Behold, I will make your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.
All this and more than this you have been told, and told again, even till you are weary of hearing it, and till you could make the lighter of it, because you had so often heard it; like the smith's dog, that is brought by custom to sleep under the noise of the hammers, and when the sparks do fly about his ears.
After hearing that Israel would give no heed to his prophetic messages, the Prophet Ezekiel must have needed strong encouraging. It is always depressing to engage in a hopeless undertaking. Yet there was a moral necessity for the mission to be fulfilled. And the Lord strengthened and fortified his servant for his painful duty by breathing into him a Divine courage, and by bidding him dismiss all fear. Although Ezekiel's position was very special, every servant and herald commissioned by the Most High to witness on his behalf to his fellow men has frequent need of such encouragement as that imparted to the prophet of the Captivity.
I. THE OUTWARD OCCASIONS OF FEAR. There are many circumstances which are likely to arouse the apprehensions, and so to depress the energies, of God's messengers to Their fellow men.
1. Want of sympathy with his message on the part of those to whom he is sent.
2. An attitude of deliberate indifference and unbelief.
3. Determined resistance and resentment.
4. Threats of personal violence.
The former occasions of fear are such as every minister of religion must expect to encounter. But the Hebrew prophets sometimes met with actual ill treatment - blows, bonds, and death. So it was with the apostles of our Lord, and so it has been with missionaries of the cross, who have fulfilled their ministry among the unenlightened, prejudiced, and hostile heathen. Many have "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
II. THE INWARD INCLINATION TO FEAR. There is great difference in the matter of constitutional temperament; some men are naturally timid, and prone to be overawed by opposition and intimidation, whilst others have a certain delight in antagonism, and care not what odds are against them in the conflict.
1. Sometimes the messenger of God is too prone to regard his own peace and comfort, and is averse to any step which may bring him into collision with others.
2. The feeling on the part of God's servant, that he is but one against many, inclines him to retirement and reticence.
3. And this is increased when there is no countenance or support from colleagues in labour and warfare. The consciousness of personal feebleness and insufficiency, combined with the feeling of isolation, may naturally account for the prevalence of fear in the presence of difficulty, opposition, and hostility. He who made man, and who is perfectly acquainted with human nature, is aware that his servants are subject to such infirmities, and that they need accordingly a special provision of Divine grace to fortify them against the spiritual danger to which they are exposed.
III. THE DIVINE PRESERVATIVE FROM FEAR.
1. The consciousness of a message from God to be delivered, whether man will hear or forbear, is fitted to take away all dread of men's displeasure, as well as all undue desire for men's favour.
2. The assurance that Divine authority accompanies the Lord's servant is in itself sufficient to make his face and his forehead hard as adamant in the presence of opponents whose only authority lies in force or in the conventional greatness attaching to earthly rank or station.
3. To this is added the express promise of God's aid. The opponents may be mighty; but the soldier of truth and of righteousness has the assurance that he who is with him is mightier still. "Fear not," says the Almighty, "for I am with you." - T.
But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me.
God gives Ezekiel an express command to speak his words to the house of Israel (ver. 4), and, at the same time, distinctly informs him that the house of Israel will not hearken or attend. The prophet is commanded to speak, and told, at the same time, that the preaching would be useless in regard of the working contrition and amendment in his hearers. Now we are well assured that God honours the ordinance of preaching, seeing that it is His chief engine for rousing those who are dead in trespasses and sins. But though this be the main use of preaching, it is clear from our text that it is not the only use. We shall not meddle with the mysterious things of God's predestination, though there may be much in our text which is associated with this inscrutable doctrine. We have only to remark that God's foreknowledge must be carefully distinguished from God's predestination. They are often confounded, but never without injury to all that is fundamental in Christian theology. It is essential to the correctness of our every notion of God that we consider Him unconfined, whether by space or by time; and as, therefore, having possessed throughout the eternity already passed, an acquaintance with every event which shall occur in the eternity to come God foreknows, with unvarying accuracy, whether or not an individual, who is privileged to hear the Gospel, will so listen to the Word as to be benefited by its delivery. But this is a widely different thing from saying that God predestines the reception which shall be given to the message; and thus fixes, by a positive decree, that such or such hearers shall put from them the proffers of forgiveness. But, because known, must you pronounce it decreed? Will you say that God cannot be certain of a thing unless He Himself have determined that thing, and made arrangements for its occurrence? What! not foresee the shipwreck, unless He take the helm, and steer the vessel to the quicksand? But the chief question still remains to be examined — why God should enjoin the preaching of the Gospel in cases where He is assured, by His foreknowledge, that this preaching will be wholly ineffectual? We think the answer is to be found in the demands of the high moral government which God, undoubtedly, exercises over the creatures of this earth. There is no more common, and at the same time, no more palpable mistake, than that of considering the Almighty's dealings with our race as referring wholly to man, and not at all to his Maker. I cannot understand how there could be equity in the sentences which shall be finally passed on Christians, unless there be now what we shall dare to call moral honesty in the offer of pardon which the Gospel makes to all men. We are apt to regard the preaching of the Gospel merely as an engine for the conversion of sinners, and lose sight of other ends which it may undoubtedly subserve, even when it fail of accomplishment. But we are to blame in confining our thoughts to an end in which we have an immediate concern, in place of extending them to those in which God Himself may be personally interested. We forget that God has to make provision for the thorough vindication of all His attributes when He shall bring the human race to judgment, and allot to each individual a portion in eternity. We forget that in all His dealings it must be His own honour to which He has the closest respect; and that this honour may require the appointment and contrivance of the means of grace, even when those means, in place of effecting conversion, are sure to do nothing but increase condemnation. We will hope that God had other ends in view than that of making His minister the savour of death unto death in bringing you up to His courts this day. We have no foreknowledge of the reception that you will give to the message; we can therefore deal with you all as with beings of whom we have hopes. Yes, indeed, hopes! — strong, earnest, scriptural hopes! We could pursue each one of you to the very verge of the grave, and still say we had hopes. We should not be hopeless, though the life were just ebbing, and the soul departing, and the Saviour not embraced. We should still feel — feel even in that moment of terrible extremity — that nothing was too hard for the Lord; and it would be in hope-a faint hope it would be — but still in hope, that we sat down by your bedside, and said to the fainting and almost lost man, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
In the act of listening we are not only distinctly conscious of sounds so faint that they would not excite our notice but for the volitional direction of the attention, but we can single out these from the midst of others by a determined and sustained effort, which may even make us quite unconscious of the rest so long as that effort is kept up. Thus a person with a practised "musical ear" (as it is commonly but erroneously termed, it being not the ear, but the brain, which exerts this power), whilst listening to a piece of music played by a large orchestra, can single out any one part in the harmony and follow it through all its mazes; or can distinguish the sound of the weakest instrument in the whole band and follow its strain through the whole performance. And an experienced conductor will not only distinguish when some instrumentalist is playing out of tune, but will at once single out the offender from the midst of a numerous band.
