Ezekiel 33



1 “Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,”

If we may think of Ezekiel as compiling and arranging his own

prophecies, we may think of him as returning, with something like a sense

of relief, to his own special work as the watchman of the house of Israel.

For upwards of two years the messages which it had been given him to

write (how far they were in any sense published we have no means of

knowing) in chapters 25-32., had dealt exclusively with foreign nations.

Now his own people are again the object of his care. He resumes his

pastoral office at once for warning and consolation. From this point

onwards, with the exception of the strange Meshech-Tubal episode in

chapters 38 and 39, all is leading onwards to the final vision of the rebuilt

temple, and the redistributed land of Israel, and through them to the times

of the Messianic restoration. No date is given here for the word of the

Lord which now came to him, but it may, perhaps be inferred, from vs. 21-22,

that it was immediately before the arrival of the messenger who brought the

tidings that Jerusalem was taken. In the ecstatic state indicated by

“the hand of the Lord” he knew that some great change was coming,

that he had a new message to deliver, a new part to play.


2 “Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them,

When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take

a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:  3 If when he seeth

the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;

4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not

warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be

upon his own head.  5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not

warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver

his soul.”  Speak to the children of thy people. (On the force of the

possessive pronoun, see note on ch. 3:1.) The formula is carried on

throughout the chapter (vs. 12, 17, 30). Set him for their watchman.

Ezekiel falls back upon the thought of ch. 3:17, but the image is

expanded with characteristic fullness. The function of the watchman, in

which he sees a parable of his own office, is to stand upon his tower

(II Samuel 18:24-25; II Kings 9:17; Habakkuk 2:1), to keep his eye on

the distant horizon, and as soon as the clouds of dust or the gleam of armor

gives notice of the approach of the enemy, to sound the trumpet of alarm

(Amos 3:6; Hosea 8:1; Jeremiah 4:5; 6:1), that men may not be

taken unawares. If he discharge that duty faithfully, then, as in ch.3:17-21,

the blood of those that perish through their own negligence shall

rest on their own head.


6 “But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the

trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take

any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but

his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.  7 So thou, O son of man,

I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt

hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.  8  When I say unto

the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to

warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity;

but his blood will I require at thine hand.  9  Nevertheless, if thou warn the

wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall

die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”

But if the watchman: etc. The words imply what we might

almost call the agony of self-accusation. The prophet asks himself whether

he has acted on the warning which was borne in on his mind at the very

beginning of his mission. Has he sounded the trumpet? Has he warned the

people of the destruction that is coming on them? The outward imagery

vanishes in v. 7. It is of no Chaldean invader that the prophet had to give

personal and direct warning, but of each man’s own special sin which was




The Watchman (vs. 1-9)


Ezekiel here returns to an idea which he has expressed earlier (ch.3:17).

He stands as a watchman for his people. Every Christian preacher

and teacher is in a similar position. The same may be said of every

Christian man and woman who knows the peril of sin and has an

opportunity of warning the ignorant and. careless.




Ø      To watch. In order to serve his people he must first of all see for

himself.  We can only teach men what we have first learned. The

prophet must be a seer, the apostle a disciple, the missionary a

Christian. To watch means:


o       to be awake while others sleep;

o       to fix attention while others are listless;

o       to look abroad while others are satisfied with what they can

see at home.


The Christian watchman must be spiritually alert; he must not be

satisfied with his own notions; he must sweep the horizon of truth;

he must consider the distant and the future, but chiefly that which

is approaching and of practical moment. He must look especially

in two directions:


o       nto the revealed truths of Christianity, to see indications of the

principles of life and death;

o       into the actual world, to note its condition. Knowledge of men

must go with knowledge of Scripture. The Christian teacher

must not be a mere bookworm or cloistered student; he must

know the world — men and affairs.


Ø      To warn. Having seen danger, the watchman must at once inform the

city of the fact. He must wake the slumbering guard, blow the trumpet, or

run to the belfry and sound the alarm. The Christian teacher is to warn as

well as to comfort and exhort (I Thessalonians 5:14).


  • THE LIMIT OF HIS RESPONSIBILITY. The watchman has but to

watch and warn. When he has been quick to detect approaching danger,

perhaps at first but as a faint cloud of dust on the horizon, and vigorous in

blowing his trumpet to rouse the city, his part is done. He cannot meet the

foe in the plain and prevent them from approaching the city. He cannot

man the walls and guard the citadel. He can but blow his trumpet. Further,

if the people will not heed or believe him, he cannot compel them to

prepare for the conflict. If they still prefer their couches to their swords,

the watchman cannot force them to arm. He is not the commander of the

city. The greatest Christian teacher is but a watchman. No servant of Christ

can compel men to turn from their carelessness and face the stern facts of

life. If they will not hearken to faithful expostulation, the preacher can do

no more for them. They are free, and they must choose for themselves.


Ø      This is a warning to the careless. They may refuse to attend. They can

fall asleep again, vexed at the rousing trumpet-blast. But if they do this

it is at their own peril.


o       The danger is not the less because it is neglected.

o       The folly and sin of negligence aggravate the faults of those

who give no heed to warning. Now they are without excuse.

They can blame no one but themselves.


Ø      This is a consolation for the faithful watchman. If he is a true man, he

must grieve over his negligent hearers. Still, his Master will recognize his





Ø      It is failure in a trust. The citizens sleep in time of peril, and no one

expects them to be on guard. But the watchman’s special duty is to be

awake and give warning. He who is entrusted with responsibility is

expected to be true to his charge.


Ø      It is sin against light. The watchman sees the danger which the sleeping

citizens do not perceive. His knowledge adds to his responsibility. His

sin is but negative, he gives no false news, he does not play the traitor by

opening the gates to the enemy. Yet he is unfaithful.


Ø      It is negligence that hurts others. It risks a whole city. We risk the

welfare of all whom we might help to save, if we fail to warn them.

Fear of disturbing their peace is no excuse. The watchman must have

courage to sound the alarm. There are times when the harp must be

exchanged for the trumpet. The preacher must have courage to say

unpleasant things.



Ministerial and Individual Responsibility (vs. 1-9)


  • The Minister.  Those who have accepted the post of the Christian minister

today are in a very similar position to the Hebrew prophet. It is their province:


Ø      To keep well in view the movements of their time; to observe with great

care the advances which are made on the one hand, and the withdrawals

and retreats upon the other hand; to note with constant and sleepless

vigilance the temper and spirit, the tendency and current, of the time.


