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
relief, to his own special work as the watchman of the
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
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
“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
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
bringing RUIN ON HIMSELF AND ON HIS COUNTRY!
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).
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
Ministerial and Individual Responsibility (vs. 1-9)
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:
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]”
10 “Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of
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)
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.
despair is not yet absolute, or it would not suggest such a question as this.
The most awful despair does not
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,
IT CANNOT BE HAD!
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
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:
soul, capable of such beauty and such blessedness on the one hand,
and of such baseness and such misery on the other hand?
His only begotten Son to die for us, and by His death to restore us.
“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.
HAS NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF THE WICKED. Doctrines of
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.”
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.
OF THE WICKED.
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
who HEAR HIS GRACIOUS CALL and RESPOND TO IT!
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.
IS MADE APPARENT. The man:
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.
REMEMBERED, AND AVAILS NOTHING IN GOD’S SIGHT. The
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
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
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
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
The principles of God’s judicial action are such as it is hard for any reasonable man to
blame or dispute. “O house of
(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
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
typical Jew was murmuring in
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
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
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
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
DISTINCTIVE OF OUR REDEEMING GOD! And when He succeeds,
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
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
WAYS INSTEAD OF JUICING GOD’S WAYS. The trouble that is
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
The capture of
(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
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
after the destruction of
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
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
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
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
was the inheritance of
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
sentence NO CRIMINAL CAN ESCAPE!
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
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:
John 6:35, 50-51; 15:1-7; I John 3:23);
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
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
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.
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
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 prophet’s words may refer to the future.
HIS WORDS IS CONFIRMED BY EVENTS.
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
resides in THE TRUTH OF HIS MESSAGE!
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
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
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.
EVERYTHING IN OUR PERSONAL DESTINY HANGS ON THIS PIVOT,
viz. whether we will listen to the voice of God or to the wily voice of the devil.
Conscience or inclination — WHICH SHALL RULE US?
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