1 “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will
speak unto thee.” Son of man, etc. It is noticeable that the phrase (ben adam), as
addressed to a prophet, occurs only in Ezekiel, in whom we find it not less
than eighty times, and in Daniel 8:17. As used elsewhere, e.g. in Numbers 23:19;
Psalm 8:4; Job 25:6; Isaiah 51:12; 56:2, and in Ezekiel’s use of it, it is probably
connected with the history of Adam, as created from the ground (adamah) in
Genesis 2:7; 3:19. The prophet is reminded, in the very moment of his highest
inspiration, of his Adam nature with all its infirmity and limitations. In the use
of a like phrase (bar enosh, instead of ben adam) in Daniel 7:13 we have the
same truth implied. There one like unto man in all things is called to share the
sovereignty of the “Ancient of Days,” the Eternal One. Here the prophet,
nothing in himself, is called to be the messenger of God to other sons of
men. It is in many ways suggestive that our Lord should have chosen the
same formula for constant use when speaking of Himself (Matthew
8:20, and passim in the Gospels). Stand upon thy feet. The attitude of
adoration is changed, by the Divine command, into that of expectant
service, that of awe and dread for the courage of a soldier of the Lord of
hosts (compare the parallels of ch.3:24; 43:3, 5; Daniel 8:18).
God Speaking, and Man Listening (v. 1)
This second chapter of the prophecies of Ezekiel introduces us to the
personal call and commission of the prophet. The first chapter was engaged
with preliminary and preparatory visions. Now the prepared soul receives
the direct word from God.
Ø In words. Previously the prophet’s attention had been arrested by
visions — glorious, awful, soul-stirring visions — visions that not
only roused his feelings, but that must also have awakened in his
mind many strange thoughts by their profound suggestiveness;
still only visions, and therefore mysterious revelations shrouded
in a measure of uncertainty. Now God proceeds from the vague
vision to definite speech. It matters not whether we consider that
the speech came in physical sound, in real air waves, that
any other listener, had he been present, might have understood, or
whether the words were impressed on the mind of the prophet. In any
case, he heard them, and thus he received a clear, definite, unmistakable
message. We are not left to uncertain visions, nor even to the difficult
hieroglyphics of nature. We have a revelation in language, A
Ø In direct address. God spoke immediately to Ezekiel. Here is the
contrast between the prophet and the ordinary bearer of a Divine
message. We receive our messages at second hand from God’s
inspired teachers. They held direct communications with Heaven.
But may not we do something similar, not indeed in new prophecies
or gospels, but at least in the illumination of soul which makes the old
truth stand out in a new light, or helps us to make a fresh application
of it to new circumstances? By His Spirit God does thus speak directly
to every listening soul, though the words are those of familiar truth.
“silent proclamation” of nature has been spread before the gaze of heedless
witnesses (Psalm 19:1-4). The difference between the seer and the man who
beholds only material facts may lie in the natures of the men more than in the
external facts that are presented to them. The one is a seer because he has eyes
to behold what is equally present to the other, though unperceived for lack of
sight to discover it. So the prophet must have “ears to hear” the message
of God. And all who would receive God’s message in their souls must have
the heating ear. Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
(Mark 4:9) The manner of the delivery of the Divine message to
Ezekiel suggests the way in which it should be received.
Ø In a certain human simplicity. Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man.”
When nearest to Heaven he must not forget his human nature. The
prophet is our fellow man. The knowledge of heavenly truth does not
kill human nature, nor destroy the kinship between the enlightened
and the ignorant.
o Here all pride is rebuked. The prophet must not suppose that
he is anything more than a man.
o Human interests are to be considered. The message is given to
one man for the sake of his fellows.
Ø In manly obedience. Ezekiel is to stand up. He had fallen in fear before
the vision of glory. To hear the word of revelation he must arise. God
does not delight in the humiliation of His children. We are exhorted to
“come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). Religion does
not destroy manliness. Yet God expects the attention shown by a
servant to his master. Ezekiel is not to sit. He who receives a word from
God is to be awake, listening, attentive, and ready to obey, like the
servant who stands by his master’s side.
2 “And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me
upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.”
