Sound the Alarm!

Posted: June 9, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 2-3, “Sound the Alarm!”

Typically, if we want to stay out of trouble, we do nothing.  But is there any time that doing nothing actually causes harm?  Sure.  For instance, it’s one thing not to start a fire; it’s another not to say anything once a fire has gotten started.  Some kinds of legal situations specifically call for mandatory reporting.  The abuse of a child, for instance, does not fall under privileged confidentiality between therapists & patients (or anyone else) – but is usually required by law to be reported to the proper authorities.  Saying nothing actually allows further harm to be done, so the counselor bears legal guilt if he/she neglects to report the situation.

That’s civil law, but what about in spiritual matters?  In the eyes of God, His prophets were no different.  They were given a word to speak, and they were required to speak it.  If they didn’t, they themselves bore guilt, and this was specifically spelled out to the prophet Ezekiel.  God entrusted His prophet with His word, and if the people were to hear, it was His prophet who needed to speak up.  If the prophet didn’t do it, he’d bear the responsibility.

That’s not just an OT concept; the application falls to the church as well.  We’ve also been given the word of God in the form of the gospel, and likewise we’ve also been given the responsibility to speak it to others.  Romans 10:14–15, "(14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”"  WE are the sent ones, sent to preach the good news of Jesus so that the world could be saved.  If WE don’t tell them, who will?

This was the charge that God sought to impress upon Ezekiel that day by the River Chebar in Babylon.  Remember our context: Ezekiel was part of the large waves of Jewish captives now relocated deep in the heart of the Babylonian Empire. More conquest was still to come to Jerusalem, but the discipline of God was already well underway.  Ezekiel was raised to be a priest, but found it impossible to serve God in the traditional manner at the Jerusalem Temple, thinking he was far from God’s presence & glory, when God’s presence & glory came near to him in an overwhelming fashion.  Ezekiel witnessed a tornado of fire, lightning bolts, multi-faced cherubim, and wheels within wells all underneath a crystal sea which seemed to carry upon it the very throne of God.  It was an overwhelming sight, but it wasn’t until Ezekiel saw with his own eyes the likeness of the glory of God (the Incarnate Word of God) that he fell on his face to worship.

So far, we’ve read what Ezekiel saw that day – now we read what he heard.  Once it was established beyond all doubt that Ezekiel was in the presence of Almighty God, what is it that God would say to this priest-prophet?  This was to be his commission.  God was calling Ezekiel to be a watchman – someone who would have the responsibility to sound the alarm.  God was giving Ezekiel His word, and Ezekiel had the obligation to speak it, no matter what the reaction of the people might be. 

His commission is our commission: Speak the word (preach the gospel), no matter what!

Ezekiel 2–3

  • The prophet’s mission (2:1-3:15) / 1st vision

1 And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” 2 Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me.

  • The first thing we might notice is God’s title for Ezekiel: “son of man.”  This is by far God’s favorite address of Ezekiel, and it’s recorded over 90 times in the book.  The same phrase also happens to be one of Jesus’ favorite titles for Himself, and it’s recorded over 80 times throughout the four gospels.  The question then becomes: is this the same usage?  When God refers to Ezekiel as the son of man, is God using the phrase in the same way that Jesus uses the phrase?  No.  Although it’s true that both Ezekiel and Jesus serve as representatives of mankind to God, Jesus’ use of the phrase is distinctly Messianic in nature.  Jesus’ usage comes as a result of how the phrase is used in a different OT prophetic book: Daniel.  The book of Daniel uses it far less frequently than Ezekiel, but it very specifically points to the Messiah as being none other than God Himself.  Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed."  When Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man, it was this Son of Man that He referenced.  In a bit of irony, every reference to Jesus as the Son of Man is actually a reference to Him being the Son of God.
  • Obviously, Ezekiel is not Jesus – but like Jesus, Ezekiel stands here as a representative of man unto God.  God will speak with this man, and then this man will in turn speak on behalf of God to all men.  Essentially, Ezekiel is fulfilling his role as a priest (1:3).  Priests represent men to God, and God to men.  Although Ezekiel cannot do that at the temple in Jerusalem, he has the opportunity to do that through God’s spoken word in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
  • Do notice the importance of the Spirit in all of this.  Ezekiel had fallen upon his face, worshipping the Living God, knowing full well that no one can see the face of God and live.  Yet God extended to Ezekiel His grace, and gave Him permission and audience to stand before Him.  Even in this, Ezekiel didn’t have strength of his own to stand, so God gave him the strength through the Holy Spirit.  True to Ezekiel’s name, God strengthened him.  How?  By the Holy Spirit.
    • The Spirit gives strength!  We are weak when it comes to the will of God.  We often are weak when it comes to proclaiming the word of God.  But that’s one reason why we have been given the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit comes upon us, empowering us to be witnesses of Jesus (Acts 1:8).  We can do the work of God only through the power of God, and that only comes through the Spirit of God.  (When was the last time you asked for God’s power?  When was the last time you asked to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  Have you ever asked?)

