“Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.” — Ezekiel 3:8-9
My dad’s father was a fearless man. When it came to doing what was right, he would confront any situation without backing down. Dad loved to tell the following account about my grandfather’s courage.
My grandparents had just moved to a new town with plans to start a church there, and my grandfather would frequently tell people about Jesus as he went about town. However, his efforts met with opposition. Some men in the town decided they didn’t like this new preacher, and they made up their minds to drive him away. First, they ordered him to take his family and go elsewhere. When he refused and said he was going to stay and preach the Gospel, they gave him an ultimatum. On a certain day at a certain time, he needed to be gone. If he was not, they were going to take him outside of town and “tar and feather” him — a painful and humiliating form of public punishment that people used as a means of revenge.
My dad, who was just a young boy at the time, remembers the day the men had said they would come and get his father. My grandparents were on their knees in the living room praying for deliverance, but Dad kept running to the window to see if anyone was coming. Finally, a truck pulled up and two men got out. Dad watched as they walked through the front yard and up onto the porch. Then suddenly, without even knocking, they just turned around and walked back to the truck. They got in, drove away, and never came back.
My grandfather was willing to face pain and humiliation that day for the sake of preaching the Gospel. His courage came from knowing that he was on the Lord’s side, and it was a lesson my father never forgot.
In today’s focus verses, God told Ezekiel that He had made the prophet’s face and forehead “strong” to enable him to stand against the rebellious children of Israel. He was to be a watchman who would warn of the coming judgment of God. Ezekiel knew the people would not listen or heed the warnings that he gave, but he was faithful in fulfilling God’s assignment.
God has not changed. He still will make His children strong today and enable them to stand for the faith against any force of evil. May the Lord give us the courage to always boldly uphold the truth!
Having committed himself to obeying God’s call, in this concluding portion of chapter 3, Ezekiel received further details regarding his commission and responsibility.
Ezekiel was told to deliver the words and judgments of God to his own people, rather than to those he could not speak with or understand. He was forewarned that strangers would have shown respect by listening, but his own people would not. The word “people” in verse 6 is plural, while the “house of Israel” in the next verse is singular. This indicated that Ezekiel’s warning was to individuals, while God’s coming judgment was against the nation of Israel. The statement, “As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead,” in verse 9 meant that Ezekiel’s determination to deliver God’s message would be greater than the people’s stubbornness to resist it.
Verses 12-15 describe the conclusion of Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord and the living creatures. God’s Spirit transported him to those he was to witness to, and as he went, he heard the great rushing sound of the cherubim wings and chariot wheels. He felt bitter with righteous indignation, but he also felt the strength of God urgently driving him. Once he was with the captives in Tel-Abib, he spent seven days stunned by the amazing vision and call of God upon his life. This was the customary period of mourning for the dead and indicated that Ezekiel was mourning for the spiritually dead.
In verses 16-21, Ezekiel’s responsibilities were explained to him through his appointment as a watchman. The word translated “watchman” is tsaphah, and describes one who watches from a height for the purpose of warning, rather than an individual responsible for guarding or shepherding (shamar). Ezekiel’s calling was to warn of the coming judgment against unrighteousness, not to teach righteousness. The importance of each person’s individual accountability before God was a key part of his message. For years God had called after the nation and they had resisted; now He was calling individuals to repentance.
In verses 22-27, Ezekiel was led to the plain for final instructions. There he saw the glory of the Lord as he had seen by the River Chebar. The command in verse 24 to go and remain in his house signified the shutting up of the Jews still in Jerusalem during the siege of the city. Being in his home made it necessary for the exiled leaders and elders of Israel to come to him, symbolizing their need to approach God because He would no longer come to them.
God warned Ezekiel that he would lose his physical capacity to speak to correct the people’s errors. He would only be able to relay God’s words of judgment, and that only when directed by God. He was further instructed not to plead for the people to listen.
I. The call of the prophet
D. The instruction of the prophet (3:4-27)
1. The prophet’s preparation (3:4-11)
a. The obstinacy of the people (3:4-7)
b. The character of the prophet (3:8-11)
2. The prophet’s journey (3:12-15)
3. The prophet’s ministry (3:16-21)
a. To the wicked (3:16-19)
b. To the righteous (3:20-21)
4. The prophet’s instructions (3:22-27)
With the Lord on our side, we never need to fear. God can give us the strength and determination to take a stand for what is right!