Ezekiel 2 – Ezekiel’s Call as a Prophet
A. The calling of the prophet.
1. (1-2) Ezekiel commanded and enabled to stand to receive his call.
And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me.
a. And He said to me: There were no chapter divisions in the original writing of Ezekiel, so we should not miss the fact that Ezekiel’s call to prophetic work came from the overwhelming vision of God, His chariot throne, and the cherubim described in Ezekiel 1.
b. Son of man: This is the first of 93 times God used this phrase to address Ezekiel. It is a title that emphasizes that he is a man among men and something of a representative of humanity.
i. “The phrase son of man is a Hebraism which emphasizes Ezekiel’s insignificance or mere humanity. ‘Son of’ indicates ‘partaking of the nature of’ and so when combined with adam, ‘man’, it means nothing more than ‘human being’.” (Taylor)
ii. Son of Man was also a phrase Jesus used to refer to Himself, recorded some 80 times in the Gospels. Yet Jesus’ use of the phrase is more connected with the idea from Daniel 7:13, where Son of Man describes the divine Messiah.
iii. “By the time the Similitudes of Enoch were written (46:1-2) the Son of man had come to mean specifically the Messiah. Our Lord’s use of the title seems to have taken advantage of the ambiguity between the simple and the technical meanings.” (Taylor)
c. Stand on your feet: Ezekiel 1:28 tells us that the prophet fell on his face at the sight of the likeness of the glory of the LORD in the vision of Ezekiel 1. Now he is told to stand, to hear God’s message and to receive his call.
i. “That prostrate soul was called to a new attitude, for which it had been prepared by a vision and the prostration. It was that of standing erect before God in order that face to face he might receive the word of God.” (Morgan)
ii. “Oracles are for standers, not prostrate ones. They require utmost attention of body, intention of mind, and retention of memory.” (Trapp)
iii. “Service, not servility, was what God desired from this man. In those days servants always stood in the presence of their Master.” (Smith)
d. The Spirit entered me when He spoke to me: For Ezekiel, God’s word became the way the Holy Spirit entered and worked in him. The Holy Spirit still works and enters His people through the Word of God.
i. “On many occasions, the Spirit would lift him up (Ezekiel 2:2, 3:14; 8:3; 11:1, 24; 37:1; 43:5) and give him special power for his tasks (3:24; 11:5). The important thing was that Ezekiel stand obediently before the Lord and listen to His Word.” (Wiersbe)
ii. “He who is sent by the God of all grace to convert sinners must be influenced by the Holy Ghost; otherwise he can neither be saved himself, nor become the instrument of salvation to others.” (Clarke)
e. Set me on my feet: At first, Ezekiel could not stand before the glory of the LORD but was then commanded to stand. As he heard the word of God’s command, the Spirit entered him and worked in him to do what God commanded. This same pattern of the work of the Spirit and God’s word is evident in believers today.
i. “If God has called you to do a certain thing, He’ll give you the power to do it. The best position you can come to is to recognize that you are not able in your own strength to do the job the Lord has given to you.” (McGee)
2. (3-5) The call: speaking to the rebellious house of Israel.
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. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 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.
a. I am sending you to the children of Israel: At this time the children of Israel still had something of a kingdom in Judah and a temple in Jerusalem. Yet many of them were also scattered across the Middle East, by the forced exiles under the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Ezekiel’s word was for all of them.
i. I am sending you: “Prophets functioned primarily as messengers of God, and the critical issue in the conflict between true and false prophets was which persons had actually been commissioned (salah) by Yahweh. Accordingly, the most serious charge that could be leveled against a true prophet was ‘Yahweh has not sent you’ (cf. Jeremiah 43:2).” (Block)
b. To a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me: God sent Ezekiel to speak to a difficult audience. They were rebellious by nature, and their rebellion was even worse because it was against Yahweh, the God who had loved them and done so much for them. Truly, they were impudent and stubborn children.
i. Rebellious nation is literally rebellious nations, in the plural. The word is the familiar term goyim, most often referring to heathen nations. “The plural noun (goyim, ‘nations’; NIV, ‘nation’) refers to the two separate nations of Israel and Judah, which made up the entire nation of Israel in Ezekiel’s day.” (Alexander)
ii. Block on the use of goyim (nation) here: “When the word is used of this nation, it tends to carry a pejorative sense, highlighting Israel’s indistinguishability from other nations, and Yahweh’s rejection of Israel. Apart from faith in and fidelity to Yahweh, Israel is just another ‘heathen’ nation.”
iii. “The people are further described as impudent and stubborn (v4, RSV; lit. ‘hard of face and firm of heart’). The first phrase suggests the shameless attitude of the man who will not lower his gaze but prefers to brazen it out; the second describes the stubborn, unyielding will that refuses point-blank to give way even when found guilty.” (Taylor)
iv. Collectively, it is a remarkably negative picture:
· They are the children of Israel, yet often fleshly and grasping like their father Jacob.
· They are a rebellious nation, often more like the Gentiles (goyim) than God’s own people.
· They have rebelled against God and are traitors and rebels.
