The Word Made Fresh
1The Voice said, “Son of man, eat what I offer you. Eat this scroll and then go and speak to the family of Israel. 2So, I opened my mouth and was given the scroll to eat. 3Then the Voice said, “Eat this scroll and swallow it.” So, I ate and swallowed. It tasted like honey.
4The Voice said, “Go speak my words to the house of Israel. 5You are not being sent to people who speak obscure and difficult languages, but to the house of Israel, 6not to those whose languages you cannot understand. If I sent you to them, they would listen, of course. 7But the house of Israel will not listen to you because they are hard-headed and stubborn. 8So, I will make you as hard-headed and stubborn as they are. 9I have made your head harder than stone, harder than flint, so don’t be afraid of them when they look at you. They are a rebellious people.” 10Then the Voice said, “Son of man, listen with your ears to all the words I will speak to you, and receive them in your heart. 11Then go to your people among the exiles and tell them, ‘This is what the LORD says,’ whether they listen or refuse to listen.”
12Then I was lifted from this place and, blessed be the glory of the LORD, I heard the sound of a loud rumbling. 13It came from the brushing together of the wings of all the creatures and the wheels rumbling noisily beside them. 14So, the Spirit lifted me up and carried me away. I went in the bitterness and anger of my heart, for the hand of the LORD was heavy upon me. 15I came to the exiles at Tel-Abib beside the river Chebar and sat stunned among them for seven days.
16After the seven days the word of the LORD came to me and said, 17“Mortal, I have set you to watch over the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from me, you will pass that warning along to them. 18If I say to the wicked, ‘You are certainly going to die,’ and you don’t warn them or try to turn the wicked people from their wicked ways in order to save their lives, they will die in their sins, and their blood I will charge to your hand. 19But if you give them my warning and they refuse to turn from their wicked ways, they will die for their sins, but you will have saved your own life. 20I tell you again, if the righteous people turn from righteousness and begin to sin, and I put a stumbling block ahead of them, and they shall die. They will die for their sins because you haven’t warned them, and the good things they have done won’t be remembered, but I will charge your hand with their blood. 21However, if you warn those who are good not to sin and they listen to you, they will live because they listened to the warning; and you will have saved your life as well.”
22The LORD’s hand was upon me in that place, and the LORD said, “Get up, now. Go out into the valley and I will speak with you there.” 23So, I went out into the valley and saw the glory of the LORD standing there like the vision I had seen by the river Chebar, and I fell face down. 24The Spirit entered me and put me on my feet, and spoke to me, saying, “Go and shut yourself in your house. 25You are going to be tied with ropes so that you can’t go out among the people. 26I’ll make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth, and you won’t be able to speak and warn them even though they are so rebellious. 27But I will open your mouth again and tell you to say to them, “This is what the LORD God says.” Then let those who will listen, listen, and let those who refuse to listen, refuse, for they are a rebellious bunch.”
1-3: “Someone” gives Ezekiel a scroll, but let’s remember that this is a vision, not an actual physical encounter. Ezekiel eats the scroll and finds it to be a sweet taste in his mouth (see Psalm 119:103).
4-11: Ezekiel is told that God doesn’t want him to prophesy to the Babylonians, even though they would be open to his words. He is to go only to his own people, the house of Israel. They won’t listen to him, but his job is simply to go and to tell them what God wants him to say (isn’t that our job, too?).
12-15: With the deafening noise of heavenly machinery grinding away, Ezekiel finds himself transported from wherever he was (somewhere in the vicinity but apparently alone) to a public place where some of his fellow exiles are gathered, and there he sits in a trance for seven days. The original rules for the ordination of priests for the tabernacle in the wilderness required that they remain sequestered in the tabernacle for seven days (Leviticus 8:33); so here is another comparison between the call to Ezekiel and the original establishment of the priesthood to be mediators between God and the people.
16-21: Using the imagery of a sentinel on guard, Ezekiel is told again that his job, his only job, is to warn the people. He will not be held responsible for their response to the warning. Those who heed the warning will live, those who don’t will die, but Ezekiel won’t be responsible for their deaths.
22-27: It seems clear to me that everything that has occurred to this point is part of the vision with which the book began. In the vision he saw the four creatures. In the vision he heard the voice. In the vision he sat stunned for seven days. Now, still in the throes of the prophetic vision, he wanders out into a valley where he again sees “the glory of the LORD,” and essentially gets repeat instructions for everything he has been told to do, with one addition: He is to expect that he will for a time be prevented – by the leaders of the people and by God – from speaking God’s warning in public.
Before Ezekiel could set off to deliver God’s word to the Judean exiles in Babylon, he had to spend a week observing and listening. That’s a wise procedure for every important decision we have to make.