And the Spirit, etc. It scarcely admits of question (though the
Hebrew has no article, and so far Luther’s Version, “Ich ward wieder
erquickt,” is tenable) that the word is used in the same sense as in
ch.1:20-21 (compare ch. 3:24). The Spirit which moved the
“living creatures” and the “wheels” in the mysterious symbol was now in
him. Ezekiel finds in that fact the ground of his prophetic inspiration
(compare Numbers 24:2; Judges 11:29; I Samuel 10:6, 10; Isaiah 11:2-4)
The Entrance of the Spirit. (v. 2)
If it were not for another reference to the Spirit in ch.4:3, we
might reasonably suppose that the prophet was referring to his own spirit,
and indicating, in picturesque language, that he recovered from faintness,
or that his “spirits” rose, that he gained courage and strength. But since
this passage plainly shows that none other than the Spirit of God can be
meant, it is clear that a very close connection between the Holy Spirit and
man is here indicated. The possibility of misunderstanding as to what spirit
is designated only emphasizes the idea of the intimate association of the
human and the Divine.
mystery of the nature of God. But it would seem that certain modes of the
Divine Being are more within touch of us than others. So, while as our
Father God rules and blesses us, and while the Son of God enters humanity
generally by taking our nature upon Him and becoming our Brother, the
Spirit enters into individual souls, and unites Himself with our very selves.
(John 14:23) The Christian is a temple of the Holy Ghost. Something more
must lie in this fact than the omnipresence of God, for God is everywhere,
and therefore does not need to enter any region of creation. The spiritual
entrance must therefore mean the manifestation of His presence:
Ø by an exercise of energy, or
Ø by a revelation to consciousness.
The prophet may know the latter form of Divine entrance. The former,
however, is the more usual in experience. Now, it is very much to know
that God does indeed dwell with the children of men. The earth is not a
God-deserted waste. Religion is not a one sided effort of man to reach
after God. Spiritual life is not simply an exercise of a man’s own powers.
God has His share in the soul’s experience, touching it in its inmost secret
being. He is nearer to the spiritually minded man than that man’s own
Ezekiel tells us that “the Spirit entered into me when he spake unto me.”
So it was in the days of the early Church. The apostles preached first; then,
after their word had been received, the Holy Ghost descended upon the
hearers. While it is commonly recognized that prayer is a fitting means
through which to obtain a fuller presence of the Spirit of God,
is it so often acknowledged that the reception of truth is an equally
important condition? God’s Spirit does not come like a flash of lightning,
striking the unexpectant soul, nor like a gift of magic. The understanding of
truth is the open door through which the inspiration of life enters. Hence
the importance of teaching, preaching, reading the Bible, meditation,
cultivating spiritual intelligence and enlightened faith. Yet this very
connection between the Spirit and the Word is a rebuke to cold
intellectualism. The Word by itself is not enough. When we have
comprehended and embraced it to the full, it is still but the door through
which to receive the far more important gift of the Holy Ghost.
STRENGTH. Ezekiel was bidden to stand up. At first it would seem he
was so overwhelmed with awe in the presence of sublime visions of
heaven, that he could scarcely obey. But as the first sounds of the Word of
God reach his dazed ears, the Spirit of God enters him, and at once he
acquires a new energy, and is able to stand erect in manly strength. (“But
as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of
God, even to them that believe on His name” - John 1:12). Shame
for sin casts us down; inspirations of God lift us up. To see God afar off is
to fail down before Him in confusion and terror; to welcome God in the
shrine of the heart is to enjoy a cheering encouragement and an uplifting
power. The Church too often droops and languishes for lack of this
inspiring presence. She should remember that God’s Spirit is not only a
purifying, enlightening, and comforting influence, but also the supreme
Source of energy. That same Spirit which of old brooded over the face of
the waters, and brought life and order out of chaos and death (Genesis 1),
now broods over the human world with infinite powers of life to bestow on
all who will receive Him. Then, in receiving strength from the incoming of
the Spirit, the soul is able to receive more truth from God, as Ezekiel heard
more Divine words when he stood up in his new strength. Thus there is no
limit to the growth of knowledge and power m this twofold process.
3 “And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of
their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.”
To a rebellious nation; literally, with Revised Version, nations
that are rebellious. The Hebrew word (goim) is that used elsewhere for
“heathen” and that may
be its sense here. As in ch. 28:22.
Part of Ezekiel’s work was actually addressed to the heathen as such (chps.
