The Latter Major Prophets – Ezekiel 2-3

He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.  As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day.  The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.  Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’  And whether they listen or fail to listen — for they are a rebellious people — they will know that a prophet has been among them.  And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.  Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.  Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.  You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.  But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me.  In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

  • Ezekiel 2:1-10

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.”  So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.”   So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them.  You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel — not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.  But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate.  But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.  I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint.  Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.  Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound as the glory of the Lord rose from the place where it was standing.  It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound.  The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me.  I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River.  And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—deeply distressed.
At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.  But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
“Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die.  Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin.  The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.  But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”
The hand of the Lord was on me there, and he said to me, “Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.”  So I got up and went out to the plain.  And the glory of the Lord was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown.
Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet.  He spoke to me and said: “Go, shut yourself inside your house.  And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people.  I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious people.  But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’  Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.

  • Ezekiel 3:1-27

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Ezekiel 2:1 ‘Son of man’: “A term used over ninety times by Ezekiel to indicate his humanness.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 2:2 ‘Spirit entered Ezekiel’: “What God commands a servant to do (v. 1), He gives enabling power by His Spirit (cf. 3:14; Zech. 4:6).  This pictures the selective empowering by the Holy Spirit to equip an individual for special service to the Lord, which occurred frequently in the OT.  For examples see 11:5; 37:1; Numbers 24:2; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 1 Samuel 10:10; 16:13, 14; 19:20; 2 Chronicles 15:1; Luke 4:18.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 2:4-5 ‘Ezekiel – set apart as prophet’: “I don’t want to be unkind, but I am sure there ought to be a lot more authority in the pulpit than there is now.  A preacher should reign from his pulpit as a king from his throne.  He should not reign by law nor by regulations and not by board meetings or man’s authority.  He ought to reign by moral ascendancy.
“When a man of God stands to speak, he ought to have the authority of God on him so that he makes the people responsible to listen to him.  When they will not listen to him, they are accountable to God for turning away from the divine Word. In place of that needed authority, we have tabby cats with their claws carefully trimmed in the seminary, so they can paw over the congregations and never scratch them at all.  They have had their claws trimmed and are just as soft and sweet as can be. …
“I believe in the authority of God, and I believe if a man doesn’t have it, he should go away and pray and wait until he gets the authority and then stand up to speak even if he has to begin on a soapbox on a street corner.  Go to a rescue mission and preach with authority!  They had it in those days – when they stood up, there was authority!”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Counselor

Ezekiel 2:9-10 ‘the edible scroll’: “Next Ezekiel is shown a scroll that has writing on both sides.  Surely that the writing is on both sides indicates that the prophet’s message is all from God.  God does not write on one side, and Ezekiel on the other.  It is the abundance of the divine message that is stressed.  In our society ‘to eat words’ is something negative, something unpleasant.  In biblical thought ‘to eat words’ is an agreeable experience.
“Written on the scroll are lament, mourning, and woe.  These are three fairly synonymous terms for lamentation, and putting three of them side by side suggests comprehensiveness.  Unlike Jeremiah who mingles prophecies of hope and doom.  Ezekiel is all doom until chapter 33.  That is the reason for the writing on this edible scroll.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 2: ‘reflections’: “In the Church of God two opposite dangers are to be recognized and avoided; they are a cold heart and a hot head.  And for downright harmful effects the hot head is often the worse of the two.
“The human heart is heretical by nature, and unless well instructed by the Scriptures and fully enlightened by the indwelling Spirit it is sure to introduce some of its own notions into its religious beliefs and practices.  It may, for instance, confuse the fervor of the Spirit with the heat of the flesh, and mistake the scintillations of the overheated imagination for the glow of the true Shekinah.  And this can be extremely dangerous, especially when it is found among religious leaders.
“It is true that Ezekiel on one occasion went in the heat of his spirit; but there is no hint that his mind was anything but calm, for he said that ‘the hand of the Lord was strong upon me’ (Ezekiel 3:14).  The steadying hand of God prevents the fever of the human spirit from affecting the critical faculties and leading to extreme and unwise conduct.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