Ø      To understand and to interpret all that is passing, in the light of revealed

truth; to distinguish between a change of form and a decadence of life

or a departure from DIVINE TRUTH;  to know what attitude should be

taken up toward that which is new (Mr. Spurgeon says, “There is nothing

new but that which is FALSE.” – CY – 2014) and which approaches the

people of God with professions of good will, — whether of welcome or



Ø      To utter the voice of truth, which is (or should be) the voice of Christ,

with all promptitude, decision, earnestness, unflinching fidelity.

(“Speaking the truth in love” Ephesians 4:15 – CY – 2014)  He is only

responsible for speaking the truth faithfully; that done, his soul is

delivered (see vs. 5, 9).


The watchman who sleeps at his post or who fails to arouse his fellow citizens

when the enemy is in sight, is severely condemned (see vs. 6, 8).

The spokesman for God who does not “watch for souls as one that must

give account” (Hebrews 13:17), who has no deep feeling of the seriousness

of his position, and no abiding sense of the urgency and imperativeness of his

duty (“they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” – Amos 6:6), is

gravely at fault; so also is that watchman (minister) who perceives but who

does not speak, or who does not speak quickly, plainly, forcibly in the ears

of the people, — he will have an account to give, and a judgment to bear,

from which he may well shrink. But there is also:


  • The Duty of Individual Citizens.  This is very clear; it is to heed and to act.


Ø      To give earliest heed to the warning that is uttered, to consider well

whether it is not true and to have a mind prepared to receive the



Ø      To act immediately on conviction; to place a distinct distance

between themselves and the threatened evil; to keep the insidious

theory, the subtle falsehood, the dangerous half-truth well out of

their mind;  (The problem of our day – how to deal with “THE

LIE” of Satan, false professors, and deceptive media – along

the teaching of II Thessalonians 2:7-12 – This seems to be

happening on a large and rapid scale today!  The advice of

Peter on the Day of Pentecost is in order:  “Save yourselves

from this untoward generation.”  Acts 2:40 -CY – 2014)

to refuse any entrance to the perilous habit or the tainted

practice;  or, on the other hand, to welcome the old truth in its

new form, render the old service in the new method, (Sounds

contemporary to me – CY – 2014) as the more suitable and the

more excellent way.



Ø      “Every man must bear his own burden” here (Galatians 6:5).

No man can devolve it upon his religious teacher. Whether we, as

individual men and women, are assimilating Divine truth or are

appropriating deadly error; whether we are forming healthy and

life-preserving habits, or poisonous and pernicious ones; whether we

are moving up the incline of heavenly wisdom and Christian purity, or

descending the decline of folly and of wrong; whether we are exerting

an elevating and redeeming influence, or a depressing and degrading

one, upon our contemporaries and upon those who will succeed us —

this must depend very largely indeed on whom we hear, and how we hear.

Therefore let the Master say to us, “Take heed how ye hear: for whosoever

hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be

taken away even that which he seemeth to have [thinketh that he hath]”

(Luke 8:18).


10 “Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus

ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and

we pine away in them, how should we then live?” Thus ye speak, saying, etc.

At the earlier stage the prophet had to contend with scorn, incredulity, derision

(ch.12:22). They trusted in the promises of the false prophets (ch.13:6). They laid

to their soul the flattering unction that they were suffering, not for their

own sins, but for the sins of their fathers (ch. 18:2). Now they

stand face to face with the fulfillment of the prophet’s words. They cherish

no hopes, and they make no excuses. They have fallen into the abyss of

despair. Admitting their own sin and the righteousness of their punishment,

does not the very admission exclude hope? Who can bring life to those that

are thus dead in trespasses and sins? (Do we not remember our own plight

of which the Apostle Paul reminds us?  And you hath He quickened, who

were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to

the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the

spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also

we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling

the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of

wrath, even as others.  But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love

wherewith He loved us,  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us

together with Christ, [by grace ye are saved] – Ephesians 2:1-5 – CY – 2014). 

The parallelism with Leviticus 26:39-42  is so striking that it can scarcely be




A Question of Despair (v. 10)


  • THE CAUSE OF THE DESPAIR. The prophet has just been told that

his responsibility is limited to his warning the people faithfully. If the

watchman blows the trumpet lustily he can do no more. The blood of the

careless people will then be on their own heads. But this truth, which gives

consolation to the prophet, is alarming to the people. IT IS MEANT TO

BE SO!  Yet the alarm may be taken in a wrong way. Instead of rousing

themselves to meet and overcome the danger, the people may sink down

paralyzed in the blankness of despair. The explanation of this despair is

suggested by the language of the people.


Ø      A consciousness of guilt. The people perceive that their transgressions

and their sins are upon them. The pilgrim feels the weight of his burden.

The sudden awakening of an evil conscience plunges its possessor into

midnight darkness. The new thing is not to know that wickedness was

done; that knowledge was always possessed, though hitherto not much

considered. It is to know that the sins still rest upon their doer, i.e. it is

the feeling of present guilt for past deeds of wickedness.


Ø      An experience of the consequences of sin. “And we pine away in them.”

The death-penalty of sin does not come like a flash of lightning. Sin is a

slow poison. It kills by a sort of spiritual consumption. With an awakening

conscience the man perceives himself to be in a spiritual decline. No

perception can be more provocative of despair.


  • THE QUESTION IT AROUSES. “How should we then live?” The

despair is not yet absolute, or it would not suggest such a question as this.

The most awful despair does not live in Doubting Castle. It is immured in a

black dungeon of certain negation. Possibly the question suggested does

not expect any answer. It sees no reply, and does not believe that any can

be given. The decline is so steadfast, and the disease of sin that causes it so

deep-rooted, that the despairing soul cannot look for deliverance, and the

question is a sort of expostulation offered to the prophet when he would

take a more hopeful view. Still it is a question, and therefore it leaves room

for an answer. It is much that men should be brought to ask such a

question. Too many do not perceive their danger, though they live in sin

unrepented and unrestrained. The question implies certain thoughts.


Ø      Sinners are in imminent peril of death. To those who are truly

awakened the prospect must be alarming. But the danger is not

the less for those who do not yet perceive it.


Ø      Men cannot save their own souls. These endangered people must

look elsewhere for safety. Unless salvation comes from above,



Ø      Men need light on the way of salvation. It is not visible to the eye of

sense; it cannot be discovered by thinking. The world needs a gospel.

The heathen pine away, not knowing the Divine source of life.


Ø      Christ answers the Question of despair with A GOSPEL OF HOPE!

The answer is suggested in the next verse (v. 11). It is completed in the

gospel of Christ.