25-32.). The word may, however, be used in the plural to include both
The words anticipate the teaching of ch. 18. The people to whom the
prophet was sent could not say that they were suffering for the sins of their
fathers. They, in their own persons, had transgressed up to the very day
on which the prophet received his mission. They had rebelled as their
fathers had done in the days of Moses and Joshua (Numbers 14:9;
Rebellious Nations (v. 3)
This must have been a hard message for Ezekiel to deliver to his fellow
countrymen. It was the heathen, the Gentiles, who were usually designated
“nations;” and in
applying this designation to
the chosen people from their peculiar position of honor, and to rank them
with the idolatrous nations whom they were accustomed to despise. And it
has been surmised that, in employing the plural, the prophet intended to
intimate that the Hebrews no longer constituted one people, one state, but
were divided among themselves, dissolved as it were into disconnected and
opposing sections and factions. It may be just and profitable to regard
charge of rebellion, which may certainly be brought against mankind at
GUILTY OF IT THE POSSESSION OF A VOLUNTARY NATURE.
If there is no liberty, there can be no rebellion. Rebellion implies intelligent
apprehension, and it implies deliberate purpose. The rebel knows what is
the authority which he defies, and he defies that authority, not only
intelligently, but of purpose. Brutes do not rebel; but men and angels may
do, and have done. Hence the serious responsibility attaching to rebellion
against God on the part of willful though misguided men.
CONTRARY TO RIGHT, THE REBEL SETS HIMSELF. There can be
no rebellion where there is no government, no rebel where there is no
governor. Neither can there be rebellion, properly speaking, against a
usurper, who has no claim upon the loyalty and allegiance of those whom
he may unjustly denominate his subjects. The moral government of the
world is a fact, and its administration is characterized by EQUITY! As the
universal Legislator and Judge, God demands the subjection and obedience
of mankind; all are His lawful subjects. There is no rebel against Divine
authority who can bring against the rule and sway of the great Governor of
the universe the charge of injustice and tyranny. “Shall not the Judge of all
the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)
MISERY. This awful fact is not to be questioned by any reasonable student
of the moral history of mankind. Nowhere more strikingly than in the
and violate Divine Law incur the most awful guilt and entail upon
themselves the most awful punishments. Sentimentalists may complain that
such assertions are the expression of severity and fanaticism; but it remains
forever true that “the way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15), and
“the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
TO PROVIDE A VAST REDEMPTION AND DELIVERANCE. The
history of the Hebrew people exhibits instances not only of human
apostasy, but of Divine compassion and merciful interposition and
deliverance. Thus the Captivity was itself a punishment for rebellion, for
idolatry, and for all the evils idolatry brought upon the nation. Yet God did
not forget to be gracious. He made the Captivity an occasion for displaying
His grace; mercy triumphed over judgment. Repentance and submission
took the place of resistance and defiance. Discipline, chastisement,
answered its appointed purpose. God pitied the rebels even whilst He
censured the rebellion. And very similar has been His treatment of mankind
at large. The whole race has rebelled, and the whole race has been
redeemed. There is spiritual amnesty provided THROUGH CHRIST
JESUS, reconciliation through faith and repentance, restoration to
affectionate loyalty and to happy subjection through the gracious
influences of the Holy Spirit.
· WHEN REBELLION IS SUBDUED, AND THE REBEL
HUMBLED, SUBJECTION IS FOLLOWED BY LOYALTY AND
HAPPINESS. God does not leave His work half done. He pardons the
penitent, but He blesses the loyal and the reconciled. Great is the change
which takes place in the state of him who has laid down the weapons of
rebellion and has cast himself in penitence and submission before the
footstool of the throne. As rebellion is exchanged for loyalty, and defiance
for submission and gratitude, so disgrace is exchanged for honor, and the
just sentence of death for the merciful assurance of Divine favor and
4 “For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto
them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.”
Impudent children and stiff-hearted; literally, hard of face
(i.e. callous to their shame) and stiff of heart. The Septuagint gives aptly,
σκληροπρόσωποι καὶ σκληροκάρδιοι - sklaeroprosopoi kai sklaerokardioi –
impudent and stiff-hearted - (compare the “past feeling” of Ephesians 4:19).
