Lie you also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel on it…
In order to his being a religious teacher and guardian of his nation, it was necessary that Ezekiel should enter into the state of his fellow - countrymen, and even share the sufferings due to their unbelief and rebellion. The Christian reader cannot fail to discern in the prophet of the Captivity a figure by anticipation of the Lord Jesus, who himself "bare our sins and carried our sorrows." Doubtless Christ bore the iniquity of men in a sense in which no other can do so. Yet there is no possibility of benefiting those who are in a state of sin and degradation, except by stooping to their low estate, participating in their lot, enduring somewhat of their sorrow, and thus bearing their iniquity.
I. WHETHER WILLINGLY OR UNWILLINGLY, IN EVERY NATIONAL CALAMITY THE INNOCENT SUFFER WITH THE GUILTY. The guilt is the nation's, the suffering is the individual's. The righteous may witness against the city's sin and rebellion, but they are overtaken by the city's catastrophe. It is not always that the city is spared for the sake of the ten righteous who are found therein. One common ruin may, as in the case of Jerusalem, overwhelm the inhabitants, alike those who have erred and offended, and those who have raised their voice in protest and in censure.
II. THE RIGHTEOUS BEAR THE INIQUITY OF THEIR NEIGHBOURS BY SENSITIVENESS TO THEIR SINS. As Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the dwellers in Sodom, as there were those in Jerusalem who sighed and cried for all the abominations done in the city, so in the midst of a corrupt and ungodly community there may be those who lay to heart their neighbours' iniquity, and who feel bitter distress because of conduct which to callous sinners brings no sorrow. It may be granted that this is to some extent a matter of temperament; that a sensitive character will be afflicted by what a calmer, colder disposition bears with impunity. Yet every good man should watch himself, lest familiarity with abounding sin should dull the edge of his spiritual perceptions, lest he should cease to be distressed because of the prevalence of iniquity.
III. THE RIGHTEOUS BEAR BY SYMPATHY THE SUFFERINGS WHICH SIN ENTAILS UPON THEIR NEIGHBOURS. A siege is usually accompanied by most painful and heartrending incidents; wounds and privations, pestilence and violent death, are all but inseparable from so frightful an aspect of human warfare. The prophet was not a man to think of such incidents, to realize them by vivid imagination and confident anticipation, without being grievously affected. Who is there, with a heart to feel, who can picture to himself the miseries, the disease, the want, the bereavements, which sin daily brings upon every populous city, without taking upon himself something of the burden? We are commanded to "weep with those that weep." And when the calamities which befall our neighbours are the unmistakable results of transgression of Divine commands, we do in a sense bear their iniquities, when we feel for them, and are distressed because of the errors and follies which are the occasion of afflictions and disasters.
IV. THE RIGHTEOUS MAY SOMETIMES, BY THUS PARTICIPATING IN THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR NEIGHBOURS' INIQUITY, BE THE AGENTS IN BRINGING ABOUT REPENTANCE AND DELIVERANCE. Our Lord Jesus Christ so identified himself with the sinful race whose nature he assumed, that he is said to have been "made sin" for us; he "bore our sins in his body on the tree." This was seen, by the infinite wisdom of our Father in heaven, to have been the one way by which salvation could be brought to this sinful humanity. Now we are reminded that, in his endurance of the results of men's sins, Jesus left us an example that we should follow in his steps. He is, indeed, the only Propitiation from sin, the only Ransom for sinners. But the principle underlying redemption is a principle which has an application to the spirit and to the moral life of all the followers of Christ. They are in this world, not simply to keep themselves pure from its evil, but to help to purify others from that evil. And this they can only do by bearing the iniquity of their fellow men; not by keeping themselves aloof froth sinners, not by merely censuring and condemning sinners, but by taking the burden of their sins upon their own renewed and compassionate hearts, by entering into their temptations, and helping to rescue them from such snares; and, above all, by bringing them, in compassion and sympathizing love, into the fellowship of that Divine Saviour who gave himself for us, and who bears and takes away the sin of the world. It is by him only that the world's iniquity is to be pardoned and to be abolished, and to be replaced by the love of and by obedience to a righteous and holy God. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity.