Commanded To Obey
God called Israel a rebellious house because they were stubborn and impudent. (2:4) But Ezekiel was not to be rebellious toward God even though he was part of Israel. When God appoints a prophet, the prophet must obey. Remember Jonah? God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach judgment. (Jonah 1:1-2) Jonah refused and fled to Tarshish. (Jonah 1:3) But God created a storm, captured Jonah, and sent him back on mission.
Jeremiah’s experience is almost humorous. God appointed him as a prophet before he was born. (Jer. 1:5) Jeremiah told God he was too young. (1:6) Here is God’s response:
Do not say I am only a youth;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
So, likewise, God warned Ezekiel not to rebel, but to preach whatever message God had for him to preach. After telling him this, God showed it to Ezekiel.
God’s first command was for Ezekiel to eat whatever God gave him to eat. Then he further explained that Ezekiel was to eat a scroll that God handed to him.
The scroll had writing on both the front and back. In other words, it was completely full of God’s message, meaning it contained God’s complete message to Israel. And the words were of lamentation, mourning, and woe. (10) So, the scroll was a message of God’s judgment upon Israel, already in exile, that would cause them to lament, mourn and woe their fate. It was not good news.
Eat And Speak
God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll, then go speak to Israel. The imagery here is that Ezekiel is to fill himself up with God’s word, his message, and then go tell it to Israel. So, he would hear and absorb God’s message (eat), then go preach this sad word to his people. Ezekiel obeyed and ate the scroll.
Even though the message was a sad one to hear, it was good to Ezekiel. He said it was sweet as honey to his mouth. How could that be? I had to deliver some sad messages this week, and none of them were sweet to me. But this message was God’s word, so it was sweet. God’s word should always be good to us, even when it convicts us of sin. Psalm 19:7-11 speaks of the sweetness of God’s word:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant, warned; in keeping them is great reward.
God tasked Ezekiel to speak his message to Israel. That sounds straight forward and simple. But, God says no, it will be hard. In fact, he said it would be easier if Ezekiel went to a nation with a difficult language unknown to Ezekiel. That would be like me going to China to preach in Chinese after growing up in West Texas. But, God said, if I sent you to a foreign land with a difficult language, they would listen to you. (6) But Israel will not be willing to listen to Ezekiel, because Israel was not willing to listen to God. (7) They will not listen because they have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.
I grew up hearing of people who were hard headed. That meant they would not listen to advice from others. The idea is their head is to hard for advice to get through. Israel was that way. They also had stubborn hearts. That means they would not take God’s message to heart, repent and obey him.
If you move forward in your Bible to the book of Acts, you see, centuries later, Stephen say to the Israelites: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51)
God equipped Ezekiel
God made Ezekiel as tough as his Israelite audience. His face was as hard as theirs. His head as hard as theirs. In fact, his head would be harder, as emery is harder than flint. So, God gave him the toughness he needed to persevere in preaching to people who were hardened against God’s message.
It takes courage to be God’s man or woman. People will resist you and ignore you. Even those who claim to be God’s people will resist the message.
God told Ezekiel not to be afraid. Do not worry about what they say or how they look at you. Remember God’s first words to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:6) 2 Timothy 1:7 says “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. Later in the same letter, Paul told Timothy “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. (2 Timothy 2:1) It is time for Christians around the world to be courageous. We are the most persecuted religion on the planet. Some suffer greatly. Others, as in America, see a nation that is rapidly going from Christian values to anti-Christian values and actions. We all have different personalities, but we can all stand up for Christ, testifying to his saving power and kingdom.
At the end of God’s message, the Spirit again moved. A great voice worshipped and praised God saying “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place”. The four creatures again moved with great noise. And as the glorious presence of the LORD began to leave Ezekiel, the Spirit took him away and left him back by the canal where the Israelites lived.
We have seen another time the Spirit relocated a man to preach. After Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit of the Lord carried him away and Philip preached the gospel to all the towns went through. (Acts 8:39)
Ezekiel began to feel God’s feelings toward Israel, communicated to him by the Spirit. That is what he meant by “the hand of the LORD being strong upon me”. (14) He had bitterness in the heat of his spirit. God’s anger toward Israel was strong.
Finally, the visitation of the LORD was over. Ezekiel had experienced the glory and presence of the LORD. He had been appointed as a prophet. He had been changed so that he was equipped to preach. Surely we can understand why he was overwhelmed for 7 days.
The presence of the Lord will do that to you.