Thus saith the Lord God. In the Hebrew, Adoaai Jehovah; which the
Septuagint represents by Κύριος Κύριος, Kurios, Kurios – Lord, Yahweh –
and Luther by – “der Herr Herr.” The two highest names of THE GOD
OF ISRAELwere ‘used to denote the fullness of the prophet’s inspiration.
The same formula occurs in ch.3:11, 27; 13:8; 22:28, and passim. So also in
II Samuel 7:18, 19, 20, 29; and elsewhere.
THE MESSAGE. At first the prophet received no other message than
this: “Thus saith the Lord God.” But this was the earnest of much to
follow. And, indeed, the whole of the prophecies were amplifications of
this. Ezekiel was to go among the children of the Captivity with words
from Jehovah. A prophet is one who speaks for, on behalf of, the Divine
Being by whom he is commissioned. If the speaker had his own special
reasons for believing that the words he uttered were not his own, but
God’s, those who listened to his declarations of warning and of promise
had a witness within, in the testimony of their own conscience, assuring
them that the prophet spoke with Divine authority. And this is so still with
all who will listen reverently and obediently to the heavenly voice. It is thus
that the Scriptures possess over our minds a preeminent power; their
writers preface every authoritative utterance with the statement, “Thus
saith the Lord.”
An Embassy to Rebels (vs. 3-4)
The people of
rebellion to disloyalty, and has gone so far as to throw off its allegiance to
its suzerain lord, and now the Supreme Sovereign sends His prophet as an
ambassador to declare His will at this terrible crisis.
had transgressed in the past. But the children have exceeded the
wickedness of their parents by breaking out into open revolt. This may
refer to the idolatry that follows neglect of the service of the true God, or
to the abandonment of Jehovah after previously disobeying Him.
Ø All sin tends to aggravate its own evil. Rebellion is worse than
transgression. The bad child may be more wicked than his corrupt
parent — at least, if only left to the evil influences of his home. In
every man, if sin is chosen, a downward course is being followed
into blacker iniquity and more outrageous wickedness, till the goal
is reached and the sinner has fully developed the kingdom of hell
Ø Moral transgression leads to personal opposition against God. At first
the transgressor may have no desire to quarrel with God. He only
wants to have his own way, and possibly regrets the misfortune that
this happens to be opposed to the Divine will. For a time he tries to
sever morality from devotion, and to retain his worship after he has
broken up his obedience. This state of discord cannot last. The enemy
of God’s Law cannot but become an enemy of God. He who resists the
law opposes the government.
Ø Concealed iniquity ends in confessed impiety. The transgression may be
secret; the rebellion will be open. The sudden fall of a saint that
sometimes surprises and shocks the Church may be only the step
from disloyalty to rebellion.
Ø The progress of sin coarsens and hardens the sinner, The parents
“transgressed.” The children are “impudent” and “stiff-hearted.”
Reverence cannot long outlive obedience. The conscience which is
roughly used loses its sensitiveness and becomes harsh and callous,
like the skin of the hand that works with rough materials. Thus the
worst sin is least acknowledged, and the greatest sinner most
Ø God has not lost His claims on them. Men may throw off their
allegiance to God, but they cannot destroy His rightful authority
over them. No soul can outlaw itself. To renounce a sovereign is
not to escape from the power of his rule. If an English soldier
declared himself a republican, he would not be exonerated from
the service of the queen. God is the Judge of all the earth —
of those who reject His Law as surely as of those who obey it.
Ø God desires to recover them. The message may come in wrath,
threatening destruction. Yet it need never have been sent at all. The
ambassador might have been spared, and an avenging army dispatched
to the rebellious nation. But God sends warnings before judgments,
preaching prophets before destroying angels, invitations to return
before mandates of extermination, gospels of grace before swords of
doom. The darker the message of warning is, the more assuredly is it
prompted by mercy; because, if an exceedingly dreadful punishment
is deserved and is even impending, it is an especial mark of God’s
forbearance towards the worst of sinners that He holds it back in the
hope of urging to repentance those who have been treasuring up for
themselves so fearful an accumulation of wrath. Much more, then is
the gospel of Christ a message of mercy, inviting sinners back into
the kingdom of heaven instead of trampling them underfoot as
5 “And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for
they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a
prophet among them.” Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, etc.