3 And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. 4 For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’

  • Once empowered by the Spirit, God speaks to His prophet, spelling out his mission.  Ezekiel was being sent to his own people, who happened to be a very “rebellious nation.”  The proof of their rebellion was abundant.  In fact, it surrounded Ezekiel at that very moment as he listened to the word of God while in Babylon.  There was no question that Israel had rebelled against its God, and was fully deserving of whatever punishment God gave them.  Of course, that wasn’t God’s original desire for Israel.  He considered this nation to be His own children, and He desired to bless them as a gracious Father.  All of that was laid out in the initial covenant agreement He made with them (re: Deuteronomy).  Yet what was also laid out was what their punishment would be if they rebelled against Him, and that’s what they did.  They may have been the children of God, but they were “impudent and stubborn children.”  The description speaks of hard-heartedness & a strong resistance to the things of the Lord God.  They had become calloused against their Father, and this was something that required stern discipline in order to be broken again.
    • Hard hearts are not a danger only for those of the Old Testament; it is a danger for NT Christians as well.  We also can get the place where we take the love of God for granted – where we simply assume the forgiveness of God – where we no longer grieve over our sin because we know that we are supposedly the people of God.  Beware!  Hard hearts have only one solution: they need to be broken.  That can either happen through God’s firm discipline, or through our own choice to repent and humble ourselves.  Choose the latter!  The moment you see the signs of a calloused heart, do whatever you need to do in order to humble yourself in honest repentance.
  • As for these people, God knew their stubbornness, and He also knew what they needed: a witness against them.  This is why He sent Ezekiel to them – in order that Ezekiel would clearly proclaim the word of the Lord.  Whatever it was that God said, that’s what Ezekiel was to proclaim, no matter what their response might be.  See vs. 5…

5 As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse—for they are a rebellious house—yet they will know that a prophet has been among them.

  • This becomes something that God repeats to Ezekiel several times throughout the passage.  Whether the Jews listen to Ezekiel or not is their problem; whether or not Ezekiel speaks is his.  If Ezekiel was faithful in his calling – if Ezekiel was obedient to God, saying whatever it was God wanted him to say, then the hearers would be without excuse.  They would know God’s word for them & they would know that God had sent someone to tell them.  Ezekiel couldn’t make them listen or obey – he could only make himself speak.  He needed to be faithful in speaking, and leave the results up to God & the Jews.
  • This is such an important concept for us to grasp in regards to evangelism.  WE cannot save a single soul.  Sometimes people use the term “soul-winning” in regards to witnessing & evangelism, but it’s rather inaccurate.  We don’t win anyone for Jesus; He’s already won them when He died for our sin at the cross & rose in victory from the grave.  The “win” has already been accomplished.  What’s not accomplished is the appropriation of that win, and that’s left up to each individual person as he/she comes to faith in Christ.  That’s not something that the Christian can do for someone else.  We can share with someone the love of Jesus – we can make the gospel as clear as possible – we can give someone the opportunity to be saved…but we can’t save them.  We can’t make the choice for them to repent & surrender their lives to Jesus in faith.  If the word of God is seed (as Jesus taught in the parable of the soils), all we can do is cast it out upon the ground.  We can give it out, so that others may hear.  Whether or not they respond is up to them.
  • What does that do for us?  If nothing else, it ought to relieve us of a lot of undue pressure!  You’re not responsible to save a single person.  You are responsible to tell them how they might be saved, but you can’t make that choice for them.  You can’t talk them into repentance – you can’t persuade someone into saving faith – so stop feeling as if you have to.  Just tell them the truth.  Tell them about Jesus.  Tell them about who He is, and what He’s done for them.  And then let them make the choice to believe.  Whether or not they do, they will know that a prophet (so to speak) has been among them.