· They are impudent and stubborn children, like insubordinate teens.
v. “It is a characteristic of Ezekiel’s message that he saw nothing good in Israel’s past history (cf. chapters 16 and 23), and so to describe the people as both ‘heathen’ and ‘rebellious’ (i.e. idolatrous) at the very outset of God’s word of commissioning is quite in keeping with the outworking of the prophet’s message in the rest of the book.” (Taylor)
c. You shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD”: Ezekiel was sent to Israel to speak God’s words, not his own. This was not about what Ezekiel liked or did not like; it was about being God’s messenger. So it should be true for every pastor, preacher, and Bible teacher today.
i. They are a rebellious house: “Over a dozen times in Ezekiel the phrase ‘rebellious house’ (literally, ‘house of rebellion’) is employed; instead of the ‘house of Israel’ they had become the ‘house of rebellion.’ The greater the position of privilege, the greater the extent of disobedience.” (Feinberg)
d. Yet they will know that a prophet has been among them: God told Ezekiel that whether Israel would hear or refuse, it would never change the prophet’s fundamental message. Being the messenger, he was not ultimately responsible for how the message was received – only to demonstrate that a prophet has been among them. If Ezekiel did demonstrate that he was indeed a prophet of God, truly among them with God’s word, then he could leave the results up to God.
i. “This vindication will obviously not come through masses of repentant converts, and probably not through the commendation of other prophets. All that remains is the traditional sign of a true prophet—the fulfillment of his predictions.” (Block)
ii. “By this they shall be assured of two things: 1. That God in his mercy had given them due warning. 2. That they themselves were inexcusable, for not taking it.” (Clarke)
B. Instructions for the prophet called by God.
1. (6-8) Do not fear but speak boldly.
“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. You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. 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.”
a. Do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words: God warned Ezekiel that many would reject his message. Their rejection would sting like briars, like thorns, and like scorpions – yet it should not drive the prophet to fear and despair.
i. “Note how Isaiah (6:9-12), Jeremiah (1:17-19) and Ezekiel, here (3-7), were all given a depressing call. They were needed in a desperate situation, and had to be prepared for a large measure of rejection and even threats on their life.” (Wright)
ii. This difficult call was easier for Ezekiel to embrace because it came from a genuinely awesome encounter with God. Because he was absolutely convinced of the power, majesty, and glory of God it gave him strength and courage to stand against the stinging rejection of men.
iii. “Be not afraid; the admonition against sinful fear is repeated; lest Ezekiel should forget, or we in like case should fail of our duty, it is four times given in charge.” (Poole)
b. Or dismayed by their looks: Sometimes the rejection of a message is seen in a look of disdain or proud defiance.
i. Dismayed by their looks: “The verb here is a very strong word, meaning ‘to be shattered’.” (Taylor)
c. Whether they hear or whether they refuse: Ezekiel was not to allow the acceptance or the rejection of the message to determine his work. Like Paul exhorted Timothy, he was to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).
d. Hear what I say to you: Though the house of Israel may rebel against God’s word, it was essential that Ezekiel the prophet surrender and submit to it. God then gave Ezekiel an acted-out illustration of this acceptance of every word of God – to eat the words of God.
e. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house: The people were rebellious, but Ezekiel could not be. He had to be surrendered to the LORD even if they were not, indeed especially if they were not.
f. Open your mouth and eat what I give to you: God immediately challenged Ezekiel’s obedience, telling him to do something unusual. If the people of Israel rejected God’s word, Ezekiel had to accept it completely, taking it into the innermost core of his being.
i. “Jeremiah had God’s words put into his mouth (Jeremiah 1:9), and Ezekiel here is given a written scroll to digest. It is the objective Word of God which becomes part of himself.” (Wright)
ii. God’s servants should receive God’s word as if they actually eat it. Actually eating the material pages of a Bible would do one no spiritual good, but using the figure of eating the scroll as a picture of how we should receive God’s word can do us great good. Eating the scroll speaks of many things that should mark our reception of God’s revealed word:
· Deliberate action.
· Readiness to receive.
· Internal reception.
· Repetitious chewing.
· Complete reception.
· The process of digestion.
· Strength, nourishment.
2. (9-10) The written-out words of judgment against Israel.
Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 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.
a. There was a hand stretched out to me: In the vision of Ezekiel 1, the only hands mentioned were that of the cherubim surrounding God’s throne. It isn’t clear if this was the hand of God or an angelic hand.
i. “Whether it is actually the hand of the Lord or simply a figure made necessary by the visionary symbolism is not important. The scroll, of course, represents the word which Ezekiel is to proclaim.” (Vawter and Hoppe)
b. A scroll of a book was in it: This emphasizes that God’s word was not only the spontaneous word spoken to His appointed prophets. God had a plan, a purpose, and authority for His written word.
i. “This scroll was probably made from papyrus rather than skin, since the former was the more common scroll material in biblical times.” (Block)
c. There was writing on the inside and on the outside: As God (or the angel) spread the scroll out for Ezekiel, he could see that it was full of God’s message. It was complete.
i. “Usually parchments were written on one side only, but here the message of the Lord was so full of threatenings and woes that both sides had to be utilized.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Implying not only a well-defined but also a complete message. Ezekiel may not modify it with his own comments, nor does God allow himself any room for adjustments.” (Block)
d. On it were lamentations and mourning and woe: This was the most important message for the house of Israel to hear, and it was the message that would be sharply rejected.
i. Under the New Covenant, we can be happy that in general we have a much better message to bring. “What a mercy to have that which is emphatically called, the glad tidings, the good news! Christ Jesus is come into the world to save sinners; and he wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Here are rejoicings, thanksgivings, and exultation.” (Clarke)