So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me.
The Prophet Ezekiel would have been more or less than human had he not felt poignantly the painful commission with which he was entrusted. He was a patriot as well as a prophet; and his distress and trouble arose not merely from the discouragement natural to his position and service, but from his sympathy with his fellow countrymen, his censure of their sin, his sorrow for their fate. Yet it was not the will of God that his grief should interfere with the efficiency of his ministry. And the Lord who called him to his special work chose the occasion of the prophet's depression as the occasion of his intervention upon his behalf and for his strengthening. It was when Ezekiel was in bitterness and the heat of his spirit that the hand of the Lord was strong upon him. Nor was this experience peculiar to this prophet; many have, in God's service, known Ezekiel's bitterness, and have, in the time of their bitterness, felt God's hand upon them, a hand of encouragement, of guidance, and of blessing.
I. THE NATURAL DEPRESSION OF THE DISAPPOINTED WORKER FOR GOD. The circumstances described in the context are abundantly sufficient to account for the bitterness and heat of the prophet's spirit. Every faithful servant and minister of God can enter, more or less completely, into his feelings. The conditions of labour are often discouraging and distressing.
II. THERE IS DANGER LEST THE EFFECT OF MENTAL BITTERNESS SHOULD BE THE CRIPPLING OF THE HANDS FOR EFFICIENT LABOUR. A cheerful mind contributes to efficient toil. Even if the task be difficult and painful, it will not be well performed if bitterness and heat of spirit prevail. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."
III. DIVINE INTERPOSITION CAN IMPART STRENGTH, CAN ALLAY VEXATION, CAN FIT FOR SPIRITUAL MINISTRY. "The hand of the Lord," says the prophet, "was strong upon me." This metaphorical expression is full of significance.
1. Strong to uphold, as a father's hand sustains his child in a difficult and dangerous road.
2. Strong to defend, as the hand of an escort may ward off from his charge the attack of a foe.
3. Strong to direct, as the hand of the helmsman may steer the ship upon her course.
4. Strong to cheer and encourage, as the hand of the husband may grasp that of the wife, to comfort and to animate with courage, in times of common difficulty, sorrow, and distress.
5. Strong to save, as the hand of a deliverer may rescue a drowning form from raging waterhoods. - T.
So the Spirit lifted me up.
Ezekiel was now strengthened to do a very difficult work. He was to go and speak to a people who had no sympathy with him, — who would not listen to him, as the old classic prophetess Cassandra was doomed forever to speak the truth and never to be believed. If he had been commissioned to break up new ground amongst people whose language he did not understand, he would have deserved some pity. But the actual case was worse than such a hypothetical one. Jeremiah had preached in Jerusalem for thirty-five years without success, and now Ezekiel was assured that his own prophesying in Babylon would fail of its immediate purpose. To expect defeat is one of the surest ways of incurring it. On the contrary, to have an unswerving confidence in the prosperous issue of any cause is most likely to ensure it. To have, as the only visible result of your efforts, your words flung back in your face, like shot rebounding from the adamant, must result in depressing your energies and paralysing your power. Ezekiel is now called to this terrible kind of service; and if he is not to falter and slacken in the strenuousness of his effort, he must have special preparation for it. The Spirit lifts him up, and then the hand of the Lord is strong upon him; and thus his natural weakness and timidity are reinforced. A Mr. Davis has written of the beneficial effects of high altitudes in certain kinds of diseases, more particularly in pulmonary troubles, and has summarised those advantages as, "dryness of air and comparative freedom from microorganisms and atmospheric dust; profusion of sunlight; lowness of temperature, the heat of the sun being easily borne, while the violet rays of the spectrum act chemically on the blood, increasing the haemoglobin; diminished barometric pressure, facilitating chemical action in the blood and tissues, and favouring vaporisation of moist secretions in the lungs, while it aids pulmonary circulation and expansion; and the general stimulus of high levels, producing exhilaration and an increase of nutrition." Who would wish to live on low levels after reading that! Those who live in any low-lying places, such as the poor Swiss of the Valals, are languid and enfeebled. They can never be robust while they breathe the damp air, the miasma, the foggy, misty atmosphere. There are correspondences in the spiritual sphere to these literal facts. When Christians dwell in the marshy, malarial lowlands of doubt and unbelief, selfishness and worldliness, they are unequal to holy enterprise. To serve the Lord requires strength and vigour, and these qualities they lack. We can also see that by means of this lifting up Ezekiel was brought into sympathy with men. "Then 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." Many have complained of such a method of expressing interest, and ridiculed it as strange friendship. But the action is full of true, deep sympathy. Job "sat down among the ashes," a loathsome sufferer. Yet his friends sat with him, sharing in silence his sorrow and humiliation. Similarly Ezekiel does not appear to have spoken. Silence is often golden. Words would sometimes only bewilder or irritate or wound. It is in the uplifted life that we learn how to come near to people in their misery and degradation, — how to join ourselves in the truest sympathy with the masses in their sad weariness, their pain-stricken anxiety, their tempted, struggling, sinning condition. Observe that by being lifted up Ezekiel was brought into sympathy with God. "So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit." As you read these words you at first think they denote the very reverse of an advance towards the mind of God. What can bitterness of spirit signify? what but a spirit of rebellion against the will of God? But that is not the meaning. The prophet was now brought into deeper sympathy with the Divine will. He was, like Jeremiah, "filled with the indignation of the Lord." In Bible parlance, the Lord was angry with the people, and so now was he. The roll which was spread before him was written with "lamentations and mourning and woe." He was bidden to eat it. Surely a very bitter portion for him! But he says, "It was in my mouth as honey for sweetness" (chap. 3, ver. Ezekiel 3:3). Why did the bitter become sweet? Because he was already in perfect accord with the will of God. The will of God should, we know, be the law of a Christian's life. Henry Martyn remarked just before he reached Madras, "I am going upon a work exactly according to the mind of Christ." At the height of 200 feet above the earth, to the listener on tower or crag, the varying sounds from below, harmonies and discords alike, are blent into one musical note — F natural — pure, sweet, distinct. So when we are lifted up to the Mount of the Lord the dissonant, discordant, jarring notes of our self-will are brought into unison with the will of God; our imperfect, inharmonious natures are reduced into full and complete accord with the Divine purpose.