11 “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in

the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and

live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O

house of Israel?”  The Divine Challenge  is a summons to repentance. Turn ye

for why will ye die?”   (v. 11)  Clearly repentance is an act which it is open to any

soul to render at once if he will.  Repentance is the turning of the heart and of the

will to God and righteousness; it is the act of the soul by which it turns away from

its evil course of godlessness and wrong-doing, and turns toward the Divine Father

with the full and fixed intention of henceforth serving Him in the ways of

righteousness. To do that which and and every soul may do and should do

WITHOUT A DAY’S DELAY!   God is summoning His disloyal servants (see

Acts 17:30).  “Why will ye die?” Why should we die, when:


  • Death means so sad and so great a sacrifice — the loss of a human

soul, capable of such beauty and such blessedness on the one hand,

and of such baseness and such misery on the other hand?


  • God has done such great things to save us; has so loved us as to give

His only begotten Son to die for us, and by His death to restore us.


  • The way of life is SO FREE AND SO OPEN TO US ALL!

 “Whosoever believeth...shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

(John 3:16)  “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.  And let him

that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take of the

water of life freely.”  (Revelation 22:17)


 12 “Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, 

The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the

day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall

not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness;

neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in

the day that he sinneth.  13 When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall

surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his

righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that

he hath committed, he shall die for it.  14 Again, when I say unto the wicked,

Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful

and right;” Say unto them, etc. To meet that despair the prophet has to

fall back on the truth which he had proclaimed once before (ch.18:32). He must

appear as uttering a message of pardon resting on the unchanging character of

THE GREAT ABSOLVER!   Now, as ever, it is true that He willeth not the

death of the wicked, that all punishment (in this world, at least) is meant to

 lead to REPENTANCE,  and that for those who repent there is the hope

of RESTORATION and of LIFE!   No righteousness in the past avails

against the transgression of the present (v. 12); but then also no

wickedness of the past prevails to shut out the penitent’s claim to pardon.

As a man is at any given moment, when the judgment comes on him, so is

he dealt with. In some sense, as in v. 13, the righteousness of the past

may become a stumbling-block. The man may trust in it, and be off his

guard, ceasing to watch and pray, and so the temptation may prevail.



God’s Desire for the World’s Salvation (v. 11)


This is a Divine oath. God swears by His own life (see Hebrews 6:13).

This shows how certain are the words spoken, how earnestly God desires

men to accept them, why is it so  difficult for men to believe them.




reprobation were once popular. People thought that God destined the

greater part of mankind to eternal misery before they were born, in order

to magnify His own glory. The heathen have had ideas of gods who

delighted in blood. Christians have thought that there is a certain Divine

satisfaction in taking vengeance on the sinner. Consider the causes of these



Ø      Divine warnings. God warns sternly. Hence He is thought to will

harshly.  It is supposed that He desires to do what He threatens.


Ø      The analogy of human passions. With man “revenge is sweet.”

Therefore it is thought to be so with God. Men act too much in order to

please themselves. Therefore they imagine that God does the same.

(“…thou thoughtest  that I was altogether such an one as thyself:

but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”

(Psalm 50:21)


Ø      The experience of Divine judgments. They are at times so sweeping and

wholesale, and escape from them seems to be so hopeless, that their

victims are tempted to regard them as the outcome of God’s own desires.





Ø      This is positively affirmed. Here it is stated on oath. No truth of

revelation is more clear or positive than this.  (Also see II Peter 3:9)


Ø      It is true to the character of God. God is love, and love can have no

pleasure in suffering and death. God is our Father, and a true father can

have no pleasure in the death of his children.


Ø      It is confirmed by the action of God, who has sent His Son to save the

world (John 3:16).  While death is the wages of sin, the gift of God is

the opposite, ETERNAL LIFE! (Romans 6:23)  The New Testament

is a grand contradiction to theological pessimism.



WILLS. “Why will ye die?” He wills to die who wills the means of death.

The man who takes poison takes his life. When the process is revealed this

is done openly. When it is not seen it is still done. The sinner then wills his

own death, though unwittingly, by deliberately choosing the course that

will certainly issue in it. Now, this is a matter of a man’s own volition. So

absolute is the territory of will that the wicked may yet die in their sins,

although God not only does not desire their death, BUT EARNESTLY

DESIRES THEIR SALVATION!  The awful freedom of man’s will —

this is the rock on which universalism breaks.




Ø      It is possible for all to live. As the sinner chooses his own death, so the

means of life-deliverance are within his reach. He cannot save himself,

but he may choose whether he will be saved.  (Anyone can look!

I recommend three sermons by Charles Hadden Spurgeon from

Isaiah 45 – Life for a Look; Sovereignty and Salvation; The Life

Look – this web site – CY – 2014)


Ø      The condition of life is conversion. “Turn ye from your evil ways.” This

is true repentance. It means more than regretful tears. It takes place in the

will, not merely in the emotions. A tearless change is true conversion, while

weeping without change is worthless sentiment. Yet this does not require

perfect conquest of evil and a full recovery from it before God will have

mercy. We are to turn round. The progress up the hill to light and life has

yet to be made. Repentance sets our faces in the right direction.


Ø      God urges and entreats sinners to TURN and LIVE! This shows:


o       their great danger;

o       God’s wonderful compassion and love; and yet

o       the difficulty of inducing men to repent.


Thus God still pleads in infinite pity with His LOST CHILDREN!   Happy are they




The Vanity of Transitory Goodness (vs. 12-13)


The ministers of religion are often pained and sometimes discouraged by

instances, such as are here referred to, of that goodness which is “as the

morning cloud and the early dew, which soon goeth away.”  (Hosea 6:4; 13:3)



SUPERFICIAL. Like the seed growing upon rocky soil, it springs up

rapidly, and its show is fair; but the reality has no correspondence to the

appearance. Impressible, easily influenced, and fickle natures are the soil

upon which this growth is observed.





Ø      trusts to his own righteousness,

Ø      commits iniquity, and

Ø      transgresses the Divine Law.


o       Temptation assails,

o       persecution terrifies,

o        ridicule overcomes,

o       evil example persuades;


and then the weak character yields, unable to endure the probation. Such cases

are frequent in the experience of all who work for God and have to deal with

a variety of human character and disposition.




character of a man is regarded as a whole, and is not judged by any partial

aspects or manifestations. Because a man has had good feelings or has

performed good acts, it does not follow that he is a good man. It is life,

and not any one day of life, which is the true period of probation. A virtue

that cannot endure temptation is no true virtue. “He that endureth to the

end shall be saved.”  (Matthew 24:13)


Therefore, we must be fortified against inevitable temptation, and especially the

young and inexperienced need to WATCH  and to PRAY, and to take unto them

THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD!  (Ephesians 6:10-18)


15 “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed,

walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall

surely live, he shall not die.  16 None of his sins that he hath committed

shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right;

he shall surely live.”  If the wicked restore the pledge. In ch.18:7, 12, 16,

this and its opposite had been grouped with other forms of good and evil.