The latter word is used in the sense of “cease” or “desist,” as in I Corinthians 9:6
and Ephesians 6:9. The same formula meets us in v. 7; ch. 3:11, 27. The prophet
is warned beforehand of the (at least) probable failure of his mission, wholly or in
part. We note the parallelism of thought, though not language, in II Corinthians
2:15-16. Such, at all times, has been the condition of the prophet’s work. The
expectation is grounded upon the antecedent fact of their being a “rebellious
people.” There is the consolation that in the end, partly through the fulfillment
of his words, partly, it may be, through the witness of their own conscience,
they shall know that there has been a prophet among them (compare ch. 33:33;
Jeremiah 28:9). We note that it is the first time that Ezekiel claims that name
APPLICATION OF VS. 4-5. This passage has an especial significance for ministers
of God’s Word, and for all religious teachers. It shows them where their
strength lies; warns them against enunciating their own speculations or
inculcating precepts founded upon their own experience; and directs them
to go among their fellow men with this dignified and effective message,
“Thus saith the Lord.” They may be tempted to court men’s favor and
good will by uttering words of flattery. But it is well that, when so
tempted, they should remember that there is in men a conscience, which
may be repressed, but which cannot be crushed, which renders a homage,
though silent, to the just authority of truth and righteousness, and which
recognizes, even though it does not lead to practical obedience, the
PRECEPTS and the WARNINGS which are FROM GOD!
6 “And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of
their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost
dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be
dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.”
Though briers and thorns be with thee. The two Hebrew
nouns are not found elsewhere, and have consequently puzzled translators.
The Septuagint gives two verbs, παροιστρήσπυσιν καὶ ἐπισυστήσονται ἐπὶ σὲ –
paroistraesousin kai episustaesontai epi se – briars and thorns are
with you; the Vulgate, increduli et subversores. The words, however, are
formed from roots that imply “pricking” or “burning,” and the Authorized
Version rendering, followed by the Revised Version, is tenable enough. A
cognate form of the first is found in ch. 28:24, and there the Septuagint
gives σκόλοψ – skolopsi – thorn, and the Vulgate, spina. A like figurative
use of “scorpions” is found in I Kings 12:11 (but here the reference may
be to some scorpion like scourge) and Ecclesiasticus. 26:7 (compare also our
Lord’s words in Luke 10:19). Be not afraid. Compare the like command in
Jeremiah 1:17. The words imply, probably, a past as well as a future experience.
Ezekiel had already known what it was to dwell among those whose hearts
were venomous as scorpions. The comparison was a sufficiently familiar
one among both Eastern and Greek writers.
Dwelling among Scorpions (v. 6)
denunciation raised up enemies who gave him worse than a thorny couch
— a very house of scorpions to dwell in. No more hideous picture of
distress can well be conceived than that of the faithful prophet thrust into a
thicket of briers, which turns out to be a scorpions’ nest. The thorns are
bad enough, yet fierce stinging creatures are added. This is a prophet’s
Inferno. Captives who only suffered from the grief of exile would hang
their harps on the willows in heart-broken despair. Ezekiel’s is a far worse
case — to be tormented by his fellow captives in return for his faithful
Ø A great mission may bring a great distress. The common people are
spared; the prophet is tormented. Ezekiel has his scorpion-neighbors;
Paul, exalted to the third heaven, receives his thorn in the flesh
(II Corinthians 12:7); Christ, the Holy One, is crowned with thorns,
pierced with nails, and more terribly wounded with cruel hatred.
Ø A man’s worst enemies may be those of his own household. The
scorpions are not pagan Babylonians, but Jews. No rancor is so bad as
that of one whose milk of natural affection is turned to the venom of
a brother’s hatred. This is the murder spirit of Cain the fratricide, the
devilry of Judas the traitor.
Ø A guilty conscience is a dangerous sting. If it does not wound its
owner, it is likely to turn on its accuser. Ezekiel had to accuse the
Jews of sin. We may often take the very ferocity of the attack made
upon the gospel as a sign that its opponents are not at ease in their
Ø A spiteful tongue stings like a scorpion. Ezekiel was cruelly hurt when
no bodily harm was done to him. Possibly his enemies were scarcely
conscious of the keenness of their words. But the rankling wound
which comes from venomous speech is more painful than the fiery
swelling of the worst scorpion sting. Spiteful slanderers are more
mischievous than the most repulsive insects.
faithful prophet must toil on, braving their threatening stings. The people at
Banias build leafy booths on the tops of poles, for residence during the hot
season, in order to escape the attacks of scorpions, which are very
abundant in their neighborhood. No, such escape is permitted to the
prophet of God.