TopicsAnger, Bitterly, Bitterness, Embittered, Heat, Lifted, Lifting, Rage, Spirit, Strong, Wind
Outline1. Ezekiel eats the scroll4. God encourages him15. God shows him the rule of prophecy22. God shuts and opens the prophet's mouth
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEzekiel 3:14
1265 hand of God
3030 Holy Spirit, power
3272 Holy Spirit, in OT
5063 spirit, nature of
7372 hands, laying on
LibraryCæsarius of Arles.
He was born in the district of Chalons-sur-Saone, A. D. 470. He seems to have been early awakened, by a pious education, to vital Christianity. When he was between seven and eight years old, it would often happen that he would give a portion of his clothes to the poor whom he met, and would say, when he came home, that he had been, constrained to do so. When yet a youth, he entered the celebrated convent on the island of Lerins, (Lerina,) in Provence, from which a spirit of deep and practical piety …
Augustus Neander—Light in the Dark Places
Boniface, Apostle of the Germans.
BONIFACE, or Winfried, as they called him in Anglo-Saxon, born at Crediton in Devonshire, in 680, deserves to be honoured as the father of the German Church, although he was by no means the first who brought the seeds of the Gospel to Germany. Many had already laboured before him; but the efforts which had been made here and there did not suffice to secure the endurance of Christianity amongst the many perils to which it was exposed. Christianity needs to be linked with firm ecclesiastical institutions, …
Augustus Neander—Light in the Dark Places
Epistle xxxiv. To Venantius, Ex-Monk, Patrician of Syracuse .
To Venantius, Ex-Monk, Patrician of Syracuse  . Gregory to Venantius, &c. Many foolish men have supposed that, if I were advanced to the rank of the episcopate, I should decline to address thee, or to keep up communication with thee by letter. But this is not so; since I am compelled by the very necessity of my position not to hold my peace. For it is written, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet (Isai. lviii. 1). And again it is written, I have given thee for a watchman …
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great
The Greatness of the Soul,
AND UNSPEAKABLENESS 0F THE LOSS THEREOF; WITH THE CAUSES OF THE LOSING IT. FIRST PREACHED AT PINNER'S HALL and now ENLARGED AND PUBLISHED FOR GOOD. By JOHN BUNYAN, London: Printed for Benjamin Alsop, at the Angel and Bible in the Poultry, 1682 Faithfully reprinted from the Author's First Edition. ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR. Our curiosity is naturally excited to discover what a poor, unlettered mechanic, whose book-learning had been limited to the contents of one volume, could by possibility know …
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3
The Servant's Inflexible Resolve
'For the Lord God will help Me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set My face like a flint.'--ISAIAH l. 7. What a striking contrast between the tone of these words and of the preceding! There all is gentleness, docility, still communion, submission, patient endurance. Here all is energy and determination, resistance and martial vigour. It is like the contrast between a priest and a warrior. And that gentleness is the parent of this boldness. The same Will which is all submission …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Iranian Conquest
Drawn by Boudier, from the engraving in Coste and Flandin. The vignette, drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a statuette in terra-cotta, found in Southern Russia, represents a young Scythian. The Iranian religions--Cyrus in Lydia and at Babylon: Cambyses in Egypt --Darius and the organisation of the empire. The Median empire is the least known of all those which held sway for a time over the destinies of a portion of Western Asia. The reason of this is not to be ascribed to the shortness of its duration: …
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 9
The Prophet Jonah.
It has been asserted without any sufficient reason, that Jonah is older than Hosea, Joel, Amos, and Obadiah,--that he is the oldest among the prophets whose written monuments have been preserved to us. The passage in 2 Kings xiv. 25, where it is said, that Jonah, the son of Amittai the prophet, prophesied to Jeroboam the happy success of his arms, and the restoration of the ancient boundaries of Israel, and that this prophecy was confirmed by the event, cannot decide in favour of this assertion, …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
To a modern taste, Ezekiel does not appeal anything like so powerfully as Isaiah or Jeremiah. He has neither the majesty of the one nor the tenderness and passion of the other. There is much in him that is fantastic, and much that is ritualistic. His imaginations border sometimes on the grotesque and sometimes on the mechanical. Yet he is a historical figure of the first importance; it was very largely from him that Judaism received the ecclesiastical impulse by which for centuries it was powerfully …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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