Here it stands out in solitary preeminence. The reason may possibly be

found in the fact that a time of exile and suffering was likely to make the

sin, which the penitent thus showed that he had renounced, a specially

common one. The starving man pledged his garment or his tools for the

loan of money or of food at a price far below its value. There was a real

self-sacrifice, a proof of the power of the faith that worketh by love, when

the creditor restored it. The primary duty, when a man turned from evil,

was, as far as in him lay, to overcome his besetting sin and make restitution

for the past. Compare the words of the Baptist (Luke 3:12-14), and

those of Zacchaeus (Ibid. ch. 19:8). The statutes of life. The words are

used as in ch.20:11 and Leviticus 18:5, on the assumption that,

if a man kept the statutes, he should (in the highest sense of the word) live

in them. It was reserved for the fuller illumination of Paul, taught by a

representative experience to proclaim the higher truth that the Law,

ordained for life, was yet the minister of condemnation and death unless

there was something higher than itself to complete the work which it could

only begin (Romans 7:10; 8:3; compare also Hebrews 7:19).



Past and Present (vs. 12-16)



principle underlying the various very clear statements of the passage. It is a

principle that is needed in order to balance the influence of other principles

that appear to work in an opposite direction. Indeed, at first sight it seems

to be contradictory to some well-known laws. Is it not repeatedly asserted

that a man will be judged by his past life? The sins of the past may be

forgotten, but they stand recorded in the book of judgment and the guilt of

them remains on the sinner  (Revelation 20:12).  How, then, is it possible

for the present and future to be free from the past?


Ø      The past lives by its effects in the present. If, however, by effort of will,

aided by Divine grace, we neutralize the bad past, then that past is slain.

Ø      Forgiveness removes the guilt of the past.

Ø      Past innocence has no power in it to prevent present sin. It is a help in

that direction, for it works through the force of habit. But habit may be

resisted and broken.



are judged chiefly, at all events, by what we are, rather than by what we

were. Moreover, there is no possibility of our having acquired an extra

stock of merit in the past which we can set off against our present failing.

We never have a balance on the credit side of our account with Heaven. At

our best we are but “unprofitable servants’ (Luke 17:10). An employer

cares little for old testimonials. He must see a certificate of character up to

date. If a man has borne an excellent reputation for years, and at last breaks

down and disgraces himself, he is said to have “lost his character.” His

good name in the past now counts for nothing. It is utterly gone. Now, the

practical warning that issues from these considerations is that we must take

good heed to our present life. It is of no use to hark back to the day of

conversion for assurance. We may long have left the good beginnings of

that day. There is no security in past service, position in the Church, etc.

We need to be on our guard against falling, even to the last. It is possible

to turn aside at the eleventh hour. The ship may be wrecked in sight of the

haven; then her passengers will not be saved by their memory of their long

prosperous voyage.



Happily, the principle works both ways. If we must first take it as a

warning against trusting in a good past, we may also consider it as a reason

for not despairing on account of a bad past.


Ø      The bad past may be forsaken. The grace of Christ will help us to

break loose from the tyranny of habit.


Ø      The bad past may be forgiven. THE LAMB OF GOD who taketh

away the sin of the world removes the stains of guilt from penitent

souls. Then God will no more accuse them of the past. Pardon covers

the past with oblivion.  (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12)


Ø      The new present is what God observes. “If any man be in Christ, he is a

new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become

new” (II Corinthians 5:17). Then God only looks at the new life and

judges of that. Therefore we supremely need GRACE FOR THE

PRESENT MOMENT!  We live in the present. Religion is for the



17 “Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not

equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.  18 When the righteous

turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even

die thereby.  19 But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do

that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.  20 Yet ye say,

The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you

every one after his ways.”  The way of the Lord is not equal. The prophet now

proclaims what he had been taught, perhaps then, without proclaiming it, in

ch.18:25-30. Men are dealt with by the Divine Judge, not as their

fathers have been before them, not even as they themselves have been in

times past, but exactly as they are. Where could there be a more perfect

rule of equity? The question how far Ezekiel thinks of the judgment itself

as final, whether there is the possibility of repentance and pardon after it

has fallen, and during its continuance, is not directly answered. He is

speaking, we must remember, of a judgment on this side the grave, and

therefore what we call the problems of eschatology were not before him.

But the language of the document which lies at the basis of his theology

(Leviticus 26:41) asserts that if men repented and, “accepted” their

earthly punishment, then Jehovah would remember His covenant, and

would not destroy them utterly. And his own language as to Sodom and

Samaria (ch. 16:53) indicates a leaning to the wider hope. If the

problems of the unseen world had been brought before him, we may

believe that he would have dealt with them as with those with which he

actually came in contact, and that there also His words would have been,

“O house of Israel, O sons of men, are not my ways equal? are not your

ways unequal?”


The principles of God’s judicial action are such as it is hard for any reasonable man to

blame or dispute. “O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you after his way

 (v. 20).  Every man is to be judged individually, and every man is to be judged upon

his own conduct and his own character. These considerations have only to be amplified

and to be pondered, and they afford a convincing and satisfactory reply to the

objections of the critics in this verse!



      Men’s Misconception of God’s Government (vs. 10-20)



EQUITABLENESS. It is natural to suppose that luxurious prosperity is

due to our merits; and, if adversity visits us, we judge ourselves to be

hardly dealt with. Scarcely one man in a thousand realizes the fact that he

deserves nothing, and that the common benefits of air and food are the

unpurchased gifts of God. As soon as the suspension of Divine favors is

felt we are disposed to complain. We cannot conceive that we have

deserved such hardship. We see others, no more replete with virtue than

ourselves, enveloped in silk and purple, riding abroad in gilded chariots.

Does God really rule over the interests and fortunes of men? We have

abandoned some evil courses: is not God going to reward us for this? Still,

we can only think of our losses and our afflictions; we cannot see the

higher benefits God is bringing to us. Through our blinding tears we can

only see oppression and injustice. Through selfish tears we see only what

we have lost, not what we have gained. We would rather discover injustice

in God THAN INIQUITY IN OURSELVES.   Truly has it been said,

“There’s none so blind as those who will not see.”