Ø Unpopularity may be a sign of fidelity. This is a shamefully forgotten
doctrine in our day of easy living. Now the popular preacher is
regarded as the great preacher, and the unpopular servant of God is
regarded, even by his brethren, as a “failure.” If so, then Ezekiel and
Jeremiah were “failures,” while their now-forgotten comrades, who
prophesied smooth things, were great “successes.” Such a doctrine
would have given us no Hebrew prophets to stand in the first rank
of God’s heroes. But time is a great avenger. Frederick Robertson
during his lifetime, is now recognized as a prince of Divine teachers;
while the very names of his enemies — happily for them — are
Ø The duty of fidelity in the midst of persecution is blessed with heavenly
rewards. The rewards begin on earth in the soul’s culture. Mediaeval
monks would roll in thorns for self-chastisement. Persecuted prophets
needed to invent no such fantastic devices. The thorns were thrust upon
them; their path was beset by scorpions. There is danger in the path of
ease. It is better to be stung by the vicious scorpion than bitten by the
deadly cobra. The thorn bush of persecution has its venomous insects,
but in the flower beds of pleasure lies the serpent whose bite is death.
7 “And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear,
or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.”
Thou shalt speak my words, etc. The words conveyed:
by Jehovah (compare Jeremiah 1:7, 17; Matthew 10:19-20); and
message (see ch.13:7; 22:28). They are most rebellious; literally, the Hebrew
being a noun, they are rebellion, or stubbornness, itself.
Preaching to Unwilling Hearers (v. 7)
There can be no more difficult or painful duty than that of a preacher to
unwilling hearers. But it was seen in the case of Hebrew prophets; it was
illustrated in Christ’s brave dealings with the Pharisees and Sadducees; and
it must necessarily fall at times to the lot of every faithful Christian minister
in the present day.
TO ALL KINDS OF HEARERS. He cannot select his favorite audience.
He has no right to wait till men ask for his message. He is the herald sent
into the camp, who must declare the will of his Master, even though his
hearers are too busy with their work or amusement to give him attention,
or too unsympathetic to care to hear what he says. With most things the
supply is regulated by the demand. The farmer will not grow more corn
than the people need for food; the manufacturer turns out the largest
quantity of those products that sell must widely. But this spirit of
commerce should not obtain any footing in the Christian Church. Yet, no
doubt, it has invaded the Church, and the temptation is to echo popular
cries from the pulpit, and to bow to the will of the pew. Many people ask
for short sermons, restive under the strain of attention to more lengthy
discourses. Some wish for pleasant, cheerful themes; they are particularly
desirous that no demands shall be made on their thinking faculties; they
would luxuriute in sweet, soothing fancies. Then the temptation is to
concede what is thus demanded. That is to lower the claims of truth. In this
region it is necessary to create the right hunger, and here the supply must
precede and exceed the demand. The negligence of the people is no reason
for the preacher’s reticence.
DIVINE OBLIGATIONS AND ON HUMAN NEEDS.
Ø Divine obligations. The preacher is not the slave of his people, but the
servant of God. If he is sent to speak for God, a burden of
responsibility is laid upon him. Moreover, he is the custodian of truth.
Truth seeks the daylight and the free air. Men have no right to imprison
her because her presence in the busy world is sometimes unwelcome.
GOD’S TRUTH must be brought even where it is not sought, even
where it is hated and rejected.
Ø Human needs. They who are most reluctant to hear a message from
Heaven most need that message, for their very indifference or
opposition is a sign of that state of alienation which God is seeking
to overcome. If the family were awake when the house was on fire
there would be no necessity for the watchman to call to them. But
in their sleep is their great danger. Just because they are indifferent
they most need to be warned.
THE FAITHFUL DELIVERY OF HIS MESSAGE. Mark this — the
delivery must be faithful. There is a snare for the preacher in our subject.
