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Ezekiel 3:8-9

8. Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.

8. Ecce posui facies tuas (faciem tuam) duram contra facies ipsorum, et frontem tuam duram contra frontem ipsorum.

9. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.

9. Tanquam adamantem fortiorem lapide (vel saxo) posui frontem tuam, ne timeas ipsos, et non frangaris a fade (vel a praesentia ipsorum) quia domus rebellionis sunt. 7070     מרו-המה meri-hemeh, a word which we have formerly discussed. — Calvin.

 

Ezekiel was forewarned of the obstinacy of the people, yea, even of their desperate wickedness. Now God strengthens him lest he should despair when he saw that he must contend with such abandoned and reckless men; for what else was it than contending with stones? If Ezekiel had been commanded to strike a mountain, it would have been just the same as contending with such a people. He had need then of this strengthening, viz., his forehead should be adamant against the hardness of the people If he had hoped for more fruit from his labor, perhaps that facility had been the cause of negligence: for confidence makes us more remiss when the work in hand is neither laborious nor difficult. The Prophet, therefore, would have been colder, if, certainly persuaded that the people would be docile, he had approached them more carelessly. God, therefore, excites him when he speaks of their obstinacy. As then it was useful that the Prophet should comprehend how arduous was the duty to the discharge of which he was called, so also he ought to be armed with the strength of God, for otherwise he would have been easily overcome by its difficulty. This is the reason why God adds, that he had given him a stout front and a brazen aspect against the face and front of the people Besides, in this way he was admonished that fortitude was to be hoped for from some other quarter, that he might not spend his strength in vain, but allow himself to be governed by the Spirit of God. For when we think only on the quality and quantity of our own powers, they may easily flow away, and disperse, and even become vapid, unless we discharge our duty with manliness. God, therefore, recalls his Prophet when he says, that he had given him a face, as if he would say, that the Prophet did not make war in his own strength, but was armed with celestial virtue. Although, therefore, this seems to have been spoken once for Ezekiel’s private use, yet it belongs to us all. Let us learn, then, when God calls us to the office of teaching, never to measure the effect of our work by the standard of our own capacity, nor yet to consider our own powers, but to repose on some communicated strength which God here extols in no empty praises. Whoever, therefore, shall acknowledge that God is sufficient for overcoming all obstacles, will gird himself bravely for his work; but he who delays for calculating his own strength is not only weakened but is almost overcome. Besides, we see that we are here instructed in humility and modesty, lest we should claim anything as due to our own strength. Hence it happens, that many are so full, yea so puffed out with confidence, that they bring forth nothing but wind. Hence, let us learn to seek from God alone that fortitude which we need: for we are not stronger than Ezekiel, and if he needed to be strengthened by the Spirit of God, much more do we at this time need it.

Lastly, we gather from this passage that although the whole world should rise up against the servants of God, yet his strength would be superior, as we saw it was with Jeremiah: They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail. (Jeremiah 1:19; Jeremiah 15:20.) Hence there is no reason why we should be afraid of the violent attack of any enemy, and although the whole world should be in a tumult, yet we need not tremble, because God’s strength in us will always be more powerful. Therefore it is added, as an adamant, harder than flint, have I placed thee; therefore do not fear them. God says I have placed the forehead of the Prophet like adamant; not that he strove with the people by either injustice or audacity, but because God opposed the confidence with which Ezekiel was endowed to the furious impudence of the people. In this sense then the forehead of the Prophet is said to be adamant Now he adds — do not fear, then, and do not be broken by their face or presence These phrases, that the Prophet be not broken, and yet fear not, seem to be opposed to each other, since he excels in unconquered fortitude. But God so tempers his favor, that the faithful always have need of excitements, even when he animates them, and supplies them with strength. God, therefore, so works within his servants, that they do nothing except as they are ruled by his Spirit; and yet they have need of his teaching, since his exhortations to them are never superfluous. Profane men think that there is no use in teaching, and that all exhortations are frivolous, if God, when he acts upon us by his Spirit, not only begins, but continues and perfects his own work. But the Scripture shows that these two things mutually agree; for while God strengthens us and renders us unconquerable by his Spirit, at the same time he breathes virtue into his exhortations, and causes them to flourish within us, and to bring forth fruit In this way God on his part confirms his Prophet, by giving him an adamantine forehead and more than stony, and by giving him an unconquered spirit, and yet he exhorts him to fear not. We see, then, how God governs his own people within them, and yet adds teaching as an instrument of his Spirit. Then he adds, because they are a rebellious house, or although they are; for the particle כי, ki, is often put adversatively, as we have said elsewhere. If we take it in its proper sense, it will suit very well, because they are a rebellious house; as if it had been said, the Prophet has no cause for fear, because he was carefully admonished beforehand, and nothing new could happen; for we are accustomed to be very much frightened by novelty; but when we have meditated on what happens, we are not disturbed, neither do we stand still nor hesitate; for although the Prophet had already learnt that the house of Israel was rebellious, yet he perseveres, because he experiences nothing new or unusual. It follows —


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