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The Biblical Illustrator The Biblical Illustrator
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ ezekiel-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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And the Spirit entered into me.
God helping His ministers
Mark the course of a river like the Thames; how it winds and twists according to its own sweet will. Yet there is a reason for every bend and curve; the geologist, studying the soil and marking the conformation of the rock, sees a reason why the river’s bed diverges to the right or to the left; and so, though the Spirit of God blesses one preacher more than another, and the reason cannot be such that any man could congratulate himself upon his own goodness, yet there are certain things about Christian ministers which God blesses, and certain other things which hinder success. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The power behind the preacher
The Rev. F.B. Meyer has a firewood factory in connection with his church, where employment is provided for men and boys. A circular saw is used for cutting through beams of solid timber. Until recently, this saw was worked by a crank, turned by twelve or fifteen men. But it was slow, hard, and expensive work. At last, says Mr. Meyer, we were driven to something more expeditious, and bought a gas engine. And now, the saw, driven by this engine, does in two or three hours as much work as it did formerly in a day, and at less than a tenth of the cost. It is the same saw; but the difference lies in the power that drives it. It used to be driven by hand power, now it is driven by an equivalent for steam, and the only thing we need to do is to keep the connecting band tight. “It is not a question,” continues Mr. Meyer, “as to our abilities or qualifications, but of the power behind us. If that is nothing more than human, it is not surprising that the results are miserably poor. But if we link ourselves to the eternal power of God, nothing will be impossible to us. ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.’”
I send thee to the children of Israel.
The commission of Ezekiel
I. The commission. Is it not an act of infinite condescension, that God should take any notice of us? For what are we? Poor finite creatures; of limited capacities, with tendencies to evil, tendencies to the very thing that God Almighty hates, detests, and abhors. Not only with tendencies to these things; but in the actual perpetration of sin; committing crime upon crime. And yet God sends His message to us. Why? Because He knows the original dignity of the soul of man; He knows what it was before he fell; He knows what it was capable of then; and He knows what the soul of man can yet be made through the blood of the Cross and through the power of the Holy Ghost: and, therefore, God sends messages to man. “I do send”; “thou shalt say.” We have no business to go and preach unless God send the outward call of the Church and the inward call of the Spirit. And hence our own Church asks all its candidates for holy orders--the bishop puts the question--“Dost thou believe that thou art inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon thee this office?” Oh, solemn question! But what shall they speak? They shall speak, “Thus saith the Lord.” The authority for the message is “I do send”; the nature of the message is what the Lord hath said.
II. The way in which this message, which the prophet had been commissioned to deliver, is treated. A twofold way: some receive it; others reject it. Concerning the apostolical ministry, concerning the word preached by the apostles, some believed the thing spoken, and some believed not.
III. They who receive this message, and they who reject it, shall both know at last that it came from the Lord. They who receive it, knew it long before. The indwelling Spirit of the living God testifies with your spirits that these things are true. But take the case of those who reject the Gospel. Oh, they find out also that it was all true. I appeal from the present to the future. You know there is a story in history of a poor woman who considered herself aggrieved, and applied to Philip, King of Macedon. She found him in a state of intoxication: I appeal, said she, “from Philip, under the influence of wine, to Philip, sober and able to judge.” And so I say, if the world, with its allurements, enchant and ensnare you now, and intoxicate your spirit. I appeal from that state to the hour when you shall turn your pale face to the waft, when friends and kindred and medical men shall whisper, “It will soon be all over”: then you shall find, as true as that there is a God, that the Bible is a Divine revelation, that the things which we said to you, concerning which you thought us too much in earnest, are all perfectly true. (T. Mortimer, B. D.)
Proximity not identification.
He was a prophet though the house was rebellious. Can the Lord find no better place for His prophets? Can He not make them a second garden? He made one: can He not make two? Can He not cause His prophet to stand in some high tower where he will be untainted by the pollution of place and time, and whence he can thunder out the Divine word? Has the prophet to mingle with the people, to live with them, to touch their corruptness, to feel the contagion of their evil manners? Might he not have a pedestal to himself? No. The Son of Man when He comes will go on eating and drinking, a social reformer, a brother, a fellow guest at tables; He will take the cup after we have partaken of it, and we may cut Him what morsel of bread He may eat, or He will hand them to us; He will be one of His fellowcreatures. And yet Ezekiel was a prophet. So is the Son of Man. Nothing could mingle Ezekiel with the rebellious house, so as to be unable to distinguish between the one and the other. Proximity is not identification. We may sit close to a murderer, and be quite distinct from him as to all our proclivities, and desires, and aspirations. We need not be corrupt because we live in a corrupt age; we need not go down because the neighbourhood is bad. It is poor pleading, it is irreligious and inexcusable defence, which says it could not resist atmospheric pressure, the subtle influence of social custom and habitude. It is the business of a prophet to stand right up from them, apart from them, and yet to be so near as to be able to teach them, exhort them, rebuke them, and comfort them, when they turn their face but a point towards the throne, the Cross, and the promised heaven. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Commission given to ministers