He may lay the charge of the failure of his message against his hearers,
when he ought to have taken it home to himself. Though he cannot
command success, it is his duty to aim at it and to labor for it with the
utmost assiduity. Possibly the message has not been rightly apprehended by
him nor wisely and affectionately commended to the people. He may have
been indolent in preparation. He may have been cold or stern, haughty or
aloof from his hearers, when he should have approached them in a loving
brotherly way. (“Speaking the truth in love” – Ephesians 4:15). Or his own
heart may not have opened to receive the message. How, then, can he expect
his hearers to be interested in it? One cold heart can inspire no warmth in
other cold hearts. But when the preacher has done his best in the strength
of God, he must leave his message. At this point the responsibility shifts
to the hearers. Even the words of him who spake as never man spake
sometimes fell by the wayside and on stony ground. (John 7:46; Luke
8:5,12). What wonder if ours seem to fail? The apparent failure of the
faithful is indeed no real failure; the words may fail, but the man has
not failed, for he has done his duty — and no man can do more than that.
8 “But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou
rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I
give thee.” Be not thou rebellious, etc. The words convey a warning
against the prophet’s natural weakness. Instinctively he shrank, as Moses
had done (Exodus 3:11; 4:10-13) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) and
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6), from his dread vocation of being a “mortal
vessel of the Divine Word.” In so shrinking he would identify himself with
the very “rebellion” which he was sent to reprove, and would incur its
punishment. Eat that I give thee. As in the parallel of Revelation 10:9,
the words imply that what was to be given him was no message resting, as
it were, on the surface of the soul. It was to enter into the prophet’s
innermost life, to be the food and nourishment of his soul; to be, in our
familiar phrase, “inwardly digested” and incorporated with his very flesh
and blood. He was to live “not by bread only” (Deuteronomy 8:3,
Matthew 4:4), but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of
Faithful among the Faithless (v. 8)
Ezekiel is to go among the rebellious people; but he is to be most careful
not to rebel himself against the will of God. Though he stand alone, yet he
must be true.
There is a subtle poison in the atmosphere of evil society. No doubt Christ
instituted His Church in part that His followers might be lifted out of the
malarious regions of sinful associations, and drawn into a more wholesome
climate of saintly companionship. Ezekiel was scarcely allowed any such
help from Church fellowship. Like Nehemiah, he had to stand alone and
face the current of rebellion. Then, beyond the unconscious temptation to
go with the multitude to do evil, there was a very visible danger in the case
of Ezekiel (“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” – Exodus 223:2).
He was called to testily against his brethren with such a
message that they would turn against him like so many scorpions. He was
to find himself in a border of thorns as the penalty of his fidelity (see v. 6).
Although this visible persecution is now rare, the spirit of it is not dead,
and there are places still where the faithful must stand alone and be made
to smart severely for their integrity. How often this is the case with one
high-principled Christian young man in a house of business where the
methods of conducting trade and amusement both assail his fidelity! It is
hard to be faithful under such circumstances. Yet the duty does not cease.
The rebellion of others is no excuse for us also to rebel.
Ø Extraordinary fidelity. Ezekiel was not only warned not to rebel in the
exact manner of his fellow countrymen. He had a higher command laid
upon him than any that was imposed upon them. They were only
required to keep the general Law of God; he was commissioned to a
special task of difficulty and danger in a prophet’s career, and his
faithfulness was to consist in his not rebelling against this great task.
The most honored servants of God are those who are set in the posts
of greatest danger and required to discharge the most arduous service.
Brave men leap to such service and danger in human pursuits, eagerly
volunteering to join expeditions into the heart of
for the north pole. Some, too, are as eager in God’s service. These
are God’s heroes.
Ø Superhuman aid. Ezekiel was a man of God, a man of faith and prayer.
Hence his power to be faithful. To stand faithful we must feel the
influence of God’s grace. It is possible to be
“True as the needle to the pole,
Or as the dial to the sun,”
because needle and dial shadow follow great commanding influences.
is a mighty encouragement to the weak. He can be a nucleus about which
they can cluster, although they would never have had strength to stand
without his great personality. Like a lighthouse in a wild and wintry night,
the solitary example of fidelity sheds its encouraging rays far out to the
darkness round about. For example:
Joseph in immoral
Daniel in unprincipled
Paul at wicked
these men are beacon lights shining down the ages. It is worth the cost of
all the hardship of exceptional trials of fidelity to become such
magnificent inspiring influences for all time.
