And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent to me; and, see, a roll of a book was therein;
And when I locked, behold, an hand was sent unto me, etc. This section concerning the roll of prophecy must be looked upon as being of the nature of vision. It pertained not to the external and material, but to the internal and spiritual. It suggests the following observations concerning the prophetic message.
I. THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE IS RECEIVED FROM THE LORD. "And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; and he spread it before me." The volume was unrolled before him that he might become acquainted with the Divine commission given to him; "undertake his mission with a clear consciousness of its difficulty;" and know the Word of the Lord which he was to proclaim. He was not to promulgate his own thoughts, opinions, or convictions however true or noble they might have been); but the things which were revealed to him by God. "Thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God.... And thou shall speak my words unto them" (vers. 4, 7). And the Christian minister is to "preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15), to "preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2), after the example of the apostles who, "when they had preached the Word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel," etc. (Acts 8:25). "They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5:42; and cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 3:8; Colossians 1:27, 28).
II. THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE IS BOTH LONG AND MOURNFUL. The roll was "written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe." This roll is intended to represent the book of the prophet.
1. It was long. "Written within and without." Such was the extent and fulness of the revelation that the one side, which generally was alone used for writing on, was insufficient to contain it; both sides were required.
2. It was mournful. "There was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe." A correct description of many of the prophecies of this book. How mournful was the moral condition of the people as set forth by the prophet! How woeful the judgments which he proclaimed unto them! Very often the Word of the Lord by the prophets was in fact a heavy "burden" (cf. Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 1:1). And the Word of the Lord to the rebellious and the hardened (such as the Israelites were) is still a stern word - a word of condemnation and woe. The true prophet cannot prophesy smooth things to stiff-necked sinners. To such characters he must proclaim "the severity of God."
III. THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE MUST BE WELL DIGESTED BY THE PROPHET. "Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou fin, test; eat this roll," etc. (Ezekiel 3:1-3). The meaning of this is given in ch. 3:10, "Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears." He must receive it, meditate upon it, appropriate it, make it a part of his being. "Here we have the right expression," says Umbreit on eating the roll, "to enable us to form a judgment and estimate of true inspiration. The Divine does not remain as a strange element in the man; it becomes his own feeling thoroughly, penetrates him entirely, just as food becomes a part of his bodily frame." There is need of a similar appropriation of the Word of God by Christian preachers today. That Word should be in them not only by intellectual apprehension, but by spiritual assimilation also. It should be not merely on their lips, but in their hearts. This will give the accent and power of conviction to their words when they publish it.
IV. THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE WAS DELIGHTFUL UNTO THE PROPHET. "Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness." "Thy words were found, and I did eat them," etc. (Jeremiah 15:16). It seems strange that this roll of "lamentations, and mourning, and woe" should be sweet to Ezekiel. It was so probably:
1. Because it was the Word of the Lord. (Cf. Psalm 19:10; Psalm 119:103.)
2. Because of the honour conferred upon him in making him the agent of the Lord in hearing and speaking that Word. "It is infinitely sweet and lovely to be the organ and the spokesman of the Most High" (Hengstenberg).
3. Because even its severest portions were righteous. There was nothing that would clash with his sense of justice and truth. Says Calvin, "The sweet taste means Ezekiel's approbation of God's judgment and commands."
4. Because behind the severest judgments there was the grace of the Lord God. In the roll there were promises of mercy and restoration to the penitent. "Athwart the cloud," says Hengstenberg, "the rainbow gleams. Better to be condemned by God than comforted by the world. For he who smites can also heal, and will heal, if his proclamation of judgment, and the judgment itself, be met by penitence; while, on the other hand, the comfort of the world is vain." So the roll was in the prophet's "mouth as honey for sweetness." Yet there were times when his stern message and his arduous mission were not sweet to him, and he "went in bitterness, in the heat of his spirit" (Ezekiel 3:14; and cf. Revelation 10:9, 10). The work of the Christian preacher has its sweetness and bitterness; its high and holy joys, and its deep and heart-rending sorrows.
V. THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE MUST BE FAITHFULLY DELIVERED. "Son of man, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel." Even despite the determined opposition of those to whom he is sent, he must discharge his mission with fidelity (cf. Ezekiel 3:4-11, the meaning of which is very similar to that of the paragraph, Ezekiel 2:3-8, which has already engaged our attention). And it is required of the ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ that they be faithful to the great trust which is committed to them (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 2:2). Blessed are they who in the review of their life can humbly declare, with St. Paul, that they have kept the glorious deposit which was entrusted to them (cf. 1 Timothy 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:7). - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;