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Ezekiel 2:8

8. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.

8. Et tu fill hominis audi quae ego loquor ad re, ne sis rebellis quemadmodum domus haec: 6363     Israel must be understood. — Calvin. aperi os tuum et comede quaecunque proposuero tibi.


God continues to confirm his servant, but he advises him of a cause of stumbling which might break his spirit; for when he perceived the great obstinacy of the house of Israel, he might refuse the office of their teacher a hundred times over. God, however, adds incentives and exhortations to perseverance, although he experiences the abandoned obstinacy of the house of Israel: do thou hear, says he, what I shall say to thee Here we see that no one can discharge the teacher’s office, unless he be a proficient in God’s school. It behoves, therefore, those who wish to be thought disciples of God to be teachers of truth, and for this purpose first to listen to God’s instructions. Then he takes away a stumblingblock, as we have said, be not thou, rebellious like the house of Israel For we know that a multitude has much influence over us to disturb us: for the consent of a whole people is like a violent tempest, where all conspire together, and even those who are not wicked yet are carried forward with the crowd. Since, therefore, the, multitude sometimes carries away even the servants of God, here God meets his Prophet and puts a bridle upon him, that thou be not rebellious, says he, like the house of Israel He does not here speak indefinitely concerning any people, but concerning ‘that nation which boasted itself to be divinely elected, and bore in the flesh the symbol of its adoption. Yet God wishes the consent of his people to be neglected by his Prophet, because we know how insolently the Israelites boasted themselves to be the sacred and peculiar people of God; in the same way indeed as the Papists now exult, Israel then vaunted against all the Prophets. And therefore this passage must be diligently observed, because at this day many of these magnificent titles vanish away when they are brought to reason: for we know that they are mere smoke by which Satan endeavors to blind our eyes, while he falsely brings forward the name of God and the Church.

We ought, indeed, to receive whatever is uttered by God with such modesty and veneration that we may be completely affected as soon as his name is mentioned, but meanwhile we must. use prudence and discretion, lest we should be struck with awe when Satan uses God’s name to deceive us. And as we must use discernment, God here shows us the rule of doing so. For if we are thoroughly persuaded that, the doctrine which we follow and profess is from God, we can safely look down from on high not only upon all mortals but upon angels themselves: for there is no excellence so great but that God’s truth outshines it. Therefore when formerly the Israelites pretended that they were God’s people, and were adorned by the marks of a true Church, we must hold that the honor of the Church is frivolous when hypocrites reign in it, or rather exercise impious tyranny, and oppose themselves to God and his doctrine. And at this very day we may turn this passage against the Papists — nay, even point it at them directly as often as they bring up those pompous titles of “the Catholic Church,” and “the Spouse of Christ,” for God has said once for all, that we ought not to be rebellious, although the whole house of Israel should become so; that is, although those who bring forward the name of God should mutually enter into a diabolic conspiracy, yet we must not regard their conduct so as to subscribe to their impious conspiracy. We read the same in Isaiah, (Isaiah 8:12, 13,) Thou shalt not say a conspiracy whenever this people says conspiracy: thou shalt not feel their fear nor their dread, but sanctify the Lord of hosts. Which passage Peter also cites, (1 Peter 3:14, 15;) because the Jews, who then pertinaciously opposed the gospel, weakened the feeble by their boasting, by saying that they were the Church, and yet rejected and abominated the new teaching which was then spread abroad: Peter cites that place of the Prophet, namely, although the house of Israel impiously conspired against God, yet such contumacy must be despised. Afterwards the Prophet adds, (Isaiah 8:18,) Behold! I and the children whom God hath given me for a sign and a wonder. He says, therefore, that those little ones who worship God purely, and withdraw themselves from the common impiety, were like monsters, and were esteemed as complete wonders. But the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews accommodates this place to the reign of Christ, (Hebrews 2:13,) and not without reason. For to this day we are a wonder to God’s enemies, who carry themselves not only with boldness but with abandoned impudence against the pure doctrine of the gospel. To them we are heretics, schismatics, dogs — nay, the offscouring of the world. But although we are to them for signs and wonders, it is sufficient for us to be acknowledged by God: because it is needful for us to be separated from that impious conspiracy unless we wish to be separated from God himself. For what agreement is there with Papists, or what union with those dregs, unless by separation from God himself? Therefore, because we cannot extend the hand to Papists on any other condition, and cultivate a brotherly intercourse with them except by denying God, let all that injurious union with them cease, and let us learn to separate from them with boldness, since we clearly see that we are all commanded to act thus in the person of the Prophet: for he had said a little before, a prophet dwells in the midst of them — and this was clearly expressed, that he might manifest more anxious care for himself. For it is difficult to walk amidst thorns and scorpions, lest we should be pricked, and lest we should be struck by their virulent tail. God, then, commands us to be so attentive, that although we walk amid thorns we should not be pricked by them, and also that we should not be injured by the poison of scorpions; and if we seek from heaven that prudence which does not naturally belong to us, this will happen, for if the Spirit of God govern us, he will preserve us harmless from every bite of the serpent, and from all injury and mischief.

It follows: open thy mouth, and eat whatever I shall put before thee By this practical symbol God confirms Ezekiel in his vocation: for he orders him to eat a book, which was fulfilled in vision. Jeremiah uses the same metaphor, (Jeremiah 15:16,) but with some slight difference, because our Prophet seemed to himself to eat a volume: but Jeremiah only signifies that he had digested the words of God like food, not that he only tasted them with his tongue, and that they were so thoroughly fixed in his mind as if he had really dressed and digested them. But God wished to confirm our Prophet in another way, namely, by offering him a volume, and commanding him to eat it. There is no doubt that this volume comprehended whatever the Spirit of God afterwards dictated to the Prophet; and yet the effect was just as if God had made a mortal the channel of his Spirit: as if he had said, “Now you shall utter nothing human nor terrestrial; because you shall utter what my Spirit has already written in this book.” But here we see a difference between the true servants of God, who discharge their duty in earnest, and talkative men, who are satisfied with their own powers of eloquence, or rather garrulity: for there are many ready speakers who utter what they have never digested, and thus their teaching is but vapid. And this is the meaning of what Paul says: the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:20.) But those who truly consecrate themselves to God, not only learn what they speak of, but as food is eaten, so also they receive within them the word of God, and hide it in the inmost recesses of their heart, so that they may bring it forth from thence as food properly dressed. Now, therefore, we understand why God wished the Prophet to eat the book, concerning which also it follows afterwards —

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