And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes, and you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people.
I. WAS COMMANDED BY THE LORD. "Then the Spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house" (cf. Ezekiel 2:2). One would have been inclined to conclude that, when he was revived by the Spirit, the prophet would have been ordered to enter upon active service. But he was commanded to seclude himself within his house. This seclusion was probably intended as:
1. A season of meditation for the prophet. Such seasons are requisite for those whose work for God is public and arduous; and in his providence God so orders their lives that such seasons are attainable by them; e.g.. Moses in the desert of Mitian (Exodus 3:1); St. Paul in Arabia (Galatians 1:17); Martin Luther in the monastery of Erfurt, and in the castle of Wartburg.
2. As a silent admonition to the people. God would instruct them by symbol, that from a rebellious people the prophetic presence and voice may be withdrawn. If men will not heed the reproofs of his servants, the reprover shall be silent towards them (ver. 26).
II. WAS OCCASIONED BY THE OBSTINACY OF THE PEOPLE IN WICKEDNESS. "But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them." This verse is a difficult one, and we cannot assert dogmatically what it means; but it seems to us that it should be taken metaphorically, and that it symbolizes the truth that the persistent sins of the people occasioned the seclusion and silence of the prophet. Dr. Fairbairn thus paraphrases the verse under consideration: "Their obstinate and wayward disposition shall be felt upon thy spirit like restraining fetters, repressing the energies of thy soul in its spiritual labours, so that thou shalt need to look for thy encouragement elsewhere than in fellowship with them. The imposition of bands must be understood spiritually, of the damping effect to be produced upon his soul by the conduct of the people. It is a marked specimen of the strong idealism of our prophet, which clothes everything it handles with the distinctness of flesh and blood." The persistent rebelliousness of the people occasioned the temporary suspension of the active work of the prophet. The unbelief of our Lord's own countrymen was as bands upon him, restraining the exercise of his benevolent power. "And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." Obstinacy in wickedness deprives man of the most precious spiritual possessions.
III. WAS TO BE RIGIDLY ENFORCED. "And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house." This is to be taken metaphorically. "Because the people would silence the prophet, God, to punish them, will close his mouth." During the time of the suspension of his prophetic activity he would be as silent to them as a dumb man. When the Lord determines to deprive a people of any blessing which they have despised or persistently disregarded, his determination will certainly be enforced.
IV. WAS TO BE ONLY TEMPORARY. "But when I speak with thee, I will open thy month, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God," etc. The withdrawal of the messenger of the Lord was not to be permanent. The prophet would speak again when God willed him to do so. When his seclusion and silence had produced their effect, he must go forth and proclaim the word of the Lord. The following observations are suggested by this verse:
1. The prophet is empowered for his work by the Lord. "When I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth." Ezekiel received his message from the Lord, and was emboldened by him to deliver it.
2. The prophet is authorized in his work by the Lord. "Thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God." Both the silence and the speech of Ezekiel were expressly ordered by God. In both he was under the control of his Divine Master, remaining silent when so directed by him, and proclaiming his word whet, commanded and enabled by him to do so. "This represents forcibly the authoritative character and Divine origin of the utterances of the Hebrew prophets."
3. The prophet's great concern in his work should be to be faithful to the Lord. "Thus saith the Lord God; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house." Ezekiel was not responsible for the success of his work with the people. But fidelity in executing the commissions which he received from his great Master was required of him. For this he was responsible. And still "it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2).
CONCLUSION. Our subject addresses to us solemn admonition as to our treatment of the Word of the Lord. If we persistently despise or disregard that Word, he may withdraw it from us, or place us beyond the sphere of the ministry thereof. Neglected privileges may justly and reasonably be taken away from those who have neglected them (cf. Amos 1:4-12). - W.J.
Bishop Hall was, with nine of his episcopal brethren, committed to the Tower on a charge of high treason, in the early days of the Long Parliament, besides preaching, as he had opportunity, on the Sundays, "he wrote a treatise, under the title: "Free Prisoner; or, The Comfort of the Saint," joyously contrasting the bondage which he endured with that of lust and sinful desires. Madame Guyon took the same happy view of her imprisonment in the Bastille, in which she reckoned herself one of God's singing birds, whom He had caged there to have pleasure in her music.
1. Christ deals fairly, not fraudulently with His; He tells them at first what they must expect; not gold and silver, but bands and chains "They shall bind thee." He told Jeremiah, they shall fight against him (Jeremiah 1:19). So Paul no sooner is called to preaching, but he hears of suffering (Acts 9:16). Christ tells all the apostles that they must be afflicted, hated, killed (John 16:2).
They shall put bands upon thee.I. THEY ARE OFTEN EXPERIENCED. Every true life for Christ, at one step or another, verifies the expression of Paul, "Without are fightings, within are fears."
1. The restraints may be in the servants. They may be ready to spread the Gospel, but are forbidden to enter the door which is apparently opened, or are afflicted with disease and unable to enter, or are prostrated in their energies by some domestic event and unfit to enter.
2. The restraints may be from those for whom the service is required.(1) They may become violent against the persons who stand up for the rights of God.(2) Or the people may be rebellious in heart.
II. THE RESTRAINTS ARE UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE LORD. He concerns Himself with every matter relating to His kingdom amongst men. The enforced silence and disablement of the prophet and the "gross" heart of the people are controlled for His righteous and good ends.
1. Traces of His working are perceptible. Restraints are felt teaching His suffering servants to be patient, vigilant for Him, and so qualifing for future action and future reward. "If we suffer with Him we are glorified together."
2. Hopes of His working may be entertained. When men make void His law, that is a time to ask God to do special work.
III. RESTRAINTS MAY BE ASSOCIATED WITH COMMUNION BETWEEN THE LORD AND HIS SERVANTS. This fact is brought to pass —
1. By a fresh consciousness of God in His service. He seems to come nearer to them, and they say, "Thou holdest me by my right hand."
2. By a deepened conviction that He who has led them is the same forever.
3. By the power of the Holy Spirit. He takes the things that are Christ's and shows them to us. He teaches to profit, and we receive power, love, and a sound mind. The efficacy of all true ministry depends on His energy.
(D. G. Watt, M. A.)
2. No excellency exempts a prophet from the malice of men's tongues and hands.
3. The generality of people are enemies to their own good, and active to their own ruin. The house of Israel, they are against the prophet; they fetter and chain him up, and think they have done well, to make him secure from coming amongst them. And alas, what have they done! thrust away the physician that should cure them; shut out mercy by shutting up a prophet; put out the light. Christ the great Prophet, the people, after all His precious sermons and glorious miracles, cry (Luke 23:18, 21).
4. Wicked ones deal severely, cruelly with the prophets when they fall into their hands.
5. Afflictive conditions seldom better men's spirits. In the case of the Jews here, their wronging of the prophets was the cause of their suffering, and yet all their sufferings did not subdue their spirits, and work them to entertain the truth. The plough breaks the earth in many places, but doth not better it, but leaves it as it was; nothing is put in by the plough.
6. It is no new thing for prophets and ministers to be roughly entreated, and laid by as useless things (1 Peter 5:9).
(W. Greenhill, M. A.)
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