PERDITION. The overthrow of a nation is something visible, impressive,

startling. Yet it is not the worse thing that can happen to a man. He may

have to transfer his political allegiance to another. He may have to live

under a different set of laws and institutions. He may have to quit scenes in

nature, with which he has been long familiar, for other scenes in a distant

land. This loss, dishonor, banishment, are intended to remind him that there

is a worse exile — an exile from his spirit’s home, an exile from the

kingdom of God, of which Canaan was but a symbol. To be compelled to

dwell among idolaters was a gracious chastisement, to make his spirit

recoil from the fear of dwelling forever among the foes of God.   In

ch. 32:19-32, ten times it is mentioned of being eternal companions of

the uncircumcised.”  And if the Hebrew exile took to heart the lesson,

that banishment to Babylon might become to him salvation.  (II

Chronicles 36:21)



WELL-BEING. The typical Jew was murmuring in Babylon that this

destruction of the nation was incompatible with God’s promise of life — a

promise founded on personal repentance. “If our transgressions and our

sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?”

(v.10)  Their idea of life was free life in Judea. God’s idea of life was their

return to allegiance and piety. “In His favor,” and in this alone, they could find

life.  Consequently, a penitent Jew could have found the highest life, even

while an exile in Babylon. If he personally felt and confessed his sin, if he

reposed  his soul on God’s great mercy, if he bowed his spirit to God’s will,

and walked humbly with his God, this was life of the noblest kind. And, like

a saint of later date, he could “rejoice even in tribulation.”  (Romans 5:3)

Better to dwell on Chebar’s banks in the society of Jehovah than to dwell

in the palaces of Jerusalem without God as a Friend. If God be my God,

 exile has no terror for me. Where God is, there is my heaven.



NOR TRADITIONAL. The foolish and hurtful idea dwelt in the minds of

the Jews that God’s former favor to them as a nation was a guarantee for

all future security. It was a species of antinomianism. Their maxim was,

“Once righteous, always righteous, notwithstanding our deeds.;’ They

imagined that they could not fall from their exalted position. It is marvelous

how deep-rooted in some minds this prejudice respecting traditional piety

becomes. But the fervid piety of former days will avail us nothing if faith

and love are now dead. It is only a living faith, a present submission, that

God accepts. And if our former faith and love have evaporated, there is

clear evidence that it was only a pretence, and not the reality. To be

accepted of God, and to be accounted worthy of heaven, I personally must

be righteous. The righteousness of the nation is nothing else than the

righteousness of the component parts. And unless I individually am

righteous in God’s esteem, I shall be rejected and condemned in the great

assize.  (That righteousness is only in Jesus Christ! – “And be found in

Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but  that

which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of

God by faith.”  - CY – 2014)



REPENTANCE. Repentance is the birth of right and honest feeling

towards God. Whether our past feelings and actions have been wrong by

way of omission or by way of guilty commission, the whole sin, greater or

less, will be candidly confessed. Repentance does not consist in excessive

grief, but in genuine turning — a complete change of mind. The repentant

man opens his mind to the light. He allows the light of truth to enter every

part of his nature. He yields to the light. He follows the light. He submits

his thought, his choice, his will, his life, to God his King. He welcomes the

indwelling and the in-working of the Holy Spirit. Righteousness is gradually

wrought into the warp and woof of his nature, and so he becomes the

righteousness of God through His Spirit.



PROOFS OF HIS COMPASSION.  Full well God knows that the

possession of perfect righteousness is the noblest possession any man can

acquire, and that this righteousness must begin in sincere and thorough

repentance. We have a thousand proofs of God’s compassion towards the

erring children of men. We have them especially in the gift of His only Son,

and in the gift of His Divine Spirit. But the crowning proof of His

compassion is in stooping to plead with men’s prejudices and pride. He

remonstrates and entreats as if he were the party about to be benefited.

Such self-forgetful love was never seen before on earth. IT IS


and the human heart relents, then a new wave of joy rolls through the realm

of heaven. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God.”  (Luke 15:10)



Charging God with Injustice (v. 17)



JUSTICE OF GOD’S ACTIONS. The moral character of Providence is of

immense importance. If God acted from caprice, there would be no ground

on which we could rely in approaching Him, and our whole lives would lie

at the mercy of chance. If He were unjust, the most fearful confusion would

result. OUR SECURITY lies in THE JUSTICE OF GOD, in our knowledge

that He will only do what is fair and equable and right. Though we depend

on the mercy of God, we cannot refrain from appealing repeatedly to His

justice.  We are much concerned to know that HE IS PERFECTLY JUST!



TO BE UNJUST. It certainly cannot be said that nature and providence are

clear revelations of Divine justice, so legibly written that he who runs may

read. The world abounds with inequalities. There are the greatest

differences in the lots of innocent children. Good men fall into adversity;

bad men prosper. The special ground of difficulty with the readers of

Ezekiel was that men of time-honored character were punished, while

notorious sinners were pardoned. This was apparently a matter of much

distress and doubt, leading to accusations against God for not acting

equally, i.e. fairly.





Ø      We do not know all the facts. We see a certain superficial condition;

what lies deeper is hidden. Possibly Ezekiel’s contemporaries did not

know of the fall of the men of good repute, or of the amendment of

their notoriously wicked acquaintances.  (See ch. 8:12,16)


Ø      We do not know all the principles on which God acts. They may be

ultimately based on justice, and yet they may be complicated with

various considerations. God is not only rewarding and punishing.


Ø      We do not know the true character of events.          



CHARACTER. Most people are reluctant to admit that characters are

susceptible of change. They label their acquaintances with certain moral

titles, and they refuse to allow that those titles are altered. At all events,

this is especially true in regard to changes for the worse in themselves and

in regard to alterations for the better in others. A man takes it for granted

that he will always be estimated according to his old good character. On

the other hand, the world is slow to believe in repentance and amendment.

It regards the pardon of the sinner as unreasonable, because it will not see

that when he repents he is no longer a sinner.



TO GOD’S ACCOUNT. “But as for them, their way is not equal.”

Straight lines look crooked when regarded through a crooked glass. To the

unjust man justice seems to be unjust. Sin gives an evil color to holiness.

Through man’s eyes, the righteousness of God is obscured by man’s





wasted in difficult theological speculations had better be spent in searching

self-examination. (“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove

your own selves”  II Corinthians 13:5).  While we are looking for a mote

in God’s eye, we fail to see the beam in our own eye — the beam that

caused us to fancy there was any mote in God’s eye at all! Theology is too

often an excuse for the neglect of religion, but difficulties in providence do

not destroy the guilt of sin.


21 “And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth

month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out

of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.”  In the twelfth year, etc.