6 “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious.

  • Ezekiel was to speak God’s word, and he was to do so boldly – without fear.  Would the prophet’s task be difficult?  Yes.  Might it be dangerous?  No doubt.  God doesn’t minimize what lies before Ezekiel – there were still briers & thorns & scorpions to face.  But Ezekiel didn’t need to fear any of it.  Ezekiel was a servant of the Most High God, and as long as he was being faithful to God, nothing else mattered.  As Jesus would later teach, we aren’t to fear those who can kill the body, but not the soul (Mt 10:28).
  • God never promises us ease.  In fact, He specifically promises us the opposite!  The night of Jesus’ betrayal & arrest, He told the 11 remaining disciples that in this world, they would face trouble – that the world would hate them simply because they were Jesus’ disciples (Jn 15:18).  But that didn’t change what it was the disciples were to do.  They were still to go into the world and preach the gospel.  They needed to go among those who hated them and proclaim the love of Jesus for them, in order that even they might be saved.  Gospel ministry has never been easy – but the good news is that we’ve never done it alone.  We have tribulation in the world, but Jesus has overcome the world (Jn 16:33).  Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans, but He gave us the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16). 
    • All over the world in hostile environments, Christians share the gospel every single day without fear…we can do no less.  The days have arrived in which American evangelicals face a price for our faithfulness to Jesus, but we don’t need to be afraid of it.  Be bold – be filled with the Spirit, and trust God to provide for us all along the way.

8 But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” 9 Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside, and written on it were lamentations and mourning and woe.

  • Ezekiel’s fellow Jews were faithless; he needed to be faithful.  They had already shown their rebellion, but Ezekiel needed to set the example of obedience.  In his case, it was to faithfully proclaim God’s word as God gave it to him.  This would be a difficult word to hear & surely a difficult one to preach, but it needed to be done exactly.
  • It’s never fun to preach a turn or burn message.  Anyone who gets glee out of proclaiming hellfire and brimstone hasn’t a clue as to what actually goes on in hell.  Someone who’s heart isn’t broken by the reality of eternal suffering in a lake of fire is someone who’s not truly familiar with the gospel itself.  But just because it isn’t fun doesn’t mean it can be ignored.  People need to know about the reality of judgment.  They need to know about the “lamentations and mourning and woe.”  How else will someone ever know to run to a Savior, if they don’t realize their need to be saved?  They might say, “I’ve only told a few lies – I’m not all that bad.”  But then they learn that all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8).  They might say, “I’ve only hated a few people,” but then they learn that Jesus sees hatred on the same level as murder (Mt 5:22).  Or in regards to lust, it is the same level as adultery (Mt 5:28).  None who are unrighteous will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9), and none at all are righteous, no not one!  It’s when someone gets to this point that they recognize their depravity & their desperation.  It’s when someone understands their woe that they start to look for a Deliverer.  And thank God He has given One!  The Lord Jesus Christ does deliver us from sin & death!  Knowing the bad news of judgment makes us all the more grateful for the good news when it is given.

3:1 Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.

  • It’s such an interesting picture, and one that’s picked up by John in his own apocalyptic vision of the Lord God (Rev 10:9-10).  The idea is that in eating the book, the prophet is imbibing the word of God exactly as God intends to give it.  There’s not one word added, nor one missing.  All of it is given, and all of it is to be given out.  For John, the book was both sweet & bitter; for Ezekiel it was all sweet – the bitterness is implied in the message itself (the judgment).
  • There’s a great picture here for us in regards to the written word, the Bible: eat the book!  Take it in – all of it, exactly as God gave it.  Take in the full measure of God’s word, in order that you might be able to give it out to others.  Take in the fullness of God’s word, in order that God might use it in your own life.  We tend to pick & choose for ourselves, taking from our favorite passages – but who are we to say how God will speak to us through His word?  The Holy Spirit might prick your own heart through something He spoke through Obadiah.  There may be something Ezekiel said to the ancient Jews that is exactly what needs to be said to your neighbor next week.  But we can’t use what we don’t have.  Take it in – meditate upon it – eat it, figuratively speaking.  Will we remember all of it at every given moment?  Of course not…but neither do we remember every single meal of food we ever ate.  Yet we know we ate, because we’re all here & healthy.  The food we ate in the past kept us strong (as long as it was the right kind of food).  Likewise with the word of God.  Jesus likened it to our daily bread – and we need it for our daily strengthening.
  • Specifically, this book Ezekiel was to eat was the message God wanted him to pass on to the Jews.  For us in application today, we think of the gospel we pass on to others.  It’s not just for others; it’s for ourselves as well.  Eat it – take it in – draw strength from it – preach it to yourself as much as you preach it to someone else.

