Summary: God emphasizes that Ezekiel is responsible for procaliming the message--not for the response others would have towards it!
Ezekiel 3 is really a continuation of chapters 1 and 2 describing God’s call to Ezekiel. Ezekiel was among the exiles in Babylon who were discouraged and depressed. According to Psalm 137 they were even refusing to praise God as they sat by the rivers (Flowing streams were places of worship when the temple- and later a synagogue was not available) with their harps placed in the trees. God reveals Himself to Ezekiel in a way that is difficult for modern readers to visualize from the description of magnificent Heavenly beings and God’s Glory. Then God tells Ezekiel to be a prophet among the people who were going to be rebellious and obstinate. At the conclusion of chapter 2 God shows Ezekiel a scroll and commands him to eat it. In chapter 3, Ezekiel does so.
VERSES 1-3 A TASTY TREAT!
While a few scholars claim that Ezekiel’s consuming of the scroll is only symbolic and illustrative, I don’t think so. I believe that Ezekiel did the things he was commanded to do. Ezekiel declares that he consumed the scroll and it was sweet. While I believe the eating was real, it still was symbolic. God was telling Ezekiel that he was to consume God’s Word and that word was going to become part of him. The message itself was sweet when Ezekiel received it, but not so sweet when God caused him to proclaim it.
VERSES 4-9 GOD CAN MAKE YOU HARD-HEADED!
God commands Ezekiel to go to the House of Israel. While the people Ezekiel ministered to were from the nation of Judah, the message was to all of God’s people, not just the Jews. The phrase “House of Israel” means descendants of Jacob, who God later called Israel.
God also tells Ezekiel that there is not a language barrier. He is not sending him to a “people with a think tongue” literally people who have difficult languages. The communication gap is not linguistic, but rather a heart problem because God’s people were obstinate and stubborn and did not want to hear the message.
When God calls a man to a mission He prepares that man for the mission. In this case, God tells Ezekiel that He is going to cause Ezekiel to become hard-headed. He is going to have a head like the hardest stone. He is going to gain strength as he operates in the calling God has given him. He is going to grow. This is almost always the case with the minister. He grows into the mission God has called him into. He develops the character traits and skills that he needs to conduct himself as God’s man.
VERSES 10-11 NOT RESPONBLE FOR SPIRITUAL ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER
Ezekiel is encouraged to be careful with the message God gives to him. He is to not only to speak the words, but to take them to heart. The message is to affect the messenger first and foremost. Then God does an interesting thing by revealing to Ezekiel that he is only responsible for the sharing of the message, not the people’s response to it. He has already warned Ezekiel that the people are stubborn and obstinate and that they are unlikely to really hear, understand, and accept the message.
The messenger (be it pastor, teacher, or a soul-winner) is not responsible for the response of people to the message. He is only responsible for sharing it with those who will listen. Sometimes, men of God make an effort to do the work of the Holy Spirit by attempting to convict others of their sin. It is our job to preach and share truth, it is God’s job to use that truth to convict.
VERSES 12-15 OVERWHELMED BY THE TASK!
Once again, Ezekiel is treated to some rumbling noises, and the sound of the wings of the creatures who glorify God. He responds by joining them in praise of God’s glory and then is taken to the Kebar river where the exiles are sitting in stubborn bitterness over their captivity.
There, Ezekiel sits for seven days in silence. God’s hand is upon him. He describes himself in bitterness. This bitterness may have stemmed from being plopped back down into captivity instead of being permitted to continue to enjoy the glory of God. However, I believe that he was overwhelmed and astonished at the task that God was giving him. He was going to have to remind his people that the reason that they were in captivity at all was their rebellion against God.
VERSES 16-21 SOUND THE ALARM!
God’s call to Ezekiel is to act as a watchman. A watchman was responsible to raise the alarm in case of invaders, roving bandits, disorderly people, or even fire! His job was to warn people. Just as a watchman who was not doing his job (sleeping on duty?) would be held accountable for the damage down when he does not raise the alarm- Ezekiel is reminded of spiritual responsibility before God for the harm done to others if he did not warn them of their sinfulness. He gave Ezekiel the responsibility to warn people whose continual walk was wicked as well as those who were living righteously but beginning to go astray. Ezekiel is called to raise the warning.