But you, son of man, hear what I say to you; Be not you rebellious like that rebellious house: open your mouth…
This Book of Ezekiel is one abounding in figure and symbol; it would be a mistake to take all its contents literally. When we read that the prophet was required by God to eat that which was given him, and are then informed that a written scroll was that which was to be eaten, we are at first surprised. But then we recollect that eating has been in many religions regarded as a sacred and symbolical act. The Mosaic dispensation had its Paschal meal, and the Christian religion has its sacrament of the Lord's Supper. So that the symbol of the text is quite in accordance with the practices which, upon Divine authority, have prevailed in the Church throughout the ages.
I. IN ORDER THAT THE TEACHER MAY IMPART TO HIS FELLOW MEN, HE MUST FIRST RECEIVE FROM GOD. That this is the meaning of the symbol of this passage is evident from the context. It was in connection with the prophet's commission that he was bidden to eat the scroll. It was thus that he was to fit and qualify himself for his special ministry; he was to take from God, that he might have wherewith to supply the needs of the people.
II. THE REVELATION OF GOD MUST BE GRADUALLY AND COMPLETELY APPROPRIATED AND ASSIMILATED BY THE MINISTER OF DIVINE TRUTH, Eating is a process by which suitable nutriment is introduced into the bodily system, and assimilated by the organs of digestion, so that it both builds up the bodily structure and supplies the organism with renewed power for life work. Such is the function fulfilled by God's truth in connection with the spiritual being and life. The teacher of the revealed mind and will of the Supreme cannot be fitted for his service by a superficial and slight acquaintance with his message. That message must sink into the depths of his nature, must penetrate his being, must enter into all the functions of the spiritual life.
III. THE RELIGIOUS TEACHER MAY HAVE TO CONTEND WITH AND OVERCOME NATURAL DISINCLINATIONS TOWARDS SOME PARTS OF THE MINISTRY ENTRUSTED TO HIM. The requirement of God could not but awaken in the prophet's mind something of repugnance, The scroll he was bidden to eat was filled with lamentations, mourning, and woe; the message he was commissioned to deliver was a message of reproach, of expostulation, of warning, of threatening. Such a ministry could not be agreeable to his natural inclinations; he must have shrunk from it as uncongenial and distasteful. It must often happen that the fulfilment of duty is distressing to the faithful and yet sensitive preacher of righteousness; it is a bitter thing to deliver a message of condemnation to one's fellow men.
IV. YET IT IS SWEET TO OBEY AND TO FULFIL THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD. When the disinclination to undertake the painful commission had been overcome, a profound satisfaction followed. The prophet found that in keeping God's commandments there is great reward. The distress is temporary and brief the satisfaction is lasting. The surgeon may often inflict pain upon his patient; the physician may see it right to order a course of treatment which is repulsive. To act wisely and conscientiously may, in such cases, be painful. But let the duty be discharged, and there follows a true satisfaction. It was so with Ezekiel; it is so with every true and faithful servant of God. The office may he one arduous and difficult, painful and repugnant; yet, if it is the office to which God calls a man, obedience and fidelity, the unshrinking fulfilment of the service, will bring a rich reward. Sweet are the delights of those who conquer self, who yield themselves up to the service of that Saviour who himself carried the cross. They shall enter into the joy of the Lord. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.