4 Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, 6 not to many people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you.

  • God made Ezekiel a missionary…a missionary to his own people.  He wasn’t sending the prophet to a far-away land (although he was already in one).  He wasn’t sending Ezekiel to a new nation who spoke a different language.  At first glance, we might think, “Good!  Things will be much easier for Ezekiel than Paul.  At least there’s no language or cultural barrier.”  Wrong.  Things were actually much more difficult.  It’s not that Paul’s ministry was easy (by any stretch of the imagination!), but at least Paul was speaking to people who were open to hearing truth they had never heard before.  Ezekiel was speaking to a people who were accustomed to the words of God, and who had always ignored them in the past.  If Ezekiel had been sent to the Gentiles, ironically, they would have listened.  But not Israel.  Vs. 7…

7 But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted.

  • Why wouldn’t Israel listen to Ezekiel?  Because they chose not to listen to Ezekiel’s God.  Their hearts were hard against their Heavenly Father.  They claimed to worship God, but their hearts were far from Him.  They claimed a historic covenant, but they had broken it so often that God was forced to put them in this place of punishment.  It’s not that they didn’t know the warnings that had been given to them.  Men like Isaiah & Jeremiah had preached it for year.  It’s that they didn’t care.  They were completely calloused to both the invitations to God’s mercies and also His warnings of judgment.
  • How easily the same could be said of the American Bible Belt!  Multitudes of men and women are calloused & hard-hearted against the things of God.  They’ve heard bits and pieces of the gospel, and because they have a church membership on file somewhere, they believe they’re saved.  Someone raised his hand at a youth camp years ago, and believes he has eternal life even though he hasn’t given Jesus a 2nd thought since.  People are inoculated against the gospel, and the ground is incredibly hard.  But…that’s all the more reason for us to be faithful.  WE are the missionaries that God has placed in this area.  WE are the ones that need to be faithful not only in proclaiming the truth of Jesus, but living it out in our own lives.  WE are the ones who need to demonstrate how Jesus transforms lives, and give others the opportunity to be transformed themselves.  Will they listen?  Maybe – maybe not.  But they won’t have the opportunity if they’re never told.

8 Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. 9 Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.”

  • Remember that the description of Israel’s calloused heart was their strength of stubbornness.  Ezekiel’s own name means “God strengthens.”  The idea here is that God promised to match Ezekiel’s strength to the strength of Israel’s rebellion.  He was going to make Ezekiel more stubborn in the word of God than Israel was stubborn against the will of God.  If it was to come down to a battle of wills, God would equip Ezekiel for the task.
  • Is our task to preach the gospel easy?  No.  But we need not be weak or afraid.  Remember that we do not do this in our strength, but in the strength of the Lord.  The moment we start to rely upon our own power is the moment that we’re going to burn out and fail.  We must be reliant upon the Holy Spirit if we are to be faithful in the task we have been given.  But thankfully, God makes His Spirit fully available to us for the asking.  So ASK!  Ask again & again – as many times as you need, trusting Him to empower you according to His promise.

10 Moreover He said to me: “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. 11 And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse.”

  • As the commission comes to a close, God reiterates what it is He called Ezekiel to do.  He was to receive God’s word into his heart (eat the book), and be faithful in the proclamation of God’s word to God’s people right where he was (in captivity).  Whether or not they listened was up to them.
  • BTW – which words were Ezekiel to receive?  “All” of them.  Don’t miss a one!  Take it all in, so that you’re faithful to give it all out.

12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: “Blessed is the glory of the LORD from His place!” 13 I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise.

