So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit…
The Prophet Ezekiel would have been more or less than human had he not felt poignantly the painful commission with which he was entrusted. He was a patriot as well as a prophet; and his distress and trouble arose not merely from the discouragement natural to his position and service, but from his sympathy with his fellow countrymen, his censure of their sin, his sorrow for their fate. Yet it was not the will of God that his grief should interfere with the efficiency of his ministry. And the Lord who called him to his special work chose the occasion of the prophet's depression as the occasion of his intervention upon his behalf and for his strengthening. It was when Ezekiel was in bitterness and the heat of his spirit that the hand of the Lord was strong upon him. Nor was this experience peculiar to this prophet; many have, in God's service, known Ezekiel's bitterness, and have, in the time of their bitterness, felt God's hand upon them, a hand of encouragement, of guidance, and of blessing.
I. THE NATURAL DEPRESSION OF THE DISAPPOINTED WORKER FOR GOD. The circumstances described in the context are abundantly sufficient to account for the bitterness and heat of the prophet's spirit. Every faithful servant and minister of God can enter, more or less completely, into his feelings. The conditions of labour are often discouraging and distressing.
II. THERE IS DANGER LEST THE EFFECT OF MENTAL BITTERNESS SHOULD BE THE CRIPPLING OF THE HANDS FOR EFFICIENT LABOUR. A cheerful mind contributes to efficient toil. Even if the task be difficult and painful, it will not be well performed if bitterness and heat of spirit prevail. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."
III. DIVINE INTERPOSITION CAN IMPART STRENGTH, CAN ALLAY VEXATION, CAN FIT FOR SPIRITUAL MINISTRY. "The hand of the Lord," says the prophet, "was strong upon me." This metaphorical expression is full of significance.
1. Strong to uphold, as a father's hand sustains his child in a difficult and dangerous road.
2. Strong to defend, as the hand of an escort may ward off from his charge the attack of a foe.
3. Strong to direct, as the hand of the helmsman may steer the ship upon her course.
4. Strong to cheer and encourage, as the hand of the husband may grasp that of the wife, to comfort and to animate with courage, in times of common difficulty, sorrow, and distress.
5. Strong to save, as the hand of a deliverer may rescue a drowning form from raging waterhoods. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.