In our study of Ezekiel chapter three, we will look at his call to be a watchman for God's people and how it applies to our lives today. We will find that it is just as relevant to the life of a Christian as it was to the prophet and we will see that God has given each and every one of us the same call. With that call comes a great deal of responsibility.
And he said to me, 'Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.' So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
As we saw in chapter 2, this scroll contained the Ten Commandments and God has told the prophet to eat them. This is the first step in God equipping the watchman for his ministry. This is a reminder that the Word of God should be a part of each and every believer but especially those that are called to preach and teach. God also told John to eat a scroll in Revelation 10.
Then he said to me, 'Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.' So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
What goes into our stomachs gives us the power for our bodies to function. God is letting us know that, in order to function properly as His people, we need to fill our stomachs with His Word. That is why, when Jesus was tempted by the devil, He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God". It was sweet for the prophet to taste and that is the same thing that John said in Revelation. We need to ask ourselves if we, as Christians, find the words of God to be sweet to us. Do we long to read and study His Word in order to know Him more?
He then said to me: 'Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.
Like Ezekiel, once the Word is living inside of us, we then have the power to go in the name of Jesus and to share that Word with others. The key thing in this verse is that he was told to go and share "my words" (speaking of God's words) and not his own.
'You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel - not to many people of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.'
There will not be any language barriers in Ezekiel's ministry so, at the proper time, the people cannot use that as an excuse. Even for us today, it is just easier to go and to share the gospel with those who speak a different language than us. They usually pay more attention and want to hear and understand more than those who are more like us but, just like the prophet here, God may want you to go to those that are like you even if it is more difficult.
But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.
God explains that the people are not going to listen to Ezekiel because of the fact that their hearts are not open to hearing. The words may enter their ears but they will not penetrate the stubborn heart. This is also what Jesus was talking about in the letters to the churches when He said "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear" (see Revelation 2). The same is true today as many people may hear the good news that Jesus has paid for their sins but they do not let the words penetrate to their hearts and change them.
'But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.'
God continues to tell Ezekiel of how he is going to be used. Here, we see that God is going to make the prophet stand firm even though the people do not want to listen. This is speaking of patience which is one of the "fruits of the Spirit" that Paul talked about in Galatians 5. Just as God said that He was going to do this in the prophet, we can be assured that God will do the same in us through the Holy Spirit. Today, there are many that do not want to hear about the things of God but we, like Ezekiel, must be unyielding in our proclamation of the very Word of God. God said that He would make his head harder than flint which is a rock that is so hard that it is used to create a spark and a fire. May God make us so steadfast in His Word that it causes a fire in hearts around the world.
And he said to me, 'Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says," whether they listen or fail to listen.'
Ezekiel has received his instructions and been reassured that God is with him. Now, he is told to go to those who are in exile and declare the Word of the Lord. This is just like what happened before Jesus was taken up to heaven. He gave us our instructions, reassured us that He would be with us, and told us to go (see Matthew 28:18-20). We, too, are told to go to those who are in exile as, without Christ, those around us are in captivity.
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound - May the glory of the Lord be praised in his dwelling place! - the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound.
Ezekiel begins to describe what happened next but he broke out in praise as God was behind him and on the move. As a Christian, you may know the feeling of knowing that God is with you and in control and many times that can just cause us to break out in worship as we meditate on that fact. When God is really moving in your life, worship is a natural reaction to that presence (glory).
The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days - overwhelmed.
The Spirit of God took Ezekiel and placed him at Tel Abib where he was to share the message. The prophet is honest as he tells us that he didn't want to go and in fact was bitter and angry in his spirit. He had forgotten that falling on your face in worship of God is good but God is also worshiped when we obediently go and do what He has for us to do. Then, he tells us that for seven days he simply sat among the people in shock.
At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.'
