And he said to me, Son of man, go, get you to the house of Israel, and speak with my words to them.…
And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, etc. Here is a comparison between two possible spheres of prophetic service - between the Israelites and the heathen (ver. 5); between the one house of Israel and many heathen peoples (ver. 6).
1. Both these spheres of service would have presented difficulties in the way of the fulfilment of the prophet's mission. In the case of the heathen nation or nations there would have been the linguistical difficulty. Ezekiel would not have understood their speech; they would not have understood his. European missionaries find this, and have to spend no inconsiderable time in acquiring the language of those to whom they are sent. before they can begin their great work. In the case of the house of Israel the difficulty was in their moral condition. It was not that the prophet's speech was unintelligible unto them, but that their hearts were hardened against the Word of the Lord.
2. The liaguistical hindrance to the success of the prophet's mission was far less serious than the moral. Time and patient application would enable him to surmount the former; but what human skill or assiduity can overcome the strong prejudice or moral obstinacy of the heart?
3. The mortal hindrance to the success of the prophet's mission is sometimes humanly insuperable. (Ver. 7.) What is the reason of this, that the untaught heathen would have attended unto the prophet, while the privileged Israelites would not hearken unto him?
I. THE FAMILIARITY OF THE ISRAELITES WITH THE TRUTHS PUBLISHED BY THE PROPHET HAD DEPRIVED THOSE TRUTHS OF THE INTEREST WHICH ARISES FROM NOVELTY. The unfamiliar and the new have great attractions for many minds (cf. Acts 17:19-21). Ezekiel had no new fundamental truths to make known unto the house of Israel. What Moses and other prophets had taught he had to enforce and apply to their present circumstances. With the general principles of his teaching they were well acquainted. His message had no interest to them. But to the heathen his message would have been fresh and charged with interest. It would have awakened inquiry, etc. And alas! how many in Christian congregations today are so familiar with the gospel of Jesus Christ that they heed it not! Things which, compared with it, are the trifles of an hour, secure their eager attention, while it is treated as an unimportant and unprofitable thing.
II. THE LONG INDIFFERENCE OF THE ISRAELITES TO THE TRUTHS PUBLISHED BY THE PROPHET HAD RENDERED THEM INSENSIBLE TO THE POWER OF THOSE TRUTHS. They had heard them without heeding them, until heedlessness had become habitual in relation to them. They had refused to recognize their importance so long that now they seemed to them to have no importance. But the heathen would not have been thus indifferent to these truths. For them they would have had, not only the interest of novelty, but the influence arising from their practical relation to their hearts and lives. Is it not to be feared that in Christian countries at present there are many who, like the house of Israel, how so long been indifferent to "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" that now it is natural to them not to feel any personal concern in it? The offer which is repeatedly disregarded is ere long unnoticed. Warnings which are frequently unheeded at length cease to be heard.
III. THE PRACTICAL OPPOSITION OF THE ISRAELITES TO THE TRUTHS PUBLISHED BY THE PROPHET HAD HARDENED THEIR HEARTS AGAINST THOSE TRUTHS. They had so long refused to do the will of God that they had become insensible to the lower of his Word. They were "impudent and hard-hearted" - " stiff of forehead and hard of heart." They would not hear the Word of the Lord. But the heathen would have beard it if that Word had been sent unto them; for they had not hardened themselves against it. They were accessible to its influence, etc. This solemn truth receives confirmation from other portions of Scripture. While the house of Israel rejected their prophets, the heathen of Nineveh retorted at the preaching of Jonah. Our Lord also confirms this truth in solemn words (Matthew 8:10-12; Matthew 11:20-24; Matthew 12:38-42). The history of modern missions supplies illustrations of the power of the gospel of Christ to interest and astonish, to attract and fascinate, to convince and convert, heathen peoples. Yet in this highly favoured land there are millions who are unmoved by that gospel. And of these many, many, we fear, have hardened themselves against the will and Word of God. They who persist in so doing become "past feeling." Moral power fails to impress them. They are "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." When holy authority has no force for men, and Divine threatenings no awakening power, and truth and righteousness no sacred majesty, and death 'rod eternity no solemnity, and the deepest, tenderest love no spell upon the heart, - when men are indifferent to these, harden themselves against these, what moral influences of a saving character can be brought to bear upon them?
1. If the heathen would have heard the Word of the Lord, how is it that the prophet was not sent unto them? Our answer mast be that of our Lord when considering a similar question: "l thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth," etc. (Matthew 11:25, 26). And it is important to remember that the heathen will be judged, not according to the light which they bad not, but according to that which they had.
2. If the heathen are thus disposed to hear the Word of the Lord, the gospel will most surely be published unto them. (Mark 16:15; Revelation 14:6, 7.)
3. But the chief voice of our subject is that of solemn admonition to all unto whom the gospel is preached. "Take heed how ye hear." "Despise not prophesyings." Beware of hearing the Word of the Lord with indifference; for indifference may grow into obduracy of heart such as no moral force can penetrate. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.