Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ezekiel 3

The sweet tasting word (vs. 1-3)--Chapter 3 continues the introduction to the book and further explains the prophet's mission and responsibilities. God instructs Ezekiel to eat the "scroll of a book" that was introduced at the end of chapter 2 (3:1). This scroll almost surely is the word of God; the taste was "like honey in sweetness" (v. 3). This accords with Psalm 19:10, which tells us that God's word is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb," and Psalm 119:103, where David announces "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth." This passage in Ezekiel reminds us as well that the apostle John, in the book of Revelation, was commanded to eat a "little book," and found its taste "as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter" (Rev. 10:9-10). The word of the Lord is a wondrous thing, but the consequences of its application can be bitter and sad indeed. So many are lost because they fail to heed the gospel truth. Interestingly, Ezekiel was "caused" (forced) to eat the scroll (v. 2). Reluctance on the part of God's preachers is not unheard of, especially when they know that their preaching will not be kindly received. Yet, Ezekiel was faithful in proclaiming what Jehovah wanted preached.

Ezekiel's mission restated (vs. 4-11)--The Lord once again tells Ezekiel to go preach; perhaps the mission is reiterated because of the reluctance that appears to be evident in verse 2. The people will understand Ezekiel (vs. 5-6), but they are so obstinate that, where a foreign peoples would have heeded and obeyed, Israel will not (vs. 6-7). Of course, the children of Israel are already in Babylonian captivity when Ezekiel preaches to them, so the idea here is they will not accept the prophet's explanation for their current condition. Jehovah promised Ezekiel that He would be with him, giving him strength, yea, a stubbornness greater than that of the people he would speak to: "Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead" (v. 9). Thus, the prophet was not to be afraid of them (v. 9), which implies he might indeed have something TO be afraid of. The word should be received into the heart--it must be accepted as true by the preacher (v. 10)--and it must be proclaimed "whether they hear, or whether they refuse" (v. 11), i. e., "in season and out of season" (II Tim. 4:2).

The glory of the Lord (vs. 12-15)--To further encourage the prophet, the Spirit again shows him the living creatures and the wheels to which he was introduced in chapter 1. A "great thunderous voice" announced, "'Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place'" (v. 12). This is almost certainly the meaning of the strange happenings recorded in the first chapter. The whole episode was a "bitterness" to Ezekiel, but "the hand of the Lord was strong upon me" (v. 14). When he came out of this trance, vision--whatever one chooses to call it--he found himself in Babylon by the River Chebar, where he had begun the adventure (v. 15; cf. 1:1). He was so overwhelmed that he "remained there astonished among them seven days" (v 15). What he had experienced was truly a unique experience; it isn't surprising that it took him awhile to recover from it.

The watchman's responsibilities (vs. 16-21)--The Lord was patient with Ezekiel and waited until the prophet was ready for more instruction (v. 16). The responsibility is awesome. Ezekiel becomes a "watchman" to the house of Israel (v. 17). A watchman warns of coming danger. If Ezekiel does not warn the wicked and they do not turn from their wickedness, then they will suffer the consequences, but "his blood I will require at your hand" (v. 18). Yet, if the prophet is faithful to his call, then the Lord will not hold him accountable if the rebellious refuses to obey (v. 19). The same with a righteous man (vs. 20-21). The requirement of the prophet was to preach; the end results could not accrue to him. Paul spoke similar words in Acts 20:26-27: "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." Preaching is not for the faint of heart, and every preacher with a conscience realizes that he could have done more, preached to more people.

Ezekiel sent to the plain (vs. 22-27)--One more message came to Ezekiel before the Lord gives him things to do/say before the people. Jehovah sent him "into the plain" (v. 22) where the prophet witnessed "the glory of the the glory which I saw by the River Chebar" (v. 23). Ezekiel's task was a difficult one, and there are some indications in the book that he was a young man as he started his work. So God continues to encourage and inspire him with awesome visions that will let Ezekiel know he is not alone. The Lord warns Ezekiel that the people would try to shut him up (v. 25), and for a time, as Jehovah willed, Ezekiel would not be able to speak (v. 26). But then, Jehovah would "open [his] mouth" and he would speak. The preacher is at God's disposal. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Preachers and teachers today do not have the miraculous inspiration that Ezekiel had, so we have to rely on our own wisdom--and pray for the strength and grace of the Lord to speak boldly and to be forgiven when we fall short.