God tells the prophet that he is a watchman for the house of Israel. This is talking about the fact that the cities had men stationed on top of the walls to watch for approaching danger. The job of the watchman was to alert the people so that they would be ready to defend themselves and not be destroyed. Likewise, Ezekiel is to listen and give the warning to God's people so that they might be saved. Although we do not have many walled cities today, this is much like the lifeguards that we have at beaches and pools. These people are trusted to keep people safe and warn them of approaching dangers such as rip currents and sharks. We, too, are called to sound the alarm and warn our fellow man that danger is coming in the form of judgment for sin.
'When I say to a wicked man, "You will surely die," and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.'
If a watchman did not warn the people of approaching danger, then they would die and he would be the cause. As we see in this verse, the same is true if Ezekiel does not warn the people that judgment for their sins is coming. What if the lifeguard saw a bunch of sharks approaching a group of swimmers and did not warn them? We would all agree that their injuries and possible death would be because of the lifeguard. We, too, have that same responsibility (if we are in Christ). God places people in our path every day that need to hear the gospel and, if we do not share the good news that Jesus Christ paid for their sins, their blood is on our heads because we had the power to warn them but did not do so.
'But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.'
Ezekiel's job was to proclaim the Word of God to the people and trust God to work in them to bring them to repentance. The same is true for us today in that we are called to tell people the gospel of Jesus Christ but they must accept it and believe for themselves. Like Ezekiel, we must warn them that the penalty for sin is death and they can either accept the payment from Jesus or pay it for themselves. If they reject the Truth then they will die for their sins. When God says "you will have saved yourself" it does not mean that we will lose our salvation if we do not tell someone about Jesus but it does mean that we will have to answer for it in the judgment of saints. This is when Jesus hands out rewards for our service here on earth (see Revelation 20).
'Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.'
Throughout the Bible, the number two is associated with testimony and the establishment of truth. When God repeats something, it is wise for us to pay attention. Here the concept of the responsibility of the watchman is repeated and so we, too, should take this to heart. The stumbling block that is mentioned here is grace through Jesus Christ and that causes those who trust in their own actions for salvation to stumble and fall. They can do a million things right but, without grace, one bad thing will lead to destruction.
But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.
If the watchman warns the people and they are prepared, then they are saved from the coming danger. The same is true for us today in that, if we hear the good news of Jesus Christ and take it to heart, we are saved from the coming destruction and will live with Him forever. When it says that the watchman will be saved it is not talking about this salvation but about responsibility and the second judgment (rewards judgment for believers).
The hand of the Lord was upon me there, and he said to me, 'Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.' So I got up and went out to the plain. And the glory of the Lord was standing there, like the glory I has seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown.
After explaining his responsibility to him, God tells the prophet to go out into the plain. When he obeys, God is there once again. It may seem kind of strange that God does not just lay it all out there for Ezekiel but instead has him going here and there. Once again, when God shows up the prophet assumes the normal position which is face to the ground. Though God will never leave us, the closeness of our relationship with Him changes. If, like Ezekiel, we listen and obey Him, He will meet us where He sends us. If we do not listen and obey, we may go some other direction and miss the blessing that the prophet describes in seeing His glory.
Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: 'Go, shut yourself inside your house. And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people. I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, though they are a rebellious house.'
God tells Ezekiel that he is going to be persecuted (tied with ropes) and, even in the midst of the attacks on him, he is not going to be able to cry out or to curse them. This is the same thing that happened to Jesus in that, as they beat Him and even crucified Him, He did not curse those that were doing it. It is also a pattern for us to follow in that, if we are following Christ, we can expect persecution as well and our reaction should be the same. This reaction can only come from God as we see that it was God who closed Ezekiel's mouth. God has given us the same power through the presence of the Holy Spirit and, if we listen and obey, we can react like Jesus even in the face of severe trials.
'But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says." Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.'
Ezekiel was only to share the words that God gave him but he was to share them and leave the results up to God. It is a reminder that the watchman is only responsible for sounding the warning; the people are responsible for listening and obeying. The same is true in our sharing of the gospel in that, we are called to tell people of the Savior and how to be saved but the people must make their own choice of whether to obey. Too many people have forgotten that it is God who calls the people to salvation and it is even God who makes them able to hear and respond. We, like Ezekiel, are simply watchmen sounding the warning that judgment is coming (soon!).