1. To declare God’s will;
2. To assert His authority;
3. To seek, notwithstanding all our discouragements, the salvation of their souls.
1. The importance of the ministry;
2. The duty of those who are ministered unto. (G. Simeon, M. A.)
Sin a treason
How does any man know but the very oath he is swearing, the lewdness he is committing, may be scored up by God as one item for a new rebellion? We may be rebels, and yet neither vote in Parliament, sit in committees, or fight in armies. Every sin is virtually a treason, and we may be guilty of murder by breaking other commandments besides the sixth. (R South.)
Rebellion against God
“There is as much felony in coming pence as shillings and pounds” (Manton). The principle is the same, whatever the value of the coin may be: the prerogative of the Crown is trenched upon by the counterfeiter, even if he only imitates and utters the smallest coin of the realm. He has set the royal sign to his base metal, and the small money value of his coinage is no excuse for his offence. Anyone sin wilfully indulged and persevered in is quite sufficient to prove a man to be a traitor to his God. The spirit of rebellion is the same whatever be the manner of displaying it. A giant may look out through a very small window, and so may great obstinacy of rebellion manifest itself in a little act of wilfulness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The preacher’s duty
Like as the fountain, though no man draw of it, doth still send forth his springs; or as a river, though no man drink of it, yet doth it keep his course, and flow nevertheless; even so it behoveth him that preacheth the word of God, to do what lieth in his power, though no man give any attentiveness, or have any care to follow the same. (J. Spencer.)
Impudent children and stiff-hearted.
Impudence and stiff-heartedness
1. Progress in sin makes impudent. It is an exceeding evil to be past shame, to be impudent in sinning. If ever God show mercy to such sinners, they must be ashamed.
2. Where there is an impudent face there is a hard, stiff heart. And this is one of the greatest evils.
3. God sends His prophets and ministers about hard services, such as are full of discouragements when looked upon with a carnal eye.
4. Ministers should not so much look at the persons they are sent to, or the event of their ministry, as at their call. God’s will and command must content us, support us. What if we be scoffed at, reviled, made the offscouring and filth of the world; yet here is the comfort of a true prophet, of a true minister, Christ sent him; and He that set him to work will pay him his wages, whether they hear or hear not to whom he is sent.
5. Those who are sent of God must deliver, not their own, but God’s message. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
A ministry to the unresponsive
“We may preach and preach,” said a great bishop once to his ordinands, “and our words will seem to fall upon a stone, and not upon a man’s heart.” Under any such trials of patience and hopefulness, Ezekiel’s experience will prove helpful. How awful is the reason assigned! They “will not hearken unto thee, for they will not hearken unto Me.” As our Lord said long afterwards (John 15:18), the servant could not expect to be welcomed when the Lord had been in effect rejected, The exiles’ hearts were not right with God; therefore, of course, they could not appreciate God’s envoy. What they said, as he reports it, exhibits human perversity in some very advanced forms, which are by no means obsolete; it is only too easy to translate their objections into language which is anything but dead. Hear some of them complain that the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. “We are punished because our fathers sinned; is that fair? Can the way of the Lord be called straight: It is not straight, but twisted, contorted, and our sense of justice is shocked”: as many nowadays declare that the inequalities of human condition, or other natural facts which “cannot be smoothed over or explained away,” have made them incapable of believing that the world is governed by a righteous Providence. Or there are these who openly say, “We will be as the heathen”: it is the cry of that wild impatience which would fain get rid of the responsibilities avowedly involved in the profession of religion. Or if the mood is not so distinctly rebellious, it is that of a sullen despair which masks itself under an apparent acknowledgment of sin: “Our hope is lost, we are cut off, we pine away in our transgressions,--how then should we live?” The gloom, we see, is faithless, even if it does not reach the point of revolt. Again, there are others who reject, as we might say, on the grounds of “common sense and common experience,” the supernatural character of prophecy; “every vision faileth” predictions are disproved, or, to quote a modern dictum, “miracles do not happen.” Ezekiel is, in effect, bluntly told that “facts are against him.” Or even, say others, “if there is something in his prophecies, the vision is of times far off”: things will last our time we need not disturb ourselves--as a comfortable selfishness has often persuaded itself before some great “Day of the Son of Man,” e.g., in the years that ushered in the French Revolution. Or others have their own prophets, much better worth hearing than Ezekiel, who tell them what is pleasant to think of, with no austere requirements, no rigid prohibitions, no croaking “bodements” of a dismal, intolerable future; the result of which is, that “the hands of the wicked are strengthened to go on in their evil way” by “visions of a peace that is no peace.” Or the style and contents of Ezekiel’s preaching are cavilled at: the