“So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said to me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” — Ezekiel 3:2-3
During my second grade year, I was enrolled in a small private school. When our teacher had kidney failure and was unable to continue teaching, an experienced substitute teacher stepped into the role. This woman was known for being able to get amazing results from a classroom of young children.
One method she used was to reward children who followed her directions carefully and cheerfully. Toward the end of the day, during the hot afternoon hours, she would call the obedient and well-behaved students to wait at the door of the classroom. After disappearing for a few moments, she would return with a selection of orange, grape, and cherry-flavored popsicles, and hand one to each child. What an inducement to stellar behavior! I worked hard to follow directions so I could be a part of that group. I clearly remember standing there in the hall, eating an icy cold popsicle and fully enjoying the sweet rewards of obedience!
In today’s text, God gave Ezekiel an important assignment: he was to take a message to the rebellious house of Israel. He was also warned not to be like them — in other words, he was to be obedient to God, even though the people would not heed his message. The Spirit of God empowered and prepared him to fulfill this task. Then Ezekiel saw a hand stretched out holding a scroll that had writing on both sides — a message of the coming judgments of God upon His rebellious people.
Ezekiel was told to eat the scroll, an instruction that must have seemed very difficult and unpleasant. Yet, in obedience to God’s command, he did so. Our focus verse relates, “Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” The prophet’s ingestion of the entire scroll indicated his willingness to accept the responsibility of speaking God’s whole message to the people. While the ministry he was about to undertake would be difficult, he was in perfect accord with the purpose of God and found delight in doing His will.
Sometimes God calls us to do something that seems challenging, unpleasant, or maybe even impossible in our own strength. However, we must not let our personal feelings get in the way of accomplishing what God calls us to do. If we trust and obey the Lord, He will make even difficult tasks for Him sweet and rewarding!
While chapter 1 gave something of a preface to Ezekiel’s call, chapters 2 and 3 describe the call itself.
Previously, Ezekiel had fallen prostrate with his face to the ground when he saw the glory of God (see Ezekiel 1:28). In verse 1 of today’s text, the voice of the One seated on the throne told Ezekiel to stand to hear God’s message and receive his call.
God addressed Ezekiel by the term “son of man” more than ninety times in this book. Although the New Testament uses the same phrase, there it relates to Christ and always appears with the article the preceding it — “the Son of Man.” Here, the term emphasizes Ezekiel’s humanity, identifying him in contrast to the cherubim, and alluding to his earthly service as God’s spokesperson to those in captivity.
Those to whom Ezekiel was sent were described in verses 3-6 as rebellious. Though prior prophets referred to the Northern Kingdom as “Israel,” Ezekiel frequently addressed the nations of Israel and Judah as a whole, not recognizing manmade borders but only God’s called people. In verse 3, the term “nation” typically was used in reference to heathen Gentiles. As used here in reference to Israel and Judah, it highlighted the chosen people’s rejection of God and their persistent disobedience. The “children” referred to the current generation. Just as the “fathers” (ancestors) had transgressed, the children were continuing to do so.
The direction given in verse 4 indicated that Ezekiel was to speak God’s words rather than his own. The phrase “Lord GOD” is Adonai Jehovah; it is used 217 times in Ezekiel, but seldom elsewhere. With the use of this unique title, God reminded Ezekiel that He was the sovereign Lord over all the earth, not only of Israel.
Verse 5 reveals why Ezekiel’s prophetic statements were dated so clearly. When the exiles in Babylon received news from Jerusalem of events there, they would know, even in their rebellion, that God had given them a sure warning. The term “rebellious house” is used thirteen times in this book and is a play on words, replacing “house of Israel,” indicating that the people were no longer of Israel but of rebellion. In the face of the people’s hard-hearted refusal to listen, God warned Ezekiel in verse 6 that he would endure persistent opposition and painful words — the people’s rejection would hurt like thorns, briars, and scorpions — but he was not to despair. Rather, he was to declare boldly the exact prophecies and judgments of God, nothing more and nothing less.
In verses 8-10 and the first three verses of chapter 3, Ezekiel’s obedience was challenged. God commanded him to eat the “roll of a book” to show by his actions his acceptance of every word of God. The eating of the scroll symbolized fully ingesting and possessing God’s message. The scroll was covered front and back with written lamentations, mourning, and woe. Despite its contents, the scroll tasted sweet to Ezekiel because the coming judgments of God were righteous, deserved, and merciful.
I. The call of the prophet
C. The commission of the prophet (2:1 — 3:3)
1. The prophet’s initiation (2:1-8)
2. The prophet’s inspiration (2:9 — 3:3)
As we take in the Word of God and follow it carefully, determining to do whatever it commands us no matter how difficult, we will experience the sweet, fulfilling rewards of obedience.