And he said to me, Son of man, I send you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me…
And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, etc. We have here -
I. A DISCOURAGING SPHERE OF PROPHETIC SERVICE. (Vers. 3, 4.) Ezekiel was sent to:
1. A people who had mournfully fallen. "I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me." By descent they were sons of Israel, who had engaged in mighty wrestling with God, and by faith had prevailed; and they ought to have been his sons in character. But instead of that they are here spoken of as "the rebellious nations." The word is plural, as in the margin; and it is that which is used to denote the heathen as distinguished from the people of God. They are designated "nations," as if they had something of the sins of all heathen peoples. They were sadly degenerate branches of a noble root. In former times the Israelites had been the Lord's "peculiar treasure... a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5, 6); now they were "the rebellious nations that have rebelled against" him.
2. A people persistently rebellious against God. Observe the repetition of this charge against them in vers. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8. Their rebelliousness had existed long. Generation after generation they had been revolters against Jehovah. "They and their fathers have transgressed against me unto this very day." The children trod in the sinful steps of their rebellious fathers. Unless restrained by the grace of God, children will imitate their parents, however wicked they may be. Let parents remember the power of their example over their children, and so live that their children may imitate them with advantage.
3. A people openly obdulate in wickedness. "They are impudent children, and stiff-hearted." They were hard of face; they had lost shame; they had ceased to blush by reason of their sins. "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush" (Jeremiah 6:15). And they were "stiff-hearted" - an expression which denotes steadfastness and determination in their evil ways; they were hardened in wickedness.
4. A people resolutely hostile to the Lord's prophets. "Briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks." Three ideas are suggested concerning the people.
(1) Their barrenness. They were as destitute of the fruits of righteousness as dry thorns.
(2) Their injuriousness. They would prick and sting as briers and thorns.
(3) Their venomousness. Like scorpions, they would seek to poison the heart and life of the prophet. They would assail him with envenomed words, and scowling, threatening looks. The life of a prophet of Jehovah was generally one of trial and persecution. Ezekiel is here forewarned of the pains and penalties awaiting him in his future course. In like manner our Lord made known to the twelve apostles the persecutions they would have to encounter in the fulfilment of their mission (Matthew 10:16-22). What an evidence it is of the mercy of God that he should send his prophet to so rebellious a people (cf. Hosea 11:7-9)!
II. THE SUBLIME CHARACTER OF PROPHETIC SERVICE. It involves two main functions.
1. Reception of Divine communications. "Son of man, hear what I say unto thee." The prophet must be a devout listener in the glorious temple of God's great universe. His spiritual ear must be keenly sensitive even to the whispers of the Divine voice.
2. Publication of Divine communications. "Thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God" (ver. 4). "And thou shalt speak my words unto them." It is his business neither to expound the systems of other men, nor to propound his own opinions, but to declare the Word of the Lord. He must speak what he receives from God; and he must speak it in his Name and by his authority. The Christian minister is an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, offering his pardon, etc. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20).
III. THE UNCERTAIN RECEPTION OF PROPHETIC SERVICE. "Thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether: they will hear, or whether they will forbear." It was not granted to Ezekiel to know how his message would be regarded by his fellow countrymen. He received no assurance that they would hear and. heed it. Rather it was suggested to him that they might refuse to hear his testimony. Nevertheless, he must deliver to them the words which he received from God. He must
"Learn a prophet's duty:
For this cause is he born, and for this cause,
For this cause comes he to the world - to bear
Witness." And now the ministers of Jesus Christ must speak his Word faithfully, irrespective of the treatment which is given to that Word. The treatment which the gospel receives from their hearers they are not responsible for; but for fidelity in the proclamation of that gospel they will be held responsible (cf. Ezekiel 3:16-21).
IV. THE DIVINE ENCOURAGEMENT IN PROPHETIC SERVICE.
1. Obedience to the Divine call demands this service. "I send thee to the children of Israel" (ver. 3); "I do send thee unto them" (ver. 4); "Be not thou rebellious" (ver. 8). The true prophet, whether Hebrew or Christian, is called of God. He cannot decline the service without grievous unfaithfulness and disobedience. He is encouraged to fulfil it by the fact of the Divine commission; for he who calls strengthens and sustains his servants.
2. Attention to the Divine exhortations strengthens for this service. "Be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words," etc. (ver. 6). This exhortation implies that he who gives it will defend his servant. "Be not afraid of their faces; for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 1:8; and see Matthew 10:26-31).
3. The assurance of its vindication encourages in this service. "They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them." Because of his covenant relation to the children of Israel, the Lord will send his prophet unto them. "His testimony, the tidings from him, must be heard in the midst of Israel." The declaration of that testimony was a proof of the fidelity of the Lord to his covenant engagements. And the people should know the genuineness of that testimony. Those who truly heard it would know, by blessed experience of the results of obedience, that a prophet had been among them. And those who rejected it would know by bitter experience, know to their confusion, that a prophet had been among them, and that his words were true. So also shall the mission of every true Christian minister be vindicated, as we see from 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.
1. Let those who have received a mission from the Lord be encouraged to fulfil it. (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:1.)
2. Let those to whom the Word of the Lord is preached "take heed how they hear. - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.