The capture of Jerusalem took place in the fourth month of the eleventh year

(Jeremiah 39:2; 52:6) from the captivity of Jehoiachin and the beginning of

Zedekiah’s reign. Are we to assume some error of transcription? or is it within

the limits of probability that eighteen months would pass without any direct

communication from Jerusalem of what had passed there? There is, I conceive,

nothing improbable in what is stated. The exiles of Tel-Ahib were not on the

highroads of commerce or of war. All previous communications were cut off by

the presence of the Chaldean armies. In the words, one that had escaped,

the prophet clearly referred to the intimation given him at the time of his

wife’s death (ch.24:26). When the fugitive entered he saw that THE HOUR

HAD AT LAST COME!   One would give much to know who the fugitive

was, but we can only conjecture. Had Baruch been sent by Jeremiah to

bear the tidings to his brother prophet? Such a mission would have been a

fulfillment of Jeremiah 45:5. A later tradition ascribes to Baruch a

prominent part as a teacher among the exiles of Babylon (Baruch 1:2) shortly

after the destruction of Jerusalem.


22 “Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he

that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came

to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no

more dumb.” Now the hand of the Lord. When the messenger arrived he

found the prophet in a state of ecstasy. This was in the evening. In that

prophetic ecstasy his mouth was opened, and the long silence broken, and

though he had not heard the message with his outward ears, he had taken,

as it were, that message as his text. It was not till his discourse was ended,

and the morning came, that he himself heard the terrible tidings from the

lips of the messenger. Then a change came over him. He was no more

dumb. The long silence was broken. Had the silence lasted, we ask, from

ch. 3:26 onward? Had the whole intervening period been one of

simply symbolic action, and of written but unspoken prophecies? The

words at first suggest that conclusion; but it is traveled by the facts; by the

commands of ch. 12:10, 23; by the order to “prophesy” in ch.13:2; by the

message to speak unto the elders in ch.14:4; by the question, “Doth he not

speak parables?” of ch.20:49. I infer, therefore, that, though the silence had

been dominant, it had not been unbroken. To some, at least, a message had

been spoken. Others may have been allowed to read the written prophecies.

The death of the prophet’s wife tended, probably, to the continuance of the

silence, and it seems a legitimate inference from ch.24:27 that it had continued

from that date onward.


23 “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

24 Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel

speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we

are many; the land is given us for inheritance.”

They that inhabit thou wastes of the land. The utterance

that follows was probably the direct result of what Ezekiel heard from the

messenger. He it was who reported the boastful claims of those who had

been left in the land by the Chaldean armies — the “bad figs” of Jeremiah’s

parable, the least worthy representatives of the seed of Abraham, the

assassins of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:1-2), who in these “waste places,”

the dens and caves in which they found a refuge (or, it may be, the phrase

describes the condition of the whole country), led the lives of outlaws and

bandits. The very words of their boast are reproduced: “Abraham, when he

was yet but one, received the premise of inheritance. We are comparatively

many, and are left as the true seed of Abraham (compare Matthew 3:9).

The land is ours, and we will take possession of the estates of the exiles.”


Where no right of sonship exists, the number of claimants will not create it.

i.e. The Everybody’s Doing It Syndrome – CY – 2014).  The

right to Canaan was only conferred by God’s grace, and only held on

condition of faithfulness. It could be and it was withdrawn when that

condition was broken. The number who claimed the right could not affect

the question as to the desert of the people to retain it. No one merits the

kingdom of heaven. If millions claim the privileges of the kingdom, the

millions have no right to it. The number of sinners creates no right to have

the pardon of sin. If the whole world deserves destruction, the whole world

may be destroyed. Its numbers will not save it. If we appeal to God’s

grace, that applies to a single individual. Not a sparrow falls to the ground

without His notice (Matthew 10:29).  He has infinite love for the most obscure

of His subjects.  Therefore the multiplication of the number of the guilty will

not arouse his pity in a new and special manner.  (There is no safety in numbers!

CY – 2014).


Each individual must seek INDIVIDUAL GRACE!   We cannot be made citizens

of the kingdom of heaven en masse. We must go single file through the

strait gate.


There is room in the grace of God FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER! The

multitude of applicants can never be too great FOR INFINITE BOUNTY!

 The many can claim no rights. But the gospel is for them, not for the few.

Christ came to give HIS LIFE A RANSOM “for many” (Matthew 20:28).

(With God is “plenteous redemption” – Psalm 130:7 – He is good at it!
The song There is Room at the Cross for You has encouraged millions –
CY – 2014)
There's room at the cross for you,
There's room at the cross for you,
Tho millions have come, There's still room for one
Yes, there's room at the cross for you.
                                     (Ira F. Stanphill)


25 “Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Ye eat with

the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood:

and shall ye possess the land?” Ye eat with the blood. It is characteristic of

Ezekiel that the first offence which he names with horror should be a sin against

a positive commandment. He felt, as it were, a sense of loathing at what seemed

to him a descent into the worst form of pollution, forbidden, not to the Jews

only (Leviticus 17:10; 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16), but to mankind

(Genesis 9:4); compare the scene in I Samuel 14:32. The same

feeling shows itself in Zechariah 9:7 and Acts 15:20, 29. The

prohibition of blood took its place, in later Judaism, as among the precepts

of Noah, which were binding even on the proselytes of the gate, upon

whom, as distinct from the proselytes of righteousness, the rite of

circumcision was not enforced; and as such were accepted by the council at

Jerusalem, as binding also among Christian converts. Not for such as these

was the inheritance of Israel, and the prophet asks indignantly, after naming

yet more hateful offenses, Shall ye possess the land?


26 “ Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile

every one his neighbor’s wife: and shall ye possess the land?”

Ye stand upon your sword. The words point to the open

assertion of the law that might is right. Men relied on the sword, and on

that only, for their support. Assassinations, as in Jeremiah 41., were, so to

speak, as the order of the day. Ye work abomination. The noun, Ezekiel’s

ever-recurring word, indicates both the act of idolatry and the foul

orgiastic rites that accompanied it. The verb, curiously enough, has the

feminine suffix. Was it used intentionally, either as pointing to the

prominence of women in those rites (Jeremiah 44:15), or to the

degrading vices which involved the loss of true manhood (II Kings

23:7)? So some have thought; but I agree with Keil, Smend, and others, in

seeing only an error of transcription. Once more, after heaping up his

accusations, Ezekiel asks the question, “Shall ye possess the land?” “Are

you the seed of Abraham?”


27 “Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live,

surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him

that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and

they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.