  • If it was the sight of things that so impressed Ezekiel earlier, it was the sound that left an impression as things ended.  Earlier, there was a massive noise from the wings of the cherubim, but the only voice he had heard was the voice of God.  This time, the angels themselves seemed to speak, as they boldly (and loudly!) proclaimed God’s glory.  This seems to be pretty common for angelic beings.  In front of Isaiah, the seraphim loudly declared the holiness of God (Isa 6:3). (In fact, it was so loud that the doorposts shook!)  In front of John, the four living creatures did the same thing (Rev 4:8).  Cherubim and Seraphim exist to give glory to God…and they aren’t the only ones.  Ultimately, that is our purpose as well!  One day, all of creation will join together in one voice to glorify our Lord Jesus – and the sight of it will be amazing as every knee bows & every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:10-11).
  • Even as the cherubim shouted out the glories of God, Ezekiel was lifted up by the Holy Spirit, and was taken away from the throne room, which seemed to be in the process of departure as well…

14 So 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.

  • Why was Ezekiel bitter?  Probably because the vision was over!  As amazing as it was, he surely wanted to remain there forever.  Who wouldn’t?  When Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured & glorified along with Moses & Elijah, Peter also wanted to stay on the mountaintop forever, but it wasn’t to be.  Jesus would not fully glorify God if He did not fulfill the plan of God, which meant He had to go to the cross.  Likewise for Ezekiel.  He received an amazing vision where he received the commissioning of God, but the fact that he was commissioned meant that he needed to go out and fulfill the work.  God truly blessed Ezekiel with His presence, but God had blessed the prophet for a purpose.  Now that needed to be fulfilled.
  • Likewise with us.  There are times we come to church, and we’re incredibly blessed as we worship God – we can sense the Spirit speaking to us through the proclamation of the word of God, and much more.  But we can’t stay in these four walls forever.  There are times we go to retreats & mission trips & conferences & want to stay there, but we can’t.  God’s given us a job to do (the Great Commission), and that means we need to enter our own local mission field & get to work.
  • That said, some believe that Ezekiel was bitter because he understood the difficulty of his mission.  Perhaps, but (to me) that seems unlikely.  None of the prophets had easy ministries – that was something that was just understood.  From the context, it seems that Ezekiel was simply blown away.  “The hand of the LORD was strong” upon him.  He was weighed down with the things he had seen and heard.  He was overwhelmed and needed time to absorb it all.  And that’s exactly what he did…

15 Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

  • Tel Abib” is not the same city we know as Tel Aviv today in Israel – rather, it’s the settlement in Babylonia where the Jewish captives were sent. Ezekiel specifically describes it as being by the River Chebar, which is exactly where Ezekiel had been when he received his vision.  In any case, that’s where the prophet rested for 7 days as he absorbed everything he heard and saw.
  • God gave him a bit of time to rest, but it wasn’t long…
  • The prophet’s obligation (3:16-27) / 2nd vision

16 Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

  • As if to reiterate everything God had said earlier, the word of the Lord comes to Ezekiel again, this time explaining what it would mean for the prophet to do the things that God called him to do.  God had told Ezekiel that Ezekiel would speak God’s word to Israel, and God had a specific role in mind for the prophet as he did so.  Ezekiel was to be “a watchman.”  What’s a watchman?  Basically, it’s a sentry or guard.  Ancient cities were surrounded by walls for the protection of the people, and those assigned to be watchmen would look out along the horizon, keeping an eye out for any sign of approaching danger.  Today, we have people who monitor radar screens for the military – that would be the basic equivalent of the ancient watchman.  If the watchman saw something, he would sound the alarm.  In fact, that was his primary responsibility.  If the watchman remained silent in the face of danger, he was a disgrace & thus responsible for the harm caused to his people.
  • In this case, where would the harm originate?  From the Lord.  That sounds a bit shocking to us, but we need to remember the context.  The Jews had repeatedly sinned against God, and they were in the midst of the discipline specifically promised to them by their covenant relationship with God.  According to God’s justice, He had to punish Israel.  What He didn’t have to do is warn them & grant them an opportunity to repent.  But that’s exactly what He did through Ezekiel.  Ezekiel bore the message of God’s judgment, but it doing so he was also extending an invitation to God’s mercy.  All they needed to do was to listen & respond (which sadly, they didn’t do).  (Neither do we…far too often!)
  • Thus Ezekiel’s role was to be a watchman – a bearer of God’s warning.  That brought with it certain obligations and responsibilities.  Vs. 18…

18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

  • Ezekiel wouldn’t be responsible for the sin of the wicked man, but he would share in the guilt of the wicked man’s death if he neglected to sound a warning.  It’s one thing if Ezekiel does his best to warn the man, and the man ignores the warning – but it’s another thing entirely if Ezekiel knew to the warn the man and did nothing.
  • God gives a second example – vs. 20…

