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in
Israel; but say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of
every vision.” The prophet meets the current proverb with a counter proverb
of his own: “The days are not far off, but have come near.” Compare the
language of the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), of our Lord (Ibid. ch.4:17), of Paul
(Romans 13:11). For the true prophet there is always a near fulfillment, though
there may be also an ultimate and more complete reality of which that is the
pledge and earnest. The “vision” shall not fail; every word (so in the Hebrew)
shall become a reality.
24 “For there shall be no more any vain vision nor flattering divination
within the house of
the “smooth things” of Isaiah 30:10, the “flattering lips” of Psalm 12:2-3.
The “divinations” (the Hebrew word is found only here and in ch. 13:7,
though cognate words are found elsewhere) are so described, not without a
touch of scorn in the use of a word which is not applied to the utterance of
the true prophets, because they promised a speedy deliverance, even within
“two full years” (Jeremiah 28:3).
The End of Delusions (v. 24)
The Jews had beer deluding themselves with a false proverb — or at all
events, with a proverb falsely applied (see v. 22). Ezekiel tells them that
such errors and those of flattering divination will both cease. There is to be
an end to error.
has his day of success. Flattering errors easily win their way into
popularity. The history of thought is largely made up of the story of errors
Ø triumph, and
This fact should guard us against accepting any motive just because it
happens to be triumphant. There are fashions in philosophy and theology.
But truth is ETERNAL and ABIDING and it is therefore simply foolish
to accept the ideas which chance to be in vogue at our own time without
Ø THE TRIUMPH OF DELUSIONS IS FRUITLESS. Error is always
barren of any solid results. It is darkness, death, negation. Even when at
the acme of prosperity it is but as a bubble; it has no substance in it. There
came a time when the vain vision and the flattering divination of the Jews
were to be put to the test in the siege of
they were found to be utterly useless. This is the fatal defect of a false idea.
We may cherish it for so long until we need to use it. But directly we put it
into practice it crumbles away.
TROUBLE EXPOSES DELUSIONS. So long as
prospered the vain visions continued, and the flattering divination was
practiced without intermission. It was the touch of real trouble that broke
the bubble. Many a comfortable soul is living in a fool’s paradise or direful
error without fear or pain until some real adversity comes. Then the utter
delusiveness of the admired notions is suddenly revealed with appalling
amazement. If we are able to hold to fatal notions till the end of life, we
shall find at last that they are but rotten planks, which will break up when
we try to float on them over the chill waters of death.
Ø THE EXPOSURE OF DELUSIONS IS A BLESSING. Naturally
enough, it first strikes the helpless dupes with dismay as a pure calamity.
Why should they not be permitted to dream their lives away on a bed of
roses although the volcano should be slumbering beneath? Because even
apart from consequences truth is supremely desirable, and error is an evil
thing. We ought to be thankful for a painful process which leads us out of
darkness INTO LIGHT! But it is not necessary for us to wait for the
alarming awakening. The revelation of God in Christ and the truths of
inspiration are with us to spare us the terrible method of deliverance from
error, and to lead us out of DARKNESS INTO THE LIGHT OF CHRIST!
25 “For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak
shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your days,
O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith
the Lord GOD.” The thought of ver. 23 is reiterated with emphasis. The
rebellious house, whether at Tel-Abib or in
is used with special reference to the former), should see the word of
Jehovah fulfilled in their own days. One notes how the prophet dwells on
the word prolonged, as though that had specially stirred his indignation. So
26 “Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying.
27 Son of
man, behold, they of the house of
he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times
that are far off. 28 Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD;
There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word
which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.”
The words imply another interval of silence, meditation,
and then a fresh utterance to the same effect as before. In this case (v. 27)
we trace a slight modification in the language of the gainsayers. They
recognize Ezekiel both as a seer and a prophet. They do not say that his
vision “faileth.” They content themselves with throwing the fulfillment into
the distant future. Their thought is that of the proverb which has been
ascribed to more than one king or statesman, Apres moi le deluge. To
these his answer is nearly in the same terms as before. Still harping on the
offensive word, he tells them that nothing that he has spoken shall be
“prolonged.” The destruction of the temple and the holy city, the departure
of the Divine Presence from the sanctuary, these were already within
The Snare of Unbelief (vs. 21-28)
Faith has the power to make the distant near. It obliterates distance of time
and space. But unbelief reverses the effect. It looks in at the wrong end of
the telescope, and reduces realities to a mere speck. Unbelief corrupts all
blessing; it makes sour the very cream of God’s kindness. “Because
judgment is not speedily executed,” incorrigible rebellion makes a mock of
retribution. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
KINDNESS. The ancient Greeks had an adage: “The gods have feet of
wool.” But this does not describe the character of the living God. Instead
of overtaking men hastily, “He is slow to anger.” He does not willingly
afflict. “The axe is often laid at the root of the tree,” and that for a long
spell; and if repentance and fruitfulness appear, THE SENTENCE IS
GLADLY REVOKED! The aim and purpose of our God are not
destruction, but restoration. If it is within the range of possibility to
awake the slumbering conscience, and save the man, God will do it.
To announce beforehand ordained judgments is KINDNESS
CONFIDENCE. The best blessings, when corrupted, become our direst
curses. Neither the bitter experience of sin, though long continued, nor the
royal clemency of God, produces any beneficial effect on some men. They
seem deaf to every appeal of prudence, insensible to every overture of
kindness. All tender feeling appears to have vanished; they have reached
already a state of hopeless reprobation. If the severity of justice for a
moment should relax, they put it down to cowardice, or weakness, or
irresolution. They say, “We shall have peace, though we walk after the
imagination of our own hearts” (Jeremiah 18:12). “Give a loose rein to
lust,” say they; “God doth not regard us.”
shallow line of reasoning is this: “No punishment has fallen upon us as yet.