misgivings which it secretly awakens are silenced by critical remarks on its obscurity: “They say of me. Doth he not speak parables?” Practical men, they assume, may web dispense with attending to a voice that cannot put plain meaning into plain words. Or there are others, probably among the younger sort, who at first sight seem more promising; they listen to the prophet with real enjoyment, as they might to one who can sing pleasantly and “play well”; only it is a mere aesthetic pleasure, a gratification of the sense of beauty for its own sake, with no moral movement of the will: “they hear thy words, but they do them not.” Or, lastly, there are men grave and “highly respectable,” who come with all appearance of seriousness to sit before Ezekiel as pupils, and inquire, through him of the Lord; but he is bidden to repel them as self-deceivers who have set up, and retain, “their idols in their hearts”: favourite sins with them prove stumbling blocks to bar all progress upward; therefore on them shall come the doom of being “answered according to their idols.” Ezekiel’s ministry was, as we thus see, preeminently a ministry of penetration into character. Its leading feature is a close, severe, persistent dealing with conscience; he has been truly called “the prophet of personal responsibility.” He shows that if, to some extent, heredity involves very real disadvantage, if children suffer because parents or ancestors have sinned, yet in the last resort no one soul will be spiritually rejected from the mercies and blessings of the Divine covenant simply on account of the sins of other persons, which he has not personally shared in or made his own. So does Ezekiel prepare the way for that Saviour who, while He built up His Church as a spiritual home for all believers, conferred a new dignity, sacredness, preciousness, on each individual soul for whom He died. What a thought it is, the interest that the Most High God takes in each one of us singly! That fact has a twofold bearing: it imposes on us the obligation of walking in the fear of the Lord, of standing in awe and striving not to sin, of recognising that the revelation of a true God, as culminating in the incarnation of a Son of God who gave Himself up for us all, must needs have a stern side. But the other aspect of our personal relation to God is that in which the Gospel mainly presents Him--that which was illuminated by the Cross and summarised in St. John’s assertion that He is Love. (Canon Bright.)
Shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.--
Wicked men left without excuse
God will leave wicked men without excuse. It is God’s intention; they shall never be able to challenge Me, nor to justify themselves. God’s primary intentions, where He sends prophets and means of grace, are the good of His elect, their comfort, sanctification, and salvation; but His secondary intentions are the iuexeusableness of the wicked, and their just damnation. When God sends His word to any place, it shall and must prosper in the thing whereunto He sends it (Isaiah 55:11); be it to win and draw, or to harden and make inexcusable. See Isaiah 6:9-10. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
Prophets are witnesses for or against their hearers
“They shall know there hath been a prophet amongst them”; his person, his pains, his truths, his life, his sufferings, his death, will all come in for witnesses one day. Every prophet, every preacher that Christ sends, is a witness, as well as an officer or a minister; I have made “thee a minister and a witness” (Acts 26:16). All faithfnl ministers are Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8). They bear witness of Christ and His doctrine; and if we receive not Him and His doctrine, they will be Christ’s witnesses against us. As for Me and My prophets, My ministers, you despised, or only gave the hearing, and that was all: and My charge is not false; here are My witnesses. What say you to it? Speak, you ministers of such a city, and such a place. What, did you not preach many a sermon, shed many a tear, sweat many a drop, make many a prayer for them? did ye not early and late watch for the good of their souls? etc. Yea, Lord, but they would not receive us, they would not believe our report we made of Thee, they would not take Thy yoke upon them, etc.; we shook off the dust of our feet against them. This will be dreadful, when such witness of the prophets comes in against hearers. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
The preacher a correcter of consciences
The verification of the compass is a matter of serious importance in navigation.” The vessel is moored, and by means of warps to certain government buoys, she is placed with her head toward the various points of the compass, one after another. The bearing of her compass on board, influenced as that is by the attraction of the iron she carries, is taken accurately by one observer in the vessel, and the true bearing is signalled to him by another observer on shore, who has a compass out of reach of the local attraction of the ship. The error in each position is thus ascertained, and the necessary corrections are made. Now in the Church your people are like that observer on board ship. Their consciences have been all the week affected by the influence of things immediately around them, so that they are in danger of making serious mistakes even in their reading of the Book of God. But in the pulpit, you are like the observer on shore. You are away from the magnetic agencies--mostly metallic--which so seriously affect them; therefore you can signalise to them their ‘true bearings,’ and thus prepare them for the voyage of the week which is to follow.” (W. M. Taylor.)
Be not afraid of them.
Endurance of the world’s censure
What is here implied, as the trial of the prophet Ezekiel, was fulfilled more or less in the case of all the prophets. They were not teachers merely, but confessors. This world is a scene of conflict between good and evil. The evil not only avoids, but persecutes the good; the good cannot conquer, except by suffering. When was it that this conflict, and this character and issue of it, have not been fulfilled? Cain, for instance, was envious of his brother Abel, and slew him. Ishmael mocked at Isaac; Esau was full of wrath with Jacob, and resolved to kill him. Joseph’s brethren were filled with bitter hatred of him, debated about killing him, cast him into a pit, and at last sold him into Egypt. Saul persecuted David; and Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah; and the priests and the prophets the prophet Jeremiah. Lastly, not to dwell on other instances, the chief priests and the Pharisees, full of envy, rose up against our Lord Jesus Christ, and delivered Him to the heathen governor Pontius Pilate, to be crucified. So the apostles, after Him, and especially St. Paul, were persecuted by their fierce and revengeful countrymen. The case seems to be this:--those who do not serve God with a single heart, know they ought to do so, and they do not like to be reminded that they ought. And when they fall in with anyone who does live to God, he serves to remind them of it, and that is unpleasant to them, and that is the first reason why they are angry with a religious man; the sight of him disturbs them and makes them uneasy. And, in the next place, they feel in their hearts that he is in much better case than they are. They cannot help wishing, though they are hardly conscious of their own wish, they cannot help wishing that they were like him; yet they have no intention of imitating him, and this makes men jealous and envious. Instead of being angry with themselves, they are angry with him. These are their first feelings: what follows? Next they are very much tempted to deny that he is religious. They wish to get the thought of him out of their minds. Nothing would so relieve their minds as to find that there were no religious persons in the world, none better than themselves. Accordingly, they do all they can to believe that he is making a pretence of religion; they do their utmost to find out what looks like inconsistency in him. They call him a hypocrite and other names. And all this, if the truth must be spoken, because they hate the things of God and therefore they hate His servants. Accordingly, as far as they have power to do it, they persecute him, either, as the text implies, with cruel, untrue words, or with cold, or fierce, or jealous looks, or in some worse ways. A good man is an offence to a bad man. The sight of him is a sort of insult; and he is irritated at him, and does him what harm he can. Thus Christians, in former times, were put to death by the heathen. Even now, no one can give his mind to God, and show by his actions that he fears God, but he will incur the dislike and opposition of the world; and it is important he should be aware of this, and be prepared for it. He must not mind it, he must bear it, and in time (if God so will) he will overcome it. There are a number of lesser ways in which careless, ungodly persons may annoy and inconvenience those who desire to do their duty humbly and fully. Such, especially, are those, which seem intended in the text, unkind censure, carping, slander, ridicule, cold looks, rude language, insult, and, in some cases, oppression and tyranny. Whoever, therefore, sets about a religious life, must be prepared for these--must be thankful if they do not befall him; but must not be put out, must not think it a strange thing, if they do. For instance, persons may press you to do something which you know to be wrong--to tell an untruth, or to do what is not quite honest, or to go to companies whither you should not go; and they may show that they are vexed at the notion of your not complying. Still you must not comply. You must not do what you feel to be wrong, though you should thereby displease even those whom you would most wish to please. Again: you must not be surprised, should you find that you are called a hypocrite, and other hard names; you must not mind it. Again: you may be jeered at and mocked by your acquaintance, for being strict and religious, for carefully coming to church, keeping from bad language, and the like: you must not care for it. Again, you may, perhaps, discover, to your great vexation, that untruths are told of you by careless persons behind your backs, that what you do has been misrepresented, and that in consequence a number of evil things are believed about you by the world at large. Hard though it be, you must not care for it; remembering that more untruths were told of our Saviour and His apostles than can possibly be told of you. Again, you may find that not only the common run of men believe what is said against you, but even those with whom you wish to stand well. But if this happens through your conscientiousness, you must not mind it, but must be cheerful, leaving your case in the hand of God, and knowing that He will bring it out into the light one day or another, in His own good time. Again: persons may try to threaten or frighten you into doing something wrong, but you must not mind that; you must be firm. In conclusion, I will call your attention to two points--First, do not be too eager to suppose you are ill-treated for your religion’s sake. Make as light of matters as you can. And beware of being severe on those who lead careless lives, or whom you think or know to be ill-treating you. Be kind and gentle to those who are perverse, and you will very often, please God, gain them over. Pray for those who lead careless lives, and especially if they are unkind to you. Secondly, recollect you cannot do any one thing of all the duties I have been speaking of without God’s help. When brought into temptation of any kind, we Should lift up our hearts to God. We should say to Him, “Good Lord deliver us.” (Plain Sermons by Contributors to the “Tracts for the Times.”)