Ezekiel 3:1-3 ‘So I ate and it was like honey’: “God’s messenger must first internalize God’s truth for himself, then preach it.
“Even though the message was judgment on Israel, the scroll was sweet because it was God’s Word (cf. Pss. 19:10; 119:103) and because it vindicated God in holiness, righteousness, glory, and faithful ness, in which Jeremiah also delighted (Jer. 15:16).  Bitterness also was experienced by the prophet (3:14) in this message of judgment confronting Judah’s rebellion (v. 9).  The apostle John records a similar bittersweet experience with the Word of God in Revelation 10:9, 10.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 3:9 ‘rebellious’: “It is sad to observe that the exile and affliction did not make the Jews more responsive to God; rather, they were hardened by their sufferings.  God gave Ezekiel a corresponding ‘hardness’ to sustain his ministry as prophet to the exiles.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Ezekiel 3:17 ‘A watchman’: “If we would be found really useful and serviceable for our Lord and Master, the ear is to be disciplined.  To train the tongue we must begin with the ear.  No one is fit to command who has not first learned to obey, and assuredly no one is qualified to teach who has not first of all found pleasure in learning.  We must be a disciple and sit at the Master’s feet before we can become as apostle and go forth to speak in the Master’s name.  To acquire eloquence we must train the ear, and especially to warn people we must ourselves hear the voice of warning.  We must receive the gospel as God’s own Word and go forth to proclaim it as such.  Teachers, if they are to have power, must sustain everything with, ‘This is what the Lord God says.’  Believe him, for he cannot lie.  We come to tell you of what we ourselves have received on divine authority, and we claim that you receive our testimony, not because it is supported by divine authority and is in fact the echo of the divine Word.  Only by this mode of utterance can we hope to succeed.  On any other footing we court failure and deserve it.  If we would have our ear educated, it must not be only to receive the Word as divine authority but also to know what God’s Word is.  Many who are willing to begin winning souls had better first commence learning Christ.  We must fill ourselves before we ask to be poured out, else not much will come of our being poured out.  We must receive the bread and the fish from the Master, or we will have little to distribute among the crowd.  First, we must get to know what we have to say, or else how can we speak for God?  Hear the word from God’s mouth, and then deliver it in God’s name.
“Let us study the Bible with diligence.  Go to that fountain of truth, and never be satisfied with a secondhand version of it.  Search the inspired book and desire to know everything it teaches.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

Ezekiel 3:16-17 ‘passing on a message’: “I once heard a brother preach on the fact that the church should be without spot or wrinkle.  To get the wrinkles out of a sack, he said, you fill it.  To get a wrinkle out of a rug, you lay it down and walk on it.  God sometimes fills us, the preacher continued, but sometimes He just puts us flat down so that everyone can walk on us!
“King David long ago knew something of the latter method.  He wrote, ‘The plowers plowed upon my back; the made long their furrows’ (Psalm 129:3).  I think David was talking about his enemies.  And they must have been wearing hobnail boots!
“Ezekiel had just come to this kind of a low-ebbed, humbling experience when God opened the heavens.  In effect, God put His hand on him and said, ‘Now, I can use you.  I have some words and some plans that I want you to pass onto your country men.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Men Who Met God

Ezekiel 2-3 ‘summary’: “In the first three chapters, God commissions Ezekiel as His prophet by disclosing to him a powerful, soul-shattering vision of His own glory and majesty.  In these opening chapters, God instructs Ezekiel and gives him a mantle of responsibility.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

My Thoughts

I had to include the definition that Rev. MacArthur uses regarding “son of man,” because folks may get confused with the reference to Jesus in Daniel 7, “one like a son of man.”  But even in Daniel 8, the Son of Man refers to Daniel as “son of man.”  Those are the only two references to “Son of Man” in Daniel, while Ezekiel, or in writing how God refers to him, uses the phrase to refer to himself 93 times.  It is indeed a reference of humility, for we are not born without blemish.  We are part of that sin nature that was in our father and his father.

As for the first Tozer quote on Ezekiel 2:4-5 and the Spurgeon quote on Ezekiel 3:15, I want to have them as stand-alone discussions in the near future, but the “call” to be a prophet then or a pastor today is nothing to be trifled with.  While Tozer focuses on the “call” and the worthiness to work in God’s service, Spurgeon focuses on the ear, hearing God’s voice, which includes the calling.

But Ezekiel does not go into his calling blind.  He is told that a foreign people with a foreign tongue would be easier than the rebellious Israelites.  Rev. MacArthur, who could have easily used any of the references in Ezekiel 2 to rebelliousness, speaks on rebelliousness in Ezekiel 3:9.  The two chapters combine in painting a picture of a religious and rebellious people.  Rev. MacArthur talks about how it does not make sense that they rebel.  They should take this exile as a warning from God.  God, through Moses, speaks of the pending exile in Deuteronomy.  This should not be a surprise when the people are sent into exile.

Let’s look at the people in the pews at church.  The statistics, however obtained, do not look good for most of the surveys say that most of those people are not saved.  So, they are part of the rebel mob that Ezekiel would have to speak to.  But who among those regular church goers is going to think that Ezekiel was talking to them?  NO!  “I am very religious.  Ezekiel must be talking about those people on the other side of the river.”  Yet, those people think that they have God in their pocket, and God will say that He never knew them.  They have mastered those traits of stubborn, obstinate, and not listening.  That is how they have survived in the pews without taking the message to heart.  Of course, in many of our pulpits, they are not getting the message that they need to hear – that is if they would ever listen.