20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”

  • It’s not only the wicked who sin – it’s also the righteous.  Sometimes good people (at least “good” in the eyes of the world) fall into sin.  The best of us stumble, and when we do, we also need a warning.  God disciplines the righteous just as He does the wicked.  Why?  Because ALL sin is sin in the eyes of God.  Whether it come from a “righteous” man or a “wicked” one, sin is sin period.  And God will punish it.  When it comes from someone who does not worship God, God will deliver His judgment.  When sin is found in someone who does worship God, God delivers His discipline – described here as “a stumbling block.” God is going to do what is necessary to get our attention.
  • Part of that necessary work is a warning, and again, that’s why He gave Ezekiel as a watchman.  If Ezekiel warned the man, he would live – even if the fallen righteous man died.  But if Ezekiel failed in his duty, then he would bear the guilt of the man’s death.
  • The whole point is that this was a serious duty!  This wasn’t something that Ezekiel could easily write off or neglect.  God expected Ezekiel to speak, and that meant he needed to do it.
    • Failing to warn someone of known danger is serious.  Say you woke up to the smell of smoke in your house, and everyone else was asleep.  What would you do?  You’d sound the alarm, and do whatever you could to warn the household & get them to evacuate.  It’s no different with the gospel.  Beloved, the house of the world is on fire!  People are facing imminent death and destruction, and there is but one hope of salvation: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  What are we doing to tell them?  We cannot simply sit back and do nothing.

22 Then the hand of the LORD was upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you.” 23 So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face.

  • Everything up to verse 23 had all been the voice of the Lord, but now Ezekiel saw the glory of God once more.  The vision he had seen by the River Chebar was renewed, and everything was set in motion.

24 Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me and said to me: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. 25 And you, O son of man, surely they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them. 26 I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and not be one to rebuke them, for they are a rebellious house.

  • This sounds most curious.  Once more, Ezekiel saw the glory of God – once more, he had been entrusted with the message of God – but now?  Now he would be bound in his house & made mute by God.  Here, God is reiterating that Ezekiel’s message will be resisted, and God wouldn’t even let him speak it for a time.  It’s not that God didn’t want the warning given (He just spent the better part of two chapters charging Ezekiel TO speak) – it’s that God didn’t want the message spoken until the time was right.  Vs. 27…

27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.

  • God knew when the time would come, and He would loose Ezekiel’s tongue at that moment.  Up until that point, the prophet of God would be supernaturally silent – but after that point, he would say everything God gave him to say.  Nothing would be held back.
  • And again, if at that point the people refused to hear, they alone would bear the guilt.  All Ezekiel could do is speak.  It was up to them to listen and obey.  Would they do it?  No.  God knew them too well.  He knew they would refuse to repent – but that didn’t stop Him from giving them the opportunity.  As much as God is righteous in His judgment, He is also merciful in His love.  God’s desire is that people would live – the death people experience is that of their own choice.

Conclusion:
Sound the alarm!  That’s what Ezekiel was called to do by God.  Overwhelmed by the glory of God in front of him, he received a commission from God to be a watchman.  He was charged to warn the people of God’s coming judgment and discipline.  Whether or not they listened was up to them, but Ezekiel had a solemn responsibility to speak whatever God gave him to speak.  He was to take God’s word, without fear, and give it out as a message of warning to those who were perishing.

Ezekiel was sent to Israel; we’ve been sent to our neighborhoods.  Actually, we’ve been sent to all the world, in that Jesus told us to go to every nation.  But every nation starts somewhere, and it’s only natural to start with the people who are around us.  As with Israel, judgment is coming; they need to be warned.  WE are those who warn them.

May God help us not to neglect our own responsibilities with the gospel!  Is this a message of legalism, as if we might lose our salvation if we don’t witness of Jesus to others?  No.  But just because we are freely saved by the grace of God doesn’t mean He hasn’t charged us with responsibility now that we are saved.  In God’s eternal wisdom, He has chosen to make the gospel of Jesus Christ available to the entire world through the proclamation of the church.  That isn’t left to some nebulous institution – it’s given to Christian individuals.  You, me, and everyone else as a born-again believer has the holy privilege to share the gospel with the world around us.  If WE don’t tell them, who will?  And if we don’t tell them, what will we say to our Jesus when we see Him face to face?

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