And he said to me, Son of man, go, get you to the house of Israel, and speak with my words to them.…
It is impossible to read this language without being reminded of the parallel language recorded to have been uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Prophet Ezekiel was assured that, whilst his message would be rejected by his fellow countrymen, it would have been received with gratitude and faith had it been addressed to a Gentile nation. And our Lord, in upbraiding the unbelief of Capernaum, declared that the tidings he proclaimed would have been received with joy and would have induced repentance had they been addressed to Tyre and Sidon - nay, to Sodom and Gomorrah! It must indeed have rendered the mission of Ezekiel doubly difficult to be assured beforehand of the hardness of heart and the incredulity of the house of Israel. Yet it was a divinely appointed discipline to which he was subjected; and it was a wholesome, albeit a painful, preparation for the discharge of a distressing service, to be told that his words should be rejected, and yet to be bidden to utter them in the name and by the authority of his God.
I. THE LESS FAVOURED WOULD WELCOME THE DIVINE MESSENGER AND THE DIVINE MESSAGE. People of a strange speech, the prophet was assured, would, had he been sent to them, certainly have hearkened unto him. How is this to be accounted for? Such people would have been favourably inclined to the herald of God's justice and mercy:
1. By their surprise at an unwonted instance of God's condescension and gracious interest.
2. By their gratitude for words of warning and of promise.
3. By their responsiveness to the interposition on their behalf of a new power brought to bear upon their moral nature.
4. By the hope of Divine acceptance and of a new and better life awakened by the summons in their nature.
II. THE HIGHLY FAVOURED WILL MEET THE DIVINE MESSENGER AND THE DIVINE MESSAGE WITH INDIFFERENCE, UNBELIEF, AND IRRESPONSIVENESS.
1. Privilege is often associated with moral obduracy. The expression used is very severe: "Of a hard forehead, and of a stiff heart." It is observable, and very significant, that the historians and prophets of the Hebrews, so far from flattering their countrymen, used with regard to them language of stern upbraiding and denunciation, reproached them with their unbelief, rebelliousness, hardness of heart, and stiff-necked attitude towards Divine authority. And such reproach was abundantly justified by the facts of their history. They were chosen to privilege, not in virtue of any excellence of their own, but in the sovereign wisdom and mercy of the Lord. The more God did for them, the less they heeded his commandments. Not that this condemnation applied to all; there were those "faithful among the faithless;" but generally speaking, the Jews were a disobedient and rebellious race.
2. This moral obduracy leads to the rejection of God's messengers. "The house of Israel" so the Lord forewarned Ezekiel - " will not hearken unto thee." The same truth was expressed by our Lord himself centuries afterwards, when he reproachfully reminded his kindred according to the flesh that through long centuries messengers from God had been sent to their forefathers, only to be ill treated, wounded, and slain. Ezekiel was only to be treated as similarly authorized messengers of God both before and afterwards.
3. God's messengers are rejected by those who have rejected God himself. Most terrible are the words of the Lord to Ezekiel: "They will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto ME." God had spoken unto Israel in the events of past history, and in the directions and reproaches of conscience. Ezekiel might well believe that there was no special reason why they should listen to him; but he was well aware that there is no sin more awful than the refusal to listen to the Eternal himself, all whose words are true and just, wise and good. It was not a case for personal feeling, a case of offence given and taken. Such feeling would have been out of place. The serious aspect of Israel's unbelief was just this - it was unbelief of God; they turned away from the voice that spake from heaven.
APPLICATION. The privileges of those who, in this Christian dispensation, hear the gospel of salvation preached to them, far exceed the privileges of the ancient Hebrews. To reject the testimony of Christ's ministers is to reject Christ himself, as our Lord has explicitly declared. The condemnation and guilt are tenfold when men harden their hearts, not only against the authority of the Divine Law, but against the pleadings of Divine love. - T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.