Reasons against the fear of men
1. Fears are prejudicial: they take away our liberty; they put halters about our necks, and strangle our comforts; they multiply and prolong our miseries; they wound and disable us.
2. They are to be men of courage who are in public place.
3. God is with His, those He calls and employs in public service. This should put life into us.
4. Those who are in public place are in God’s place, and they must be like unto God, fearless of men, but dreadful unto men.
5. They that are godly, true Christians, their godliness, their cause, suffer by their fearfulness.
6. There is not that in wicked men that should make us to fear them, if we consider they are briers, thorns, scorpions, contemptible things, rather to be despised than feared.
7. God will dismay and confound us if we fear men (Jeremiah 1:17). (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
Helps against the fear of men
1. Let your fear be exercised about God; He is an object fit to be feared. When the dictator ruled at Rome, then all other officers ceased; and when this fear of God rules, all other fears will be hushed. And that is not all; if God be sanctified by us, he will be a sanctuary unto us.
2. Set faith to work. Men in public places should have their hands at work on earth, and their faith in heaven. The just live by faith, and will not die by fear.
3. Labour for purity and holiness. The most holy men are the least fearing men.
4. Value not life too much. Be willing to spend and be spent for God. (W. Greenhill, M. A.)
A burdensome ministry
We are not to suppose that a faithful ministry is an easy task. No man can continually rebuke his age, and yet be living a luxurious life, unless indeed he be the victim of hypocrisy, or the tool of some vicious hallucination. The prophets of the Lord have always been opposed to the age in which they lived. Whenever the ministry has fallen into accord with the age, it is not the age that has gone up, it is the ministry that has gone down. A reproachful, corrective, stimulating voice should always be characteristic of a spiritual ministry. No evil shall be able to live in its presence, and no custom, how fashionable or popular soever, should be able to lift up its head without condemnation in the presence of a man who is filled with the burden or doctrine of the Lord. We should have persecution revive were we to revive the highest type of godliness. Sin has not altered, but righteousness may have modified its terms; the earth remains as it was from the beginning, but they who represent the kingdom of heaven may have committed themselves to an unworthy and degrading compromise. Evermore shall the wicked hate the godly, unless the godly take down their banners and are contented to live in dumbness and in traitorous suppression of the truth. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Boldness in preaching
The Rev. Styleman Herring of Clerkenwell, London, could say that there was not a street or court in the whole of his parish in which he had not preached. When he first commenced this work, some of his parishioners threatened what they would do if he came to preach in their streets. But he persevered until he was not only allowed to preach in peace, but was invited to do so by some of the inhabitants of the worst streets.
A fearless preacher
It is said that when a Roundhead in St. Andrew’s, Holborn, levelled a musket at the breast of the venerable prelate Hacker, and bade him desist from preaching, he never hesitated for one moment, but simply said, “Soldier, do your duty; I shall continue to do mine.” (W. Denton.)
During the Chartist agitation many of Kingsley’s friends and relations tried to withdraw him from the people’s cause, fearful lest his prospects in life might be seriously prejudiced; but to all of them he turned a deaf ear, and in writing to his wife on the subject, he says: “I will not be a liar. I will speak in season and out of season. I will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. My path is clear, and I will follow in it.” (A. Bell, B. A.)
Fearfulness in the preacher
We were sitting under the shade of an oak tree comparing notes and conferring one with another as to the best methods of service, especially in reference to effective preaching. “I always write my sermons,” said my friend, “and then carefully revise them, so that if anything is written calculated to offend any of my hearers, I may at once erase it.” This was said by a young clergyman who was evidently anxious to make his mark as a preacher. Desirous to know that I heard correctly, I replied, “Do you mean that forcible statements, either of your own writing or from Scripture, concerning sin, and the terrors of the judgment to come, are either toned down or avoided?” “Yes,” was the reply; “if I think they will offend anyone, I do so.” I fear this candid testimony, indicates the reason why so many ministers are powerless amongst their fellows. “The fear of man bringeth a snare indeed.” (Henry Varley.)
Thou shalt speak My words unto them.
The ministerial commission
I. The parties concerned in this commission. These are, first, the Eternal God, our King and Creator and Judge, who issued this commission; secondly, the preachers of the Gospel who are appointed to execute it; thirdly, the hearers of the word, or, more generally, all who are within the sound of the Gospel, for whose behoof the commission was issued. We stand before you as the commissioned servant of the God with whom you have to do, invested with the office of conveying instrumentally His proclamation to your ears, telling you what He requires you to be and to do, and pointing out to you, and pressing upon your attention, His general mind and will regarding you. Do not mistake the messenger for a mediator. We stand to speak to you of God, and commissioned by Him, as we trust, but it is simply in the former of these capacities, and not at all in the latter. We stand, as it were, between the living and the dead; but it is as the golden channel through which spiritual life is conveyed from the one to the other.