Today will be as yesterday, and tomorrow as today. Probably,” say they,
“punishment will not come at all; or if it should, it is so far away that for all
practical purposes we may disregard it” There is a strong force of inertia in
every man’s nature. What has been, he thinks, will continue to be. “Where
is the promise of His coming?” (II Peter 3:4) The wish becomes father to
the thought, that punishment is dubious, problematic — a mere ghost of
probability. All the evidence of Divine rule and Divine interposition
UNBELIEF REJECTS as hypothetical craze. What cannot be seen
and handled and touched unbelief despises as unreal.
To men it often seems a sudden event; not so to God. He has seen the
Elements preparing stage by stage, and “suddenness” forms no part of
His experience. So it has been with all the great calamities that have
overtaken men. In the period of Noah’s deluge, men saw no prognostication
of coming danger. “They bought, they sold, they married, they were given
in marriage, until the very day that Noah entered into the ark. And knew
not until the flood came, and took them all away” – Matthew 24:38-39).
On the day of
his usual splendor and tranquility (Genesis 19:23); yet before noon the
smoke of the devastation rose and smothered in silence the cries of its
dying population. “So shall the coming of the Son of man be”
(Luke 17:28-30). (I recommend www.arkdiscovery.com and browse
the section on
men least expect it the storm shall break upon their heads. Whenever
the long suffering kindness of God is made an occasion of fresh license,
be quite sure that retribution is not far away. “In such an hour as ye
think not, the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44)
The Human Proverb and the Divine (vs. 22-28)
National proverbs embody national thinking, national sentiments, national
habits. They sometimes convey counsels of wisdom. But they are
sometimes superficial and all but valueless. As in the case here recorded,
such frivolous and misleading sayings need to be replaced and substituted
by the dictates of inspiration, of infallible wisdom, and undying truth.
Ø Its import. This was twofold — it asserted the postponement
indefinitely of righteous judgment, and the failure of authorized
prophecy. No doubt retribution was deferred; but this, which was
a sign of Divine forbearance, was interpreted as a proof that
judgment there was none, on earth or in heaven. No doubt the
warnings were uttered long before the calamity overtook the
people; and, in consequence, the threatened, the unbelievers,
instead of using the opportunity to repent and reform, abused
it to THEIR OWN CONDEMNATION.
Ø Its plausibility. It is described as a “flattering divination;” for it was
intended to fall in with and to encourage:
o the carelessness,
o the impenitence, and
o the unspirituality of men.
Ø Its illusiveness. The opponents of the inspired prophet had but a
“vain vision” to boast of. Time unmasks all false, deceitful
appearances; in a short time it was seen that the proverbial
wisdom of the impenitent was utterly baseless, was indeed
nothing but folly.
Ø The proverb dishonoring to God is exposed and refuted. “I will
make this proverb to cease.” Events should make its currency
impossible. There is a destructive power in truth — it shatters
illusions to pieces. Great swelling words of vanity collapse when
they encounter the simple but authoritative utterances of
Ø The truthfulness of the Lord’s prophets is established. Every word is
fulfilled. Most unlikely events come to pass in accordance with
prophetic utterance. God speaks, and the pride of the haughty is
humbled, and things that are not vanquish things that are. The
faithful admonitions of the Lord’s servants are proved to be just
Ø A new proverb is created by the action of Divine providence. “There
shall none of my words be deferred any more.” The time came, and
came speedily, when this could not be questioned. And what happened
in the days of Ezekiel has happened wherever God has spoken. For us
it is chiefly of practical concern to notice that He who came from God
and went to God, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, uttered forth
the Divine mind and will with a unique completeness; and that though
heaven and earth shall pass away, His words shall not pass away.
(Matthew 24:35; II Peter 3:10-13)
The Word of the Lord Vindicated by Himself (vs. 23-28)
Probably thought by their disbelief and derision to put to silence the word
of the Lord by Jeremiah his prophet. But God still speaks by him, and by
Ezekiel also. “Tell them therefore, Thus saith the Lord God,” etc. (v. 23).
“I am the Lord: I will speak,” etc. (v. 25). “Therefore say unto them, Thus
saith the Lord God, etc. (v. 28). In this way God speaks again and again to
this unbelieving and rebellious people. He will not leave Himself without
faithful witnesses, who will speak His word even to the most sceptical and
stubborn of men (ch. 2:3-7; 3:4-11).
Ø His word should be fulfilled speedily. “Say unto them, The days are at
hand, and the effect of every vision .... I will speak, and. the word that I
shall speak shall come to pass; it shall be no more prolonged: for in your
days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the
Lord God....There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the
word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God.” The
announcement of the prophet has passed into fulfillment in a terrible manner.
Scarcely five years
and those who had filled their belly with the east wind of their proud hopes
of the future were either lost or envied the dead.
Ø His word should be fulfilled completely. “The days are at hand, and the
effect of every vision.” The full “contents of every prediction” would be
brought to pass. The unbelieving and rebellious people probably thought
that even if things came to the worst, they could not be so bad as in the
prophetic representations, that Jeremiah had exaggerated the troubles that
were coming upon the nation. But “the word of every vision” WAS AT
HAND! No partial fulfillment was about to take place. Every word of
prophetic prediction was to be realized.
Ø By putting to silence the also prophets who had discredited it. “There
shall no more be any vain vision nor flattering divination within the house
prophesiers of smooth things. The complete fulfillment of the visions of the
true prophet would effectually stop the mouths of the false ones.
Let us realize that God’s promises are true and. reliable. The hopes which it inspires
are not delusive. For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the Yea:
wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us.
(II Corinthians 1:20)
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