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…
This must have been a bard message for Ezekiel to deliver to his fellow countrymen. It was the heathen, the Gentiles, who were usually designated "nations;" and in applying this designation to Israel, he seemed to degrade the chosen people from their peculiar position of honour, and to rank them with the idolatrous nations whom they were accustomed to despise. And it has been surmised that, in employing the plural, the prophet intended to intimate that the Hebrews no longer constituted one people, one state, but were divided among themselves, dissolved as it were into disconnected and opposing sections and factions. It may be just and profitable to regard Israel as representative of the human race, in respect to this lamentable charge of rebellion, which may certainly be brought against mankind at large.
I. REBELLION IMPLIES ON THE PART OF THOSE WHO ARE GUILTY OF IT THE POSSESSION OF A VOLUNTARY NATURE. If there is no liberty, there can be no rebellion. Rebellion implies intelligent apprehension, and it implies deliberate purpose. The rebel knows what is the authority which he defies, and he defies that authority, not only intelligently, but of purpose. Brutes do not rebel; but men and angels may do, and have done Hence the serious responsibility attaching to rebellion against God on the part of wilful though misguided men.
II. REBELLION IMPLIES A JUST AUTHORITY AGAINST WHICH, CONTRARY TO EIGHT, THE REBEL SETS HIMSELF. There can be no rebellion where there is no government, no rebel where there is no governor. Neither can there be rebellion, properly speaking, against a usurper, who has no claim upon the loyalty and allegiance of those whom he may unjustly denominate his subjects. The moral government of the world is a fact, and its administration is characterized by equity. As the universal Legislator and Judge, God demands the subjection and obedience of mankind; all are his lawful subjects. There is no rebel against Divine authority who can bring against the rule and sway of the great Governor of the universe the charge of injustice and tyranny. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
III. REBELLION AGAINST GOD INVOLVES GREAT GUILT AND MISERY. This awful fact is not to be questioned by any reasonable student of the moral history of mankind. Nowhere more strikingly than in the history of Israel has it been shown that they who resist Divine authority and violate Divine Law incur the most awful guilt and entail upon themselves the most awful punishments. Sentimentalists may complain that such assertions are the expression of severity and fanaticism; but it remains forever true that "the way of transgressors is hard," and "the wages of sin is death."
IV. MAN'S GUILTY REBELLION PROMPTED INFINITE MERCY TO PROVIDE A VAST REDEMPTION AND DELIVERANCE. The history of the Hebrew people exhibits instances not only of human apostasy, but of Divine compassion and merciful interposition and deliverance. Thus the Captivity was itself a punishment for rebellion, for idolatry, and for all the evils idolatry brought upon the nation. Yet God did not forget to be gracious. He made the Captivity an occasion for displaying his grace; mercy triumphed over judgment. Repentance and submission took the place of resistance and defiance. Discipline, chastisement, answered its appointed purpose. God pitied the rebels even whilst he censured the rebellion. And very similar has been his treatment of mankind at large. The whole race has rebelled, and the whole race has been redeemed. There is spiritual amnesty provided through Christ Jesus, reconciliation through faith and repentance, restoration to affectionate loyalty and to happy subjection through the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit.
V. WHEN REBELLION IS SUBDUED, AND THE REBEL HUMBLED, SUBJECTION IS FOLLOWED BY LOYALTY AND HAPPINESS. God does not leave his work half done. He pardons the penitent, but he blesses the loyal and the reconciled. Great is the change which takes place in the state of him who has laid down the weapons of rebellion and has cast himself in penitence and submission before the footstool of the throne. As rebellion is exchanged for loyalty, and defiance for submission and gratitude, so disgrace is exchanged for honour, and the just sentence of death for the merciful assurance of Divine favour and eternal life. - T.
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.