Ezekiel Chapter 3
Lessons from the text
The Rules of the Spirit
In this chapter, Ezekiel eats a scroll from God. Did Ezekiel literally eat paper and ink? No… and yes. Ezekiel did not eat physical paper rolled into a scroll. However, he did literally eat a spiritual scroll given to him by God.
As we proceed with Ezekiel, there are several other occurrences where Ezekiel speaks literally but not in terms of his physical body. In a vision, a person may or may not remain in his physical body. If it is an out of body vision, such as Ezekiel here or John in the Revelation, then a person is governed by the rules of the spirit and not the physical body. Eating a scroll as a spirit is as sensical as talking a walk while in a body.
Another example would be when Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth at once in a vision (Mt. 4:8). While such is impossible to believe in a literal sense in terms of the physical eye, this is easily believable as an ability of the spiritual eye to perceive multiple things at once. Whenever God is interacting with Ezekiel, the interaction is based on the spiritual and not the physical realm. This means that what Ezekiel sees and does is much more believable when we remember that Ezekiel is not referring to his physical body but instead his spiritual body.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-3 The scroll contains the words of God that Ezekiel is to preach and prophesy (Eze. 2:9-10). Although the scroll is full of lamentations, mourning, and woe, it is sweet in Ezekiel’s mouth. To the servant of God, even the toughest things to swallow are sweat to taste. Because this is a vision (an interaction between God’s spirit and Ezekiel’s spirit), Ezekiel is literally eating this scroll with his spiritual body. This prepares him for his ministry in that he now has inwardly all the words that he will need to speak publicly.
4-9 Now that Ezekiel has digested God’s words, he is ready to speak them to Israel. God reminds Ezekiel that he has been given a difficult task. Although it may seem more difficult to have to learn a new language or travel far to preach God’s words, God tells Ezekiel that such would have been an easier assignment in the sense that the Gentile people would have listened to Ezekiel whereas his own people will not listen. To account for this, God has strengthened Ezekiel against the retaliation He knows will occur.
10 In stark contrast to how his audience will take the words of God, Ezekiel is to hear what God is saying and to store it in his heart. This models the way all people should receive the words of God.
11 Ezekiel is to speak regardless of whether or not the people will listen to what he has to say; God’s word must be preached.
12-15 The vision ends as “the spirit,” which is the Holy Spirit, lifts Ezekiel’s spirit and takes him away, presumably back to where his body is. Back in his body, Ezekiel leaves the place where he has experienced the vision and sits in a public area among the Jewish captives. For seven days he simply sits and watches the people, astonished both at the vision and his new purpose in life.
16-21 God gently rebukes Ezekiel for sitting in amazement. He makes it clear that if Ezekiel refuses to fulfill his commission, God will hold him accountable for all the people who die in their sins because Ezekiel failed to warn them of their sins. If one has been called of God to perform a specific task, it is a grievous sin to fail to fulfill that purpose. On watchman, see Isaiah 62:6-7 and 21:12.
22-23 God speaks to Ezekiel, and the priest obeys. Away from the other Jews of the captivity, he experiences another vision like the first; he beholds the glory of God and responds by falling down in worship and humility.
24a Like the first vision, Ezekiel cannot stand in the presence of the Almighty without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit lifting him up (Exe. 1:28-2:2).
24b-27 God gives Ezekiel not words to preach but a sign to perform before the people (4:1-13). In a curious requirement of his office, Ezekiel is told that he will not be allowed to speak except to prophesy. For the next seven years, Ezekiel does not speak a single word to anybody at any time other than when he has to proclaim a message on God’s behalf (Eze. 33:21-22).
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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