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The Man With The Inkhorn
It is a mark of grace working in the soul when one is characterized by a holy horror of surrounding sin and uncleanness. By this is not meant a “Stand by thyself, for I am holier than thou,” attitude, but a recognition of the fact that one is himself part of an iniquitous and gainsaying people; one who, like Daniel, Nehemiah, and Ezra, bears the sins of his people upon his own heart and takes his place with them in confession before God.
As the Lord looked upon the people of Judah in Ezekiel’s day He saw very little evidence of this spirit of self-judgment. He who of old would have spared the cities of the plain had ten righteous men been found in Sodom, had looked in vain for any appreciable group in Judea who mourned before Him because of the abounding evil. He would separate any such from the apostate nation, associating them with Himself in judgment upon the rest. In a remarkable vision this was made clear to the prophet.
“Then he cried in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause ye them that have charge over the city to draw near, every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And behold, six men came from the way of the upper gate, which lieth toward the north, every man with his slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side. And they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon it was, to the threshold of the house: and he called to the man clothed in linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn by his side. And Jehovah said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry over all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof”-vers. 1-4.
One can see in this the inspiration of John Bunyan’s graphic picture of the call to devotion to the Lord’s battles as beheld by the pilgrim in the Interpreter’s house. Bunyan’s whole being was saturated with the Scriptures, which colored all his thinking and writing.
A voice is heard calling from the sanctuary for those who are in authority in Jerusalem to draw near with the swords of judgment in their hands.
To this call six men responded in the vision, each one armed to deal with offenders against the law of God. Among these was a secretary, or recorder, robed in linen, the symbol of righteousness, and having a writer’s inkhorn by his side according to the custom of those days. All these men took their positions before the brazen altar, which speaks of the cross work of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the light of which the whole world of the impenitent is to be judged.
The prophet sees the glory of the God of Israel which had gone up from its accustomed place between the cherubim over the mercy-seat, now hovering over the threshold of the house. The throne of God is no longer a throne of grace but of judgment, for grace has been spurned and God’s holiness defied.
The voice is heard again, and is identified as that of Jehovah Himself. He commands the man clothed in linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn, to go through the midst of the city of Jerusalem, and to set a mark upon the foreheads of those who manifested exercise of soul by sighing and crying because of the manifold abominations being practiced on every hand. One is reminded of the 144,000 out of all the tribes of Israel who are to be sealed in their foreheads just before the great tribulation bursts upon the world in all its terrible fury. And we think today of those who, having turned to God in repentance and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, are sealed by the Holy Spirit and thus marked off from those who are to be Anathema Maranatha-devoted to judgment at the coming of the Lord. The nature of the mark on the foreheads of those sealed in this vision is not indicated, but it certainly was a sign that they had judged themselves before God and now sided with Him in His attitude toward the iniquities of Judah.
“And to the others he said in my hearing, Go ye through the city after him, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity; slay utterly the old man, the young man and the virgin, and little children and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark: and begin at My sanctuary. Then they began at the old men that were before the house. And he said unto them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go ye forth. And they went forth, and smote in the city”-vers. 5-7.
As we read these words we cannot fail to connect them with the solemn message of 1 Peter 4:17-18: “For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?”
The armed executors of justice were commanded to go through Jerusalem and smite down all who did not have the seal on their foreheads, and the word was, “Begin at My sanctuary.” Thus the judgment commenced with the priest of the Lord who had profaned His name. Even so, God will deal in stern retribution with all who profess His name today but who have only a form of godliness while denying its power. The Lord will not spare the professing church if its members spurn His Word and trample on His grace, turning that grace into lasciviousness.
Because the people of Judah had profaned the temple by their idolatries, God would give it up to further defilement by the dead bodies of those who had rebelled against Him.
“And it came to pass, while they were smiting, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord Jehovah! wilt Thou destroy all the residue of Israel in Thy pouring out of Thy wrath upon Jerusalem? Then said He unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of wresting of judgment: for they say, Jehovah hath forsaken the land, and Jehovah seeth not. And as for Me also, Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, hut I will bring their way upon their head. And, behold, the man clothed in linen, who had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, saying, I have done as Thou hast commanded me”-vers. 8-11.
Stirred to the depths of his being by this vision of the slaughter of priests and people (so soon to be accomplished by the Chaldean armies), Ezekiel fell down on his face before God and pleaded that He would not destroy all the remnant of Israel when He poured out His wrath upon Jerusalem. God answered by declaring that conditions were such that judgment could no longer be delayed, and inasmuch as the whole people had departed from Him, and had refused all entreaty to repent and seek His face, judgment without mercy should be meted out to them.
But this did not mean that He had forgotten the few in the land who sighed and cried because of conditions which they could not remedy. He had commanded the destroyers already, saying, “Come not near any man upon whom is the mark.” This indicated clearly His care for the faithful remnant.
As the first part of the vision came to an end the man with the inkhorn reported, saying, “I have done as Thou hast commanded me.” This was to reassure the prophet concerning those who had humbled themselves before God and mourned because of the sin of Judah.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany