A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate
- the Human Condition
- God’s Revelation of His Plan
- God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
- Our Response (Current location of study)
“And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me:” – Ezekiel 3:16
There are times to speak and times to keep our mouths shut. If you’re on social media very much, you encounter lots of viewpoints that you probably don’t agree with. Sometimes it’s better just to move on and not push people’s buttons.
However, there are also times when we have to speak up. That’s what God told Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest during the time that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah and carried many of the Israelites off into exile. Ezekiel was one of them, and God called him to prophesy to the exiles in Babylon. Our study section for this week (Ezekiel 3:14-27) comes at the tail end of God’s call to Ezekiel and his initial instructions from God.
“The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.“
Ezekiel was very upset at the sin of his people. He had just been called by God to prophesy to the people and God’s Spirit had filled him with a perspective of God’s holiness contrasted with the sinfulness of the people that had caused them to be exiled as punishment. When Ezekiel says he that he went “in bitterness in the heat of my spirit” he means that he was very angry and upset with the people. Hence, he sat overwhelmed among them for seven days. I don’t know if he was resisting speaking to them because of his anger with them, or if he was just emotionally overwhelmed. At any rate, he continues with:
“And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.“
God tells Ezekiel that it is His expectation that he provides the Israelites with whatever message or warning that God gives him. Then God is very direct and even stern with Ezekiel. He says,
“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.’“
God was very emphatic that Ezekiel was not to shirk his responsibility to warn the people with the word of God. But then the next paragraph provides a very interesting insight into God’s methods and expectations.
“And the hand of the LORD was upon me there. And he said to me, ‘Arise, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you.’ So I arose and went out into the valley, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face. But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me, ‘Go, shut yourself within your house. And you, O son of man, behold, cords will be placed upon you, and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among the people. And I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.“
Did you catch that? Immediately after God told Ezekiel that he was expected to reprove the people with God’s warnings, God told him that He (God) was going to prevent Ezekiel from speaking a word of warning to the people, at least for a while. Then, later, God would open Ezekiel’s mouth and allow him to fulfill his prophetic calling and preach to the people.
In other words, God is saying to Ezekiel that whenever he speaks, he is to do so under the control and timing of the Holy Spirit. We already know that Ezekiel was frustrated with his people and very possibly had lots of words ready to deliver to them, but God said, “Not yet. You’ll get your chance, but at the time of MY choosing.”
As Christians, we have been given the commission by God to share the gospel of Jesus with the world. The Holy Spirit that indwells us has been given to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I [Jesus] go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:8-11).” BUT, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to do these things through us, not our job acting apart from His leading. There is a time to speak, and a time to remain silent. Make sure you are listening to God’s Spirit to guide you into the right time and manner to speak. We are God’s representatives to the world and must speak what HE wants us to speak!
Our next 3:16 verse will be found in the book of Malachi.