II. The nature of the commission which is intrusted to us. “Thou shalt speak My words unto them.” What we are to declare unto you is the counsel of God, not of man; but of this whole counsel we are to be careful to keep nothing back. He has given us a written record of His mind and will, and we are to look for no further revelation. Our message is of a twofold character. To a certain extent it is such a message as a natural man, endowed with a conscience, and conscious of guilt, might have expected to issue from the holy sanctuary above. It speaks to him of the holiness and justice and omnipotence of Jehovah, and of his own guilt and depravity, and the fearful doom impending over him, as his own conscience speaks, but in language much more clear and explicit, and a thousandfold more loud and appalling. All this the foreboding and sin-laden spirit of man might have anticipated in a communication from heaven. But could it ever have entered into the heart of man or angel to conceive that this communication should also exhibit the amazing spectacle of a holy and offended God beseeching hell-deserving sinners to be reconciled, offering to the very guiltiest among them a full and free salvation, a salvation purchased by the blood of His own beloved Son?
III. The way in which this message is to be delivered and this commission to be executed. “Thou shalt speak My words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” Is the ambassador of an earthly potentate at liberty to decline the duty which he has deliberately undertaken, and with which he has been intrusted, on account of obloquy or even danger attending the faithful performance of it? or is he at liberty to alter or modify the terms of his instructions in order to shield himself from reproach or from peril? Assuredly not. And shall the ambassadors of the King of kings venture to tamper with and distort the message which they were commissioned to deliver? Shall they presumptuously attempt to amend the terms on which the Lord of heaven and earth declares that He will treat with His rebellious subjects? or shall they leave out of the proclamation whatever it may be unpleasant to these subjects to hear? But then, again, thanks be to God, we are to preach the Gospel, the good news, among you; and the same obligation rests upon us to preach it faithfully and fully. After denouncing, as we are bound to do, every refuge of lies, we are eagerly to point you to the refuge set before you in the Gospel. And we must faithfully tell you, though we can but speak of it faintly, of the glory, and the excellence, and the suitableness of the salvation of the Gospel, of all that it is in itself, and of all that it brings along with it, of the grace here and the glory hereafter which it confers, and of its perfect accommodation to the case of every sinner among you, whether pardoned or unpardoned, whether born again or yet dead in trespasses and sins.
IV. The duty of those for whose behoof this commission has been issued. It will profit you nothing to attend upon a Gospel ministry, even though the word should there be spoken as never man spake it, if you do not receive that word with faith and love, lay it up in your hearts, and practise it in your lives. But oh! when you consider what is the nature of the message which we bear, can you help seeing that it is a glorious and blessed privilege, as well as a bounden duty, to attend to it? Do you not see that God commands nothing but what it will promote your own best interests to perform? and is not this a mighty additional motive for yielding obedience? (P. Hope, B. D.)
A prophet’s Commission
I. The minister of God receives his commission from the Lord.
II. The duty of the minister of God is to speak God’s words to the people.
1. First by study to understand, and then to proclaim the truths of the Bible.
2. This duty is--
(2) Often painful (Ezekiel 2:10).
1. To honour God’s ministers.
2. To listen to their message as from God.
3. To beware of rebellion. (Homiletic Magazine.)
Be not thou rebellious.
Ministers exposed to corruption by their people
This was the same as to say, “I know the degeneracy of the times. I know the corruption and obstinacy of the people. I know they will stop their ears and harden their hearts against Divine truth. And I know that for this purpose they will use every method, by words and looks, to corrupt your heart, poison your sentiments, and destroy your influence. But I warn you to beware of men; and never suffer yourself to be corrupted by those whom you are sent to reprove and reform.”
I. Ministers are exposed to be corrupted by the people.
1. Ministers have been corrupted by the people. This was the unhappy case of Aaron. The same thing happened to the sons and successors of Aaron; for we find that they were always corrupt, when the people were corrupt. God Himself complains of the people for being always disposed to corrupt their teachers (Amos 2:10-12). They meant to corrupt the friends of virtue, and the ministers of religion, on purpose to destroy the influence of their example, and the force of their instructions and admonitions; and they very rarely failed of accomplishing their malignant purpose.
2. The bare example of the people, in a day of declension, has a natural tendency to corrupt ministers. The prevailing spirit and practice of the times naturally tend to cool their zeal, weaken their virtue, and injure both the matter and manner of their preaching.