But the people that Ezekiel is to speak to are like the crowd in the End Times.  When the End Times prophecies all come true and as Revelation says, they will curse God.  They are in the boat they are in by rejecting God.  No, rejection implies that they think God exists.  They do not even believe that God exists, but when the prophecies come true and God appears at the Great White Throne, they will curse God, and according to the Apostle John, even before that during the tribulation.  I have read Biblical scholars who state that the people will curse God from the lake of fire – totally committed to their disdain for any authority save their own, or maybe the delusion that they have any authority at all.

Ezekiel 2 speaks of the people being rebellious seven times with Ezekiel being warned not to rebel.  But peppered among those seven rebellious words, there are other words: obstinate, stubborn, failing to listen, briars, thorns, and scorpions.  Let’s see: “Ezekiel, I have a mission, if you choose to accept it, and you have to face obstinate, stubborn, failing to listen, briars, thorns, and scorpions, and that is on a good day.  As always, this message will self-destruct in five seconds.”  And Ezekiel says, “Oh, no, self-destruct me and send someone else!!!”  No, Ezekiel ate the scroll and obeyed.

Note in Rev. MacArthur’s discussion about the scroll tasting like honey.  God’s Word is sweet when we accept Him as sovereign and follow as He leads.  He loves us.  Why would it taste bitter, even though it says nothing more than lamentations and woes?  That is God’s holiness.  While God loves us on a personal level, He remains holy.  God remains above all that lamentation due to not being within God’s will.  Why?  Because God knows the final outcome, and that it is all for the good of those who love Him.  That is the key.  Everything tastes like honey within God’s will.  And if you are allergic to honey or you cannot stand the taste, when in the presence of God, He can fix that issue too.  I make it through communion although I am allergic to grape juice.

Ezekiel moved to a village, Tel Aviv, which, according to Rev. MacArthur was the largest collection of people who were exiled, possibly including people from the other ten tribes.  This made Ezekiel deeply depressed.

Have you ever gotten what you thought was a message from God and it made no sense?  Did you respond with “Yes, Lord” or did you respond with “That makes no sense, and I will stay put until You say something that makes sense?”  If one or the other or both at one time or another, how did it work out?  Okay, beyond the scorpions and the people that do not listen, how did it work out?  By the way, I have done both, and the “yes, Lord” answer works out better. … Much better.

But following the depression, God speaks to Ezekiel again.  Ezekiel 2:16-21 should be burned on each of our hearts.  It does not require a prophet to tell someone the Good News.  God has laid it out for us in Scripture, and these verses say that we MUST go out and tell those who are lost where they can turn to be found.  Maybe some will do it better than others, but as God told Ezekiel, in doing so, you save yourself.  God has saved us without any works on our part, but to sit back and watch people revel in their sin and enjoy their way to Hell…  Can we do that knowing that God wants us to share the Gospel and these friends are not really enjoying life.  Their revelry is often a cover to hide their brokenness.  We should throw them a life-preserver.  My efforts may be for naught, but I shall go down swinging.

And just as Ezekiel’s first vision was bizarre, his first mission seemed like a false start.  “Go to the plain,” but after God speaks to him there, he was drawn back.  He is next to go home where he will be bound with ropes.  His tongue will get stuck.  He will only speak as God speaks to him, issuing rebukes to the rebellious people.

Twice in these two chapters, Ezekiel falls with his face to the ground.  In Daniel, Daniel does the same thing.  I had an elderly man say that when he arrives in Heaven, he will walk up to Jesus and shake His hand.  I shook my head and said that when I see the awesomeness of God.  Jesus will have to do for me as He, or an angel, did for Ezekiel, scrape me off the floor and lift me into a vertical position.  My knees will fail me, as they did many of the prophets.

And why all these strange instructions that made no sense?  Stay in Tel Aviv.  Go to the plains.  Go home.  Why not start with going home and avoid the other steps?

Many of those times when God’s instructions do not make sense, He has a plan, and He wants to ensure that we will obey.  Ezekiel obeyed.  He might have gotten huffy at one point, but God had His hand upon him.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. As you review your life’s work, have you ever been aware of any special calling or ‘overwhelming’ task from the Lord? (It doesn’t have to be anything like Ezekiel’s to be special or overwhelming.)
“2. What about God stands out to you in the call to Ezekiel?
“1. What message do you think God has for the people where you live?  What is your role in delivering it: To tell all, or only those who come to you?  Whose ‘blood’ are you seeking to avoid in warning them?
“2. What would help them take you more seriously?

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

The first grouping of questions corresponds to Ezekiel 2:1-3:15 and the second grouping corresponds to Ezekiel 3:16-27.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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