28 For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength

shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none

shall pass through.  29 Then shall they know that I am the LORD,

when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their

abominations which they have committed.”  They that are in the wastes.

The words paint, with a terrible vividness, what was passing in Ezekiel’s

fatherland. Did the fugitives of Judah seek the open country? They were

exposed to the sword of the Chaldeans or of marauding outlaws. Did they

seek safety in fortresses or caves? They were exposed, crowded together

as they were under the worst possible conditions, to the ravages of pestilence.



The Powerlessness of Privilege to Save (vs. 23-29)


At length the prophet’s lips are opened; and he who for so long has been

dumb, so far as ministration to his own people was concerned, is set free to

testify to the sons of Abraham. While silenced as regards Israel, Ezekiel has

prophesied concerning the heathen nations. Now he again addresses his

countrymen, and it is interesting to observe to what purpose he uses his

recovered liberty of speech. Always candid, fearless, and faithful, the

prophet assures his countrymen that a position of privilege, regarded by

itself, is no guarantee of salvation and blessing, that privileges neglected

and abused only entail the severer condemnation.


  • ISRAEL’S PRIVELEGES. These were many, but Ezekiel makes

special reference to two.


Ø      The descent of the nation from Abraham, the father of the faithful

and the friend of God.


Ø      The promise of inheriting the land. This Jehovah had given to the

progenitors of the nation, and He had fulfilled His gracious assurance.

No people were so highly favored; they possessed the memory of their

glorious ancestors; the laws and promises given by Moses, their great

leader, deliverer, and legislator; the institutions of priesthood, sacrifice,

and worship, by which God revealed Himself to His people and secured

to them His mercy and favor; and all the associations and advantages

connected with the occupation of the land of promise.


  • ISRAEL’S UNFAITHFULNESS. The people had Abraham to their

father, but they did not the works of Abraham, and they had not

Abraham’s faith. The people did possess the land, but they did not use their

national privileges as they might have done, they did not make the land a

land of righteousness and true piety. The prophet, in this passage, refers to

faults and sins of two orders, with which the people are especially



Ø      idolatrous apostasy; and

Ø      moral delinquency,


both of which are charged upon the people with that outspoken plainness by

which Ezekiel’s writings are so strikingly and honorably marked.


  • ISRAEL’S PUNISHMENT. There is a certain monotony about these

threats and denunciations. Because of the abominations which these highly

favored people have committed, it is foretold:


Ø      That multitudes shall be slain by the sword of the enemy, by the wild

beasts that shall multiply because of the desolation of the land, and

by the pestilence.


Ø      That the country, in consequence of the calamities befalling its

inhabitants, shall be wasted. The pride and pomp of her power shall

cease, and her mountains shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.


  • ISRAEL’S WITNESS TO GOD. This is an unintentional and

unconscious witness, but nonetheless a valuable and effective testimony for

all who receive it. Those who see and hear of the fulfillment of the Divine

warnings and predictions cannot but have their faith confirmed in the truth

and power of the Most High, and in the righteousness of His dealings with

the sons of men. He is shown to be a Judge, from whose observation and

cognizance no misdemeanor can be screened, and from whose righteous



30 “Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking

against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak

one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you,

and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.

31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before

thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do

them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart

goeth after their covetousness.” The children of thy people. The words, like

those of ch.14:1 and 20:1, 49, throw light on the prophet’s relations to his

people. Now that the long silence was broken, and the prophet spoke with

greater freedom than he had ever done before, he acquired a fresh

notoriety. The character of his last utterance, vindicating, as it might seem,

the claim of the exiles to “possess the land,” as against that of the remnant

“in the wastes,” may even have made him popular. The Authorized Version

against is misleading; read, with the margin and the Revised Version,

about. There was for the time no open hostility. They talked much, in

places of private or public resort, of the prophet’s new action. Each invited

his neighbor to go and hear the prophet as he spake to them his message

from Jehovah. And they came as the people cometh, in crowds, even as

my people, the people of Jehovah, with reverent gestures and listening

eagerly. Never before, we may well believe, had the prophet had so large

or so promising a congregation. But he was taught to look below the

surface and to read their thoughts, and there he read, as preachers of all

ages have too often read after him, that they were hearers, and not doers

(Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:23-25). In words they showed much

love (the Septuagint gives “falsehood”), spoke pleasant things, but the root-evil,

the besetting sin, was still there. Their heart went after their covetousness

(compare Matthew 13:22; II Timothy 4:10).


32 “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a

pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear

thy words, but they do them not.” A very lovely song; literally, a song of love,

an erotic idyll, the word being the same as in v. 31. Yet this was the meaning

of the large gathering. They came to hear the prophet, as they would to hear a

hired singer at a banquet, like those of Amos 6:5. The prophet’s words

passed over them and left no lasting impression. All that they sought was

the momentary tickling of the sense. The words receive a special

significance from Psalm 137:3. The Jewish exiles were famous among

their conquerors for the minstrel’s art. The nobler singers refused to “sing

the songs of Zion in a strange land;” others, it may be, were not so

scrupulous. Had the prophet seen his people gather to listen to such a

singer? Were they better occupied when they were listening to his message

from Jehovah? “They do them not.”  They did not obey!  That was their defect;

there was found the fatal omission. They had not the spirit of obedience. We

know what the Master said on this subject (see Matthew 7:24-27). And

that which Jesus Christ especially and emphatically calls upon us to do,

which it is a fatal error to leave undone, is:


  • to come into close personal union with Him (Matthew 11:28-29;

John 6:35, 50-51; 15:1-7; I John 3:23);

  • to follow him in the path of purity, devotion, love.


33 “And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they

know that a prophet hath been among them.” When this cometh to pass.

The words can scarcely refer to the immediately preceding predictions in

vs. 27-28, which were primarily addressed to “the people in the waste places,”

the remnant left in Judah, and we have to go back to the wider, more general

teaching of vs. 10-20. That was the prophet’s message of judgment, his call to

repentance. When the judgment should come, AS IT SURELY WOULD,

 then they would know, in the bitterness of self-condemnation, that they had

been listening, not to a hireling singer, but to a prophet OF JEHOVAH!



Popular Preaching (vs. 30-33)


Ezekiel illustrates the characteristics of popular preaching in his own

person and example. He is also brought to see how vain and delusive the

attractiveness of it may be.




Ø      A good voice. Ezekiel’s preaching was “as a very lovely song of one that

hath a pleasant voice.” The first physical condition of preaching is to be

able to make one’s self heard. The story of Demosthenes declaiming with

pebbles in his mouth by the seashore shows how the Greeks valued good

articulation in oratory.