3. They are in much greater danger of being corrupted, by the positive endeavours and exertions of the people to draw them into sin. A corrupt people feel themselves obliged to take this course, in order to resist the energy of plain and faithful preaching.
II. It is their indispensable duty to guard against it.
1. God has expressly commanded ministers to guard against the attempts of those who would corrupt their hearts, and draw them aside from the path of duty.
2. They will forfeit the Divine presence and protection, if they suffer themselves to be corrupted.
3. If ministers suffer themselves to be corrupted by the people, it destroys their usefulness. Time-serving ministers generally have but few hearers. All men, whether good or bad, inwardly despise loose and unprincipled ministers, let their talents be what they may. And the same degree of criminality, which would be scarcely observable in other men, is sufficient to destroy the character and usefulness of those who sustain the sacred office of the ministry.
4. If ministers suffer themselves to be carried down the stream of corruption, they become destructive to the people. Corrupt ministers are always corrupters. Though they have lost the power of doing good, yet they retain the power of doing evil. They can do more than other men, to pull down the kingdom of Christ, and build up the kingdom of Satan. And as they are more capable, so they are more disposed, than other men, to stifle the spirit of religion, oppose the doctrines of the Gospel, and strengthen the hearts and hands of the wicked.
1. It is now a very dangerous day to ministers. The people have fallen into a great and general declension, As they have increased, so they have sinned. How many ministers neither preach nor practise according to their own sentiments, through fear of offending, and through desire of pleasing, the people! This conduct weakens the hands of faithful ministers, and strengthens the hands of those who wish to corrupt them.
2. Ministers need, at this day, to be well qualified for their office. Though religion has decayed, yet knowledge has increased. The people in general are much more capable now, than they were formerly, of judging of the talents and qualifications of ministers. And as they are more critical in discerning, so they are more severe in censuring, every ministerial defect or imperfection. But prudence, as well as knowledge, is a necessary qualification for a minister. He needs this to enable him to exhibit Divine truth in the most profitable manner, and to escape those snares which the enemies of truth will always endeavour to lay for him. But ministers of the Gospel, at this day of declension, need large measures of grace, as well as of knowledge and prudence. They need to be crucified to the world, and the world to them, by the Cross of Christ.
3. It is the duty of all good men, at this day especially, to aid and assist the ministers of the Gospel in the discharge of their office. If Christian professors would unite with Christian ministers, in the common cause of Christianity, we might reasonably hope that religion would gain ground, and vice and infidelity would everywhere fall before it. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
The God-made minister
(with Revelation 10:8):--In the case of Ezekiel we for the first time see in a most impressive and instructive symbol that Divine way of choosing, and calling, and inwardly and increasingly preparing and maturing a prophet, that same way which is repeated in the case of the Apostle John; that same way, moreover, which is still taken with every true New Testament preacher. Now, first, we see in that fine symbolical scene God’s own immediate way of making a minister. A book plays a great part in the salvation of man; a book is brought down from heaven to earth. A book written in heaven lies open in the hand of a heavenly minister. And the salvation of many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings lies wrapped up in that heavenly book. “Take the Book and eat it,” said the angel of the Lord. You will observe that the angel did not say, “Take the Book and read it.” Clearly, then, this is not an ordinary Book. Clearly this Book is like no other book. Our ordinary language about books all falls short and breaks down before this Book. “Eat it,” said the angel, holding the Book up to the exhausted mouth--“eat it till it is both sweet in thy mouth and bitter in thy belly.” A most extraordinary thing to say to any man about any book! Yes, about any book but this Book; but this is the usual, nay, the universal, and, indeed, the necessary, thing to say always about God’s Book. Show me the minister to whom, pulpit preparation apart, God’s Word is his first thought every new morning, and he shall be all but God’s absolute prophet to me. He shall always pray for me when God’s wrath is kindled against me; for him, God has said, He will accept, as he will always be accepted, both for himself and for other men, who can, like Job, before God, say: “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed the word of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Eat, then, the same heavenly meat; and eat it for your first food every morning. It will do for you what no earthly food, the best and most necessary, can do. See that all its strength and all its sweetness fill your heart before you eat any other meat, and before you read any other writing. Read God’s Book, and keep it next your heart to defend you against the evil one. “Enough of that; bring me my Bible!” one of my old elders used to say, as they read to him all morning and down into the forenoon the newspapers. The Word of God was more to that saint of God than his necessary food. But what does this mean? “It was in my mouth sweet as honey; but as soon as I had eaten it my belly was bitter.” The best way, the only way, to find