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3. Warning to Israel

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

4And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. 5For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; 6Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. 7But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. 8Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. 9As 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. 10Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. 11And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. 12Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place. 13 I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. 14So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.

15Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days. 16And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 17Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 18When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. 20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 21Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

22And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee. 23Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face. 24Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house. 25But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them: 26And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house. 27But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.

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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