Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
These words of the text ought to touch us, first in the way of warning and then of encouragement.
I. As to the warning contained in this high doctrine it seems obviously and inevitably to result from it: (1) that our spiritual and everlasting condition is in some mysterious manner placed within our own power—that if we die, spiritually and eternally, it will be our own doing, the consequence of our own wilful presumption and miserable folly. Vain and worse than vain, is the notion which we all so readily cherish, that our spiritual condition is not within our own power and that the Almighty will do with us as He pleases without regard to our own exertions. Certainly He will do with us as He pleases, or, as the Apostle says emphatically, "according to the counsel of His own will." But then it is His irrevocable will and counsel, that, without holiness, no man shall be admitted to His beatific presence. He has no pleasure in the death of Him that dieth, yet if men turn not from their evil ways they must and will die; it is not God's choice but their own—for themselves. (2) Another great warning in the doctrine of the text is that we have before us no alternative but either to turn or perish. Hence the necessity of our examining ourselves so strictly, and turning so resolutely from all that we find amiss in us. "Lust when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin: sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.
II. Consider again what encouragement and consolation to all humble and contrite hearts is contained in these divine words. Here we see (1) that, sinful and undeserving as we are, our Heavenly Father watches over us with the utmost possible tenderness and anxiety; and not merely this, but He has taken great pains to impress on our hearts the conviction that He does so watch over us; (2) that whoever turns from any evil way, any wrong course, either of sin committed or of duty neglected, has unquestionably God's blessing on him; has the best possible pledge and test that he is so far in the right way—a pledge and test doubtless more to be depended on than any external flattery or internal feeling.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iv., p. 233.
References: Ezekiel 33:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1795; J. Oswald Dykes, Old Testament Outlines, p. 253; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 159. Ezekiel 33:22.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 6.
Ezekiel 33:30-32The experience which the young priest Ezekiel had to bear among the captives in Babylon is the same in some degree that every serious preacher of God's word has had to expect. The methods of rejection may be various, but the act is the same; it is rejection by men. The number who may be induced to hear his preaching and knocking is much larger than the number of those who really intend to yield the obedience of faith.
I. Consider this melancholy fact. Many hear the word of the Lord, and hear it with interest, who will obey it not. It is quite wonderful how men hear what is well spoken with pleasure, and yet remain quite unaffected by it in their characters and lives. An unconverted man, a disobedient hearer, sometimes is quicker to appreciate the force of a discourse than a converted and an obedient hearer is. The heart of man easily coins self-flattering hopes out of these passing emotions which religious discourses and appeals may excite. "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."
II. That is the character. Now what is the reason of it? Their heart goes after their gain. Every man who is to follow Christ is to forsake all that he has and become Christ's disciple. So long as their hearts are going after their gains they are deaf, they are blind, to the true meaning of the Gospel. They are absolutely insensible to the whole drift of Christ and His Apostles. They are seeking their own things, and therefore the word has no effect upon them. So long as the heart hankers after the treasures or the pleasures of this world, all the church-going, all the appreciation of this preacher or that, goes for nothing, accomplishes nothing, that has fruit in everlasting life.
D. Fraser, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 168.
References: Ezekiel 33:30-33.—W. M. Punshon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 259. Ezekiel 33:32.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 264.
Ezekiel 33:32-33These are the words of the Lord God to the prophet Ezekiel, words in which He describes the effect of the prophet's preaching upon the children of his people. Ezekiel had by this time become a successful preacher. He was the great sensation of the day; men thought it must be the proper thing to go and hear him, to sit lowly before him, to listen with rapt attention to the impetuous torrent of his words, and when they went away to discuss his message in the gates or on the housetops. But their heart was not touched, nor was their life affected; it was their imagination that was fascinated, and their understanding that was pleased.
I. This state of things is exactly reproduced in the case of every popular preacher. Men whose lives are cruel or impure,—whose hearts are covetous, whose thoughts are bitter,—crowd to hear the preacher of the day, because his words are sweet, because his eloquence is full of melody, because they feel themselves for the moment fascinated, captivated—carried out of, lifted above, themselves.
II. Ezekiel in his popularity is a type, not only of all lesser preachers, but emphatically of Him who is the great Prophet and Preacher of the world, the Master of all ages, the Incarnate Word of God. A very lovely song it is which the Saviour sings; no poet, no prophet, no bard, ever sung or ever dreamed, or ever even strove (and striving failed) to express anything half so sweet, so full, so soul-subduing as the Gospel of the grace of God. And He that sings it hath a very pleasant voice, for sweeter is the voice of Christ than the voice of any angel or archangel, and of any of the heavenly choirs—grander in itself and sweeter far is it to us, because it is a Brother's voice, and we can feel the sympathy, we can understand the finest, softest shades of meaning which are woven through the melody. Therefore does the world love to listen to His message of salvation, to sit at the feet of Christ, to call Him Great Master, to listen to His words with pleased attention. They hear His words, but do them not. Never shall His voice sound so pleasant, never His song so lovely, as when He shall lead His own to the eternal bowers, and those who are not His shall be shut out for ever. Yet this last unspeakable woe must be our portion, if the Gospel be to us but as a very lovely song—if our attitude towards Christ be one of admiration, not of imitation—if we hear His words but do them not.
R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 87.
References: Ezekiel 33:33.—E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 129. Ezekiel 34:4.—A. G. Maitland, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 392. Ezekiel 34:10.—S. Cox, Expositions, 3rd series, p. 16. Ezekiel 34:12.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 204. Ezekiel 34:26.—J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity, p. 27; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 26; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 55; F. W. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 75. Ezekiel 34:27.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1462. Ezekiel 34:29.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 160; J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 108.
Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:
If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand.
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.
When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.
Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;
If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.
When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten.
Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, they that inhabit those wastes of the land of Israel speak, saying, Abraham was one, and he inherited the land: but we are many; the land is given us for inheritance.
Wherefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Ye eat with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood: and shall ye possess the land?
Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife: and shall ye possess the land?
Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely they that are in the wastes shall fall by the sword, and him that is in the open field will I give to the beasts to be devoured, and they that be in the forts and in the caves shall die of the pestilence.
For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.
Then shall they know that I am the LORD, when I have laid the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.