()"A man's will is his hell," saith Bernard. "And it is easier," saith another. "to deal with twenty men's reasons than with one man's will." What hope is there of those that will not fear; or if they do, yet have made their conclusion afore-hand, and will stir no more than a stake in the midst of a stream?
()Tyndall, in 1857, took a tube, a resonant jar, and a flame. By raising his voice to a certain pitch he made the silent flame to sing. The song was hushed. Then again the proper note was sounded, and the response was at once given by the flame. If the position varies, there is a tremor, but no song. Again it stretches out its little tongue and begins its song. When the finger stopped the tube the flame was silent. Standing at the extremity of the room one may command the fiery singer. Immediately sonorous pulses call out the song. What greater skill is needed to evoke the melody of a reluctant, shrinking soul! The adjustments of the human heart are more delicate. The laws of excitation and persuasion therefore need attract as careful study as those of heat and sound.
()On a winter evening, when the frost is setting in with growing intensity, and when the sun is now far past the meridian, and gradually sinking in the Western sky, there is a double reason why the ground grows every moment harder and more impenetrable to the plough. On the one hand, the frost of evening, with ever-increasing intensity, is indurating the stiffening clods. On the other hand, the genial rays, which alone can soften them, are every moment withdrawing and losing their enlivening power. Take heed that it be not so with you. As long as you are unconverted, you are under a double process of hardening. The frosts of an eternal night are settling down upon your souls; and the Sun of Righteousness with westering wheel, is hastening to set upon you for evermore. If, then, the plough of grace cannot force its way into your ice-bound heart today, what likelihood is there that it will enter tomorrow?
()"I am thankful for success," says Mr. Spurgeon, "but I feel in my heart a deeper gratitude to God for permission to work for Him. It seems to me to be one of the highest gifts of His grace to be permitted to take any share whatever in His grand enterprise for the salvation of the sons of men." It is even so; and they are blessed who realise it, for never are they allowed to labour in vain. Indeed, not unfrequently, when all is seeming failure and sore discouragement, great success is near. The Lord has often first to humble before He can greatly use. It is told of an eminent man that when at one period of his ministry he became, through discouragement, sorely tempted to abandon both sphere and work, he had a singular dream. He thought he was working with a pickaxe on the top of a basaltic rock. His muscular arm brought down stroke after stroke for hours, but the rock was hardly indented. He said to himself at last, "It is useless; I will pick no more." Suddenly a stranger stood by his side, and said to him, "Are you to do no more work?" "No." "But were you not set to do this task?" "Yes." "Why then abandon it?" "My work is vain; I make no impression on the rock." The stranger replied solemnly, "What is that to you? Your duty is to pick whether the rock yields or not. Your work is in your own hands — the result is not; work on." He resumed his task. The first blow was given with almost superhuman force, and the rock flew into a thousand pieces. This was only a dream, but it so impressed him that, through grace, he was able to turn it to good account; for when he awoke he returned to his work with fresh interest and hope, and with greater tokens of his Master's presence and power than ever before.In a newspaper we met with the following: — "There was an old turnpike man, on a quiet country road, whose habit was to shut his gate at night and take his nap. One dark, wet midnight I knocked at his door, calling, 'Gate, gate!' 'Coming,' said the voice of the old man. Then I knocked again and once more the voice replied, 'Coming.' This went on for some time, till at length I grew quite angry, and jumping off my horse, opened the door. and demanded why he cried 'Coming' for twenty minutes, and never came. 'Who is there?' said the old man, in a quiet, sleepy voice, rubbing his eyes. 'What d'ye want, sir?' Then awakening, 'Bless yer, sir, and ax yer pardon, I was asleep; I gets so used to hearing 'em knock, that I answer "Coming" in my sleep, and take no more notice about it.'" Thus may the ministry accomplish nothing because the habitual hearer remains in a deep sleep, out of which the Spirit of God alone can awaken him. When the secret influence from heaven ceases to speak to the heart, the best speaking to the ear avails little.
TopicsBehold, Brow, Brows, Face, Faces, Forehead, Foreheads, Hardened, Strong
Outline1. Ezekiel eats the scroll
4. God encourages him
15. God shows him the rule of prophecy
22. God shuts and opens the prophet's mouth
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEzekiel 3:7-9
7758 preachers, call
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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