Ezekiel 2

 

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.

 

  • GOD SPEAKING. God speaks to Ezekiel:

 

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

WRITTEN BIBLE!

 

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.

 

  • MAN LISTENING. Speech is useless without a hearer. For ages the

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.

 

  • THE SPIRIT OF GOD ENTERS MAN. We can never fathom the

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

thoughts.

 

  • THE DIVINE SPIRIT ENTERS THROUGH THE DIVINE WORD.

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.

 

  • THE ENTRANCE OF THE SPIRIT IS A SOURCE OF

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

Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and

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. Judah

and Israel may be thought of as having fallen to the level of the heathen.

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

Judah and the remnant of the northern kingdom. They and their fathers.

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;

Joshua 22:18).

 

 

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 Israel, he seemed to degrade

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

Israel as representative of the human race, in respect to this lamentable

charge of rebellion, which may certainly be brought against mankind at

large.

 

  • REBELLION IMPLIES ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO ARE

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.

 

  • REBELLION IMPLIES A JUST AUTHORITY AGAINST WHICH,

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)

 

  • REBELLION AGAINST GOD INVOLVES GREAT GUILT AND

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

history of Israel has it been shown that they who resist Divine authority

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)

 

  • MAN’S GUILTY REBELLION PROMPTED INFINITE MERCY

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

ETERNAL LIFE!

 

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 Israel are regarded as a vassal nation that has added

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.

 

  • TRANSGRESSORS RIPEN INTO REBELS. They and their fathers

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

within him.

 

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

impenitent.

 

  • GOD DOES NOT NEGLECT HIS REBEL CHILDREN.

 

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

worthless rebels.

 

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

for himself.

 

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)

 

  • THE DISTRESS. Ezekiel lay on no bed of roses. His messages of stern

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

words.

 

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 mans 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

own hearts.

 

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.

 

  • THE DUTY. Though scorpions infest the sphere of his labors, still the

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

of Brighton, whose sensitive spirit was assailed by a scorpion press

during his lifetime, is now recognized as a prince of Divine teachers;

while the very names of his enemies — happily for them — are

forgotten.

 

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:

 

  • a ground of encouragement in the fact that the words would be given

by Jehovah (compare Jeremiah 1:7, 17; Matthew 10:19-20); and

 

  • a warning against the intermingling of lower thoughts and a self-originated

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.

 

  • IT IS THE DUTY OF THE PREACHER TO DELIVER A MESSAGE

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.

 

  • THE DUTY TO PREACH TO UNWILLING HEARERS RESTS ON

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 RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PREACHER IS LIMITED TO

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

Jehovah.

 

 

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.

 

  • A SEVERE TRIAL. It is difficult to be faithful among the faithless.

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.

 

  • A LOFTY DUTY.

 

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 Africa or in search

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.

 

  • A SPLENDID EXAMPLE. One faithful man among a host of traitors

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:

 

Ø      Joseph in immoral Egypt,

Ø      Daniel in unprincipled Babylon,

Ø      Paul at wicked Rome,

Ø      Luther at Worms,

Ø      Latimer at Oxford,

 

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.

 

  • OPPOSITION FORESEEN. Men who have long time departed from

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 worlda 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.

 

  • COURAGE DEMANDED. “Be not afraid of them.” Why should

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?

 

  • THE ONLY WEAPON PERMITTED. In this conflict with human

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

we utter. 

 

  • AN INSIDIOUS DANGER EXPOSED. “Be not thou rebellious like

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

beforehim, 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 Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s work was to be of a like

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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