Chapter 2 continues the amazing encounter Ezekiel describes in chapter 1. Now we learn the reason the heavens open and God comes near on a throne-chariot of living creatures—Ezekiel is being summoned (called) into God’s service. God has singled out a priest exiled in Babylon to serve as His spokesman to the rebellious house of Israel.
As Ezekiel lies face down in the dirt, the Lord speaks to him, commanding him to stand to his feet and hear the word of the Lord (1). God empowers what He commands; the Spirit enters into Ezekiel and stands him upright (2).
The message God gives Ezekiel centres on his call to serve as a prophet to the rebellious house of Israel (5). Repeatedly, we read the terms rebels (3), rebelled (3), and rebellious (5, 6, 7, 8 [2x]). The Israelites have not only “transgressed” in the past (“their fathers”—3) but continue to do so “to this very day” (3). In their rebellion they are described as “impudent and stubborn” (4).
God commands Ezekiel to “speak my words to them” (7), to “say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God’” (4). Whether or not the people receive the words or respond to them, Ezekiel’s mandate remains the same: speak God’s Word. Even if they reject Ezekiel’s message (and thus reject God’s word), there will be value in his ministry: “They will know that a prophet has been among them” (5).
The message Ezekiel is given to deliver turns out to be a difficult one: lamentation and mourning and woe” (10). At times it will feel like he is surrounded by “briers and thorns” and sits on “scorpions” (or, marginal notation: “on scorpion plants”). Knowing this will not be an easy assignment, God commands Ezekiel not to be “rebellious” and resist this calling (8). Instead, he is to ingest (“eat”—8) what God gives him, internalizing the message. Then, he will have a word from God to deliver to the rebellious house of Israel.
Visions of God:
The Lord who reveals Himself also reveals His will through His words. In chapter 1, we have a vision of God; in chapter 2 we hear the words of God. The emphasis now rests on what God says. However, what Ezekiel saw in chapter 1, he continues to see in chapter 2—the awesome, overwhelming throne-chariot of the Almighty and the entourage of living creatures. This adds to the weight and glory of the words spoken. In light of the stern and sobering message given Ezekiel and the difficulty he will face in living out his calling (thorns, briers and scorpions), the majestic vision of God rises in importance. While Ezekiel may be humanly tempted to fear the rejection and opposition he will encounter as he speaks the words of God (7), the vision of God’s greatness and glory give him a greater fear. No human can engender the same emotional impact as the Lord of all.
Words to Watchman:
I find chapter 2 to contain insightful and important instructions for all who are watchman (prophets and preachers). Here are some takeaways that apply directly to preachers (though our role is not identical to an O.T prophet).
Watchmen are called to bring people God’s word, not their own words.
Ezekiel is commanded to say, “Thus says the Lord God” (4); God instructs him “you shall speak my words to them” (7). Ezekiel is not the inventor or originator of the message, just the herald of it. As preachers, we must make sure the essence of our message is the explicit message of God.
Watchmen must deliver the message regardless of the response. Ultimately, the response of the “people of Israel” (also called “nations of rebels”) is beyond Ezekiel’s control and must not be his primary concern. He is tasked with faithfully delivering God’s message to those to whom he is sent.
Watchmen can expect a rocky reception among rebellious people. God indicates to Ezekiel that he should expect a rough go from the Israelites—their verbal and non-verbal responses will be disheartening, perhaps even frightening (“be not afraid of them”—6). As Paul would indicate in his letter to the Corinthians, the same message can be a fragrance of life or the odor of death (1 Cor. 2:16).
Watchmen must not rebel by failing to faithfully deliver God’s words. Prophets and preachers can rebel—just ask Jonah. Watchmen rebel by failing to keep watch or by failing to tell what they have seen. As a preacher, I don’t carry the mantle of a prophet; however, I must speak God’s Word to others which will involve having a “prophetic edge”. Faithful exposition confronts as well as comforts. To do less is viewed as rebellion by God.
Watchmen must absorb God’s message personally before announcing it publicly. Ezekiel sees “a hand . . . stretched out to me” holding a scroll (10). The scroll is “spread” out, revealing writing on both sides. The words on the scroll are words of “lamentation and mourning and woe” (10). We are not told in chapter 2 whether the hand that extends the scroll comes from the One on the throne or one of the angels who have hands (1:8). In John’s revelation of Christ, he is given a “little scroll”—by an angel—and told to eat it (Rev 10). Later, in Ezekiel 3:2, we learn that it is the Lord Himself who hands the scroll to Ezekiel. The imagery of “eating” the scroll speaks of ingesting and internalizing God’s Word before delivering it to others. So preachers must first hear God’s message personally before delivering it publicly.