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He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. 2So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. 3He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.

4 He said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them. 5For you are not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel— 6not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you. 7But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8See, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. 9Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not fear them or be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 10He said to me: Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and hear with your ears; 11then go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them. Say to them, “Thus says the Lord G od”; whether they hear or refuse to hear.

Ezekiel at the River Chebar

12 Then the spirit lifted me up, and as the glory of the L ord rose from its place, I heard behind me the sound of loud rumbling; 13it was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, that sounded like a loud rumbling. 14The spirit lifted me up and bore me away; I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the L ord being strong upon me. 15I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who lived by the river Chebar. And I sat there among them, stunned, for seven days.

16 At the end of seven days, the word of the L ord came to me: 17Mortal, I have made you a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand. 19But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life. 20Again, if the righteous turn from their righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before them, they shall die; because you have not warned them, they shall die for their sin, and their righteous deeds that they have done shall not be remembered; but their blood I will require at your hand. 21If, however, you warn the righteous not to sin, and they do not sin, they shall surely live, because they took warning; and you will have saved your life.

Ezekiel Isolated and Silenced

22 Then the hand of the L ord was upon me there; and he said to me, Rise up, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you. 23So I rose up and went out into the valley; and the glory of the L ord stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. 24The spirit entered into me, and set me on my feet; and he spoke with me and said to me: Go, shut yourself inside your house. 25As for you, mortal, cords shall be placed on you, and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among the people; 26and I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be speechless and unable to reprove them; for they are a rebellious house. 27But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord G od”; let those who will hear, hear; and let those who refuse to hear, refuse; for they are a rebellious house.

Now, therefore, we clearly see the sloth of the people assigned as a reason why they purposely rejected the Word of God, and hardened themselves in obstinacy. He also ascends higher, and says, that the people were not only disobedient to the Prophet but to God himself, as Christ also when he exhorts his disciples to perseverance in teaching. Therefore, says he, they will not hear you, because they will not hear me, and why am I and my teaching hated by them, unless because they do not receive my Father? (John 15:18.) For this stumblingblock is likely to break the spirits of the pious, when they see their teaching so proudly rejected. This reproach alone, therefore, is often accustomed to recall the servants of God from their course: but this admonition is proposed to them in the midst, that God himself is despised. Why then should they take it ill, that they are held in the same estimation as God, who is himself rejected? They think themselves undeserving of such contempt and haughtiness being thrown upon their labor. But is not God worthy of being listened to before all angels? Since, then, they are proud and unbelieving towards God himself, it is not surprising that they do not reverently receive what is proposed to them by mortal man. Now, therefore, we see what the intention of God is when he says, the house of Israel will not hear thee, because they do not hear me: lest it should be vexatious to the Prophet to see his labor profitless, nay, even the children of Israel rising against him: because he ought to bear it patiently, if he should suffer the same obloquy which they did not hesitate to display against the Almighty himself. It follows, Because the whole house of Israel is of a bold or a daring aspect, and of a hard heart He repeats what we saw before, but in other words — namely, that the people’s hardness of heart was untameable, and that they were not only obstinate in heart but brazen in countenance, so that they cast aside all modesty; and lastly, he implies that their obstinacy was desperate, when he joins a brazen countenance with a hard heart.

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.

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