out what all that means is to eat the same roll ourselves, and then to observe what comes to pass within ourselves. Religion is an experimental science. Just you eat the Book now before you as Ezekiel and John ate it, and then tell me what takes place within you. I will tell you what will take place. The Word of God will in your mouth also be sweet as honey. The grace and the mercy of God that are in His blessed Word are always passing sweet to a genuine sinner, as is the truth, and the power, and the holiness, and the heavenly beauty of God’s Word to all His saints. All that is the daily and sweet experience of all those who make the Word of God their earliest and most necessary food. But afterwards, when this sweet Book descends into their “inward parts,” when the holy and the just and the good Word of God enters their guilty consciences and their corrupt hearts--ah, then, what bitterness is that! For a “sense of sin,” as we so lightly speak, is then awakened in the soul, and with that new sense comes a new bitterness, compared with which the waters of Marah are milk and honey, and aloes are a child’s sweetmeat. Yes, angel, clothed with a cloud, you may well say that it will make “our bellies bitter”; for our belly will be bitter, first with our own sin, and then with the sin of all other men. God’s Word taken long enough and deep enough every day, as his necessary food, at last made Job from a sheep farmer into a sacrificing priest. Now, you all know what a priest is, a priest is a sinner who has not only all his own sin on his hands and on his heart, but the sins of all other men in addition. A priest sees sin in everything and everybody. His belly is always bitter with a bitterness such that all the honey and all the spices of Lebanon will not sweeten it. There was written thereon lamentations and mourning and woe. At the same time, the true priest has a secret and compensating sweetness in his office all his own; and every true minister has it deep down within him. Every true minister of God’s Word has a sensibility to sin and to grace; a palate and a heart both for the sweetness of God’s Word, and for its bitterness; a sensibility that makes him who has it the true successor of prophets and psalmists and apostles, like Ezekiel, David, Job, and John. “Son of man, eat that thou findest,” said Jehovah in a vision to Ezekiel. “Take it, and eat it up,” said the angel, in like manner, to John. Observe, that neither the prophet nor the apostle was asked nor allowed to pick and choose, as we say. They were not to be let eat the sweet and spit out the bitter. They were not to keep rolling the sweet morsels under their tongue, and to keep their inward parts a stranger to this bitter share in the Divine Book. Now this Scripture will not be sweet to all that hear it. But, even if it is at first bitter, it must not on that account be spat out. We must submit ourselves to read and to preach and to hear the whole Word of God. The book of the Bible, the preacher, the circle of doctrines that we like best may not be best for us. It is a fine study to take up the Old Testament and to trace all through it how prophet follows prophet, and psalmist psalmist; each several prophet and psalmist taking home to himself all that the prophets and psalmists have said and sung before him. And then, having made the book their own by reading it and praying over it and singing it in their own souls, then when the call came they stood up and prophesied prophecies and sang psalms new and present, as the people’s need was new and present; never contenting themselves with just repeating what any former psalmist had sung, however great and however good that former prophet and psalmist might have been. And then, as providence after providence arises in the history of Israel, inspiration and experience keep pace with providence, the exodus, the wilderness, the conquest, the captivity, the restoration, and so on, so prophet after prophet and psalmist after psalmist--Moses, and Gad, and David, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and Zechariah--arise, till we have in our Old Testament the accumulated faith and repentance, attainment and experience of that whole Church of God. And this same docile reception, personal appropriation and personal possession of God’s Word has always given an unshaking assurance, a masterful authority to all true prophets and preachers--Moses before Pharaoh, Nathan before David, Elijah before Ahab and Jezebel, Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, Peter and John before the rulers of Israel, Luther before the Legate, and Knox before Mary. And then with what passion that prophet will preach, and with what pathos that psalmist will sing, who has taken home to his own mind and to his own heart, to his own conscience and to his own imagination, the whole word of Almighty God, both in its awful terrors and in its surpassing mercies! (A. Whyte, D. D.)
There was written therein lamentations.
The Bible: a record of human sorrows
I. Sorrow is mightily present in our world. Here is a book--
1. The product of many lands and ages, expressing in manifold forms the sorrows of those lands and ages.
2. Intended for all lands and times, speaking in the tones of sorrow constantly, and yet expecting to be understood, anticipating that to none will sorrow be a foreign language.
This reflection should--
1. Stir our thought. Sorrow is meant to startle, to arouse, to prompt the questions, “How? Why? What?”
2. Cultivate our soberness, “Rejoice with trembling.”
3. Quicken our sympathies. We cannot, if we rightly know this book, be self-contained.
II. Sorrow is present in the world because of size.
1. Sorrow is here as the result of sin.
2. Sorrow is the penalty for sin. This rises in individual cases, to the clearness of a demonstration.
3. Sorrow is one means of purification from sin. (U. R. Thomas.)