Ø      A graceful manner. Ezekiel was compared to a skilled player of music.

The human voice is a delicate instrument. The manner in which it is used

considerably affects the attractiveness of the speaker. An audience likes to

hear pleasant speaking.


Ø      Rhythmic utterance. The special charm of Ezekiel’s speech was

compared to song and music. There is a rhythm of thought as well as

of words. People do not enjoy rude shocks to their prejudices.


Ø      Imaginativeness. We have the substance of Ezekiel’s preaching, and

even in the reduced form of an abstract and a translation it teems with

imagery. People enjoy good illustrations. The concrete is more

interesting than the abstract.


Ø      Fervor. The popular description of Ezekiel’s preaching would do

injustice to the prophet if we were not able to supplement it with his

recorded utterances. Ezekiel was not an empty, mellifluous rhetorician.

He put his heart into his words. Though less pathetic than Hosea and

Jeremiah, and though falling short of the rapture of Isaiah, he was a

preacher of power and earnestness. Pleasant words cloy if forcible

words do not accompany them. Demosthenes the orator of force was

greater than Cicero the orator of grace.


Ø      Truth. Ezekiel spoke true words — words that were true to fact and life,

true to the heart of man, and true to the thought of God. There is a spell

in truth. To speak truth feebly may arrest attention when to clothe error

with all the charms of rhetoric fails.


Ø      Inspiration. Ezekiel was a prophet. He spoke under Divine influence.

This was the greatest cause of his power. The preacher needs to be a

prophet. He must drink of the Divine well if he would give forth words

of power.




Ø      Popularity is no proof of success. In his early preaching Ezekiel was

neglected (ch.3:7). But there came a turn in the tide, and then his

name was in everybody’s mouth, and people thronged to hear him.

Yet this was not success. There is no proof that a good work is being

accomplished, in the fact that crowds hang upon the utterances of a

famous speaker. It may be that he is prostituting his gifts, and catering

only for applause, to the neglect of truth and right, like Jeremiah’s

pleasant-speaking rivals (Jeremiah 23:16-17). But even if he speaks

like Ezekiel, like Ezekiel he may be to the people but a pleasant voice.


Ø      To be interested in preaching is no proof of truly benefiting by it.


o       There may be a social interest, in following the crowds who run

after a fashionable orator.

o       There may be an emotional interest, when the pulpit is taken as the

Sunday substitute for the stage, and people relieve the boredom of

common-place existence by indulging in the emotions stirred by


o       There may be an intellectual interest, when theological questions

are in vogue, as in Puritan times, when men discussed predestination

at the alehouse. Milton represents Satan and his crew debating deep

theological problems in hell. Their interest in theology did not save

them. We may be interested in the substance of preaching, and

anxious to learn truth, and yet still fail to receive the designed

good of the message.


Ø      Preaching fails if it does not lead to practice. Ezekiel’s hearers flatter

him with lip-thanks, and make verbal acknowledgments, of what he

says; but they go no further.


o       The heart is not touched. “Their heart goeth after their

covetousness.” (v. 31)

o       The conduct is not affected. “They hear thy words, but they do

them not.”  (v. 32)


Ezekiel agrees with James, that hearing without doing is vain (James 1:22). So

Christ teaches in His parable of the house on the sand and the house on the rock

(Matthew 7:24-27).



The Recognition of a Prophet (v. 33)



his people as a prophet, yet they did not admit his claim. This is the more

remarkable because they recognized the charm of his preaching, which had

become exceedingly popular. His higher ministry was still ignored. While

the common people heard Christ gladly, and confessed that “never man

spake like this Man”  (John 7:46).  His greatest message was ignored, and

His chief claim set aside by the multitude. God sometimes sends a prophet

to these later times. His gifts and powers are recognized, but the world is

slow to perceive that he brings A MESSAGE FROM GOD!


Ø      The deeper truth does not show itself in outward effects on the senses.

Ø      Men are too often out of all sympathy with spiritual truth.

Ø      A prophets words may refer to the future.





Ø      A prophet’s words are true. The mere utterance of lofty thoughts is of

little value if those thoughts are not true. The authority of a prophet



Ø      A true prophet’s words concern facts of life. They have not only to deal

with unseen verities; they also concern the application of those verities to

everyday experience. There they may be seen and tested. Religion bears

upon life. Its truth is illustrated by its working in the world. If our faith

will work, we have a good reason for believing that it is grounded in truth.


Ø      A prophet’s words will be tested by events. The false prophet will be

surely exposed. If people had not very short memories they would

observe how a succession of modern prophets have fixed near dates

for the accomplishment of predictions in Daniel and the Revelation;

the wave of time has wiped out these fatal dates, and yet the world

exists! On first thought we should think it a privilege to have been

contemporaries with the prophets-to have heard Isaiah preach, and

Ezekiel, and Hosea; to have listened to Peter and John and Paul;

above all, to have been in the throng that gathered on the shores of

the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was on earth.  Yet our present privileges

are really greater than any could have been under those circumstances,

because we have the grand confirmation of history.




Ø      Not to recognize him reveals spiritual callousness. The true prophet is

not only discerned by visible signs. We are required to “try the spirits

whether they are of God:  because many false prophets are gone out

 into the world.”  (I John 4:1). Thus it is possible to know whether a

man comes to us from God. At all events, we may judge by the present

moral and spiritual results of teaching. Without waiting for historical

events, “by their fruits  ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20), in their

influence on present-day life. It is to the disgrace of the Church that

some of her best teachers have been tabooed as heretics or neglected

with chilling indifference.


Ø      Not to recognize him means to miss a golden opportunity. For a prophet

to have been among us, and yet not to have been recognized, means a sad

loss. He may have been popular as a preacher, yet we have grieved his

heart if we have not acknowledged his Divine mission. When it is too late

this is seen. No sooner is the persecuted or neglected prophet departed

than a chorus of praises springs up around his grave. It would have been

better to have hearkened to his living words. Men build the tombs of dead

prophets, and stone their living successors.


The Fall in Eden is an old story, yet it is repeated every day in our midst.

Each one of us is in a garden of privilege. To each of us daily comes Divine

commands and Divine prohibitions. The path by which we may rise to

higher things, yea, to a higher life, lies open before us. It is straight and

clearly seen. The path which runs downward to destruction is hard by.

(“The way of the transgressors is hard  - Proverbs 13:15).  The

tempter is still busy with his seductive whispers and false blandishments.


 viz. whether we will listen to the voice of God or to the wily voice of the devil.

Conscience or inclinationWHICH SHALL RULE US?




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