God’s Ambassador a Warrior (vs. 6-8)
The path of duty, since the Fall, is never smooth. We may have an inward
sense of delight — tranquil satisfaction, arising from the approval of
conscience and the smile of God — but from without we must expect
sharp opposition. There is demand for vigilance, skill, and courage.
God are not easily induced to return. The tree that has grown wildly
crooked, cannot readily be restored to straightness and shape. Those who
have abandoned the paths of truth and righteousness, sadly degrade their
original nature. The cedars are reduced to thorns and briers. Sinners are
unprofitable and injurious in the world — a curse to society. They bear no
fruit, or only sour and poisonous fruit. They choke the promise of better
things. Or they are like scorpions, bent only on mischief. Originally lords of
nature, they have sunk to the level of the meanest insects. There is poison
in their crafty words. There is a danger in their very looks.
God’s servants fear? Our adversaries’ words are mere breath. Not a
particle of power have they but such as is permitted them by our Master.
While they open their mouths in loud boasting, the finger of death is
loosening the silver cord within. As the mighty God hath said to the angry
waves, so hath He said to these, “Thus far shall ye go, and no further”
(Job 38:11). They may loudly bark, but it is seldom they have power to bite.
The fierce opposition of the ungodly may turn to our good; it may and ought
to develop our courage. The severer the conflict, the more strength we may
gather, and the greater will be our triumph. As they are so zealous in a bad
cause, how much more zealous should we be in the very best of enterprises?
folly and rebellion, our only weapon is to be “the sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “Thou shalt speak my
words unto them” (v. 7). If they meet us with contempt and malice,
we have but to repeat in calmer tones, and with undisturbed patience,
the same facts — the message from the lips of God. Any addition of
ours, however suitable it may seem, only weakens the force of the message.
We must see to it that the edge of the weapon is not blunted by our own
carelessness. Our only concern should be that we do speak all the counsel
of God — that it is the Word of God, both in substance and form, which
that rebellions house.” One foe within the camp is more injurious than a
thousand outside. If a germ of disease be in the medicine, it will invalidate
all its efficacy. Rebellion assumes a myriad forms. It is a hydra with more
than a hundred heads.
Ø Listlessness in hearing the heavenly commission,
Ø a tampering with its fixed terms,
Ø a rash attempt to improve the Divine original,
these and such-like acts are seed germs of rebellion in the soul!
“If the salt be deprived of its savor” (Matthew 5:13), wherewith shall the
corruptions of the world be purged out? An unfaithful ambassador adds
fresh aggravation to the revolt of a province. Sin is a contagious evil.
9 “And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a
roll of a book was therein;” An hand was sent (put forth, Revised Version)
unto me, etc. Apparently the hand was not that of the human form seated on
the throne (ch.1:26), nor of one of the four living creatures (Ibid. v.8),
but one appearing mysteriously by itself, as in the history of Belshazzar’s
feast (Daniel 5:5). The words connect themselves with the use of the
hand stretched out of a cloud as the symbols of the Divine energy both in
Jewish and Christian art. The writer has in his possession a Jewish brass
tablet, probably of the sixteenth century, commemorating the legend of the
miraculous supply of oil at the Feast of the Dedication, in which such a
hand appears as pouring oil into the seven-branched candlestick, or lamp,
of the temple. Lo, a roll of a book, etc. The words remind us of the
volume, or roll, in Psalm 40:7; Jeremiah 36:2; Zechariah 5:1;
like those which are still used in Jewish synagogues.
10 “And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without:
and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and
woe.” It was written within and without. Commonly such rolls,
whether of vellum or papyrus, were written on one side only. This, like the
tables of stone (Exodus 32:15), was written, as a symbol of the fullness
of its message, on both sides. And as he looked at the roll thus “spread
before” him, he saw that it was no evangel, no glad tidings, that he had
thus to identify with his work, but one from first to last of lamentations,
and mourning, and woe. Jeremiah had been known as the prophet of
weeping, and was about this time (probably a little later) writing his own
Lamentations (the Hebrew title of the book, however, is simply its first
words) over the fall of
nature. The word meets us again (ch. 19:1, 14; 26:17; 27:2, 32; 28:12; 32:2,16)
as the keynote of his writings. Out of such a book, though the glad tiding
s were to come afterwards, his own prophetic work was to be evolved.
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