Ezekiel 2:4 I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. 7 But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.
8 “Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.” 9 Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. 10 When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.
3:1Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.
At the Great Commission Bible Institute (where David and I are the Site Coordinators this year), we have been making our way through the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, and most recently we were studying Ezekiel. As I sat in on class for a bit, something struck a chord in me and God sweetly reminded me of a truth in those verses. The verses above are from the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3; these are words from Ezekiel’s commission. God is calling this man to a life of being His messenger in a very dark time with a very hard message. The people of Israel had been repeatedly forsaking their God and refusing to heed His warnings to return to Him and escape the coming destruction. But after grace upon grace, the reality of being taken from their land and dragged into captivity was upon them.
The setting of this moment in Ezekiel’s life is on the banks of the Chebar river in Babylon among the rest of his exiled people, dealing with the aftermath. If things had gone according to plan in Ezekiel’s life, he would have been just beginning to fulfill his priestly work in the temple in Jerusalem: the fulfillment of many years of preparation and anticipation. And yet here he was… sitting on the bank of a river in a land that might as well have been the other side of the world from where he longed to be. So my guess is that he is bearing the weight of disappointment and disillusionment as the one thing he desired for his life was stripped away from him.
And in the midst of that hopelessness, God breaks into his world in a catasrophic way and begins to lay out a call on his life that is so different than what he wanted, but here it was, coming straight from the mouth of God. He was swept up into the presence of God in His glory. And Ezekiel’s response is to fall on his face in worship. Here’s where the commission begins; where God begins to lay out the plan that He has for Ezekiel. He lets him know the specifics of his calling, that he will be sharing a message to the rebellious people of the house of Israel. He lets him know that they will most likely NOT listen to him. He lets him know that according to all logical and human standards, he is going to fail (if you read the rest of the book you realize that not only is he going to seemly fail, he is going to seem absolutely insane to everyone around him). But He tells him to do it anyways. Don’t focus on the acceptance of the message, focus on being obedient to what I’m telling you to do. There’s a lesson right there that we all need to let sink in.
But the part that really impacted me was even yet to come. So after God lays out for him the details of what his call is, there’s this weird part about God handing him a scroll to eat. He spread out the scroll and let Ezekiel see all the pain and hardship that was written on it, and then God asked Ezekiel to “eat what I am giving you.” Ezekiel intimately shared in the brokenness of God’s heart in the moment that he ate of the scroll. The call on Ezekiel’s life was not an easy one to swallow, it would be bitter and painful and offer him no earthly sense of accomplishment, and yet God, in His ultimate goodness was asking Ezekiel to trust Him enough to say “yes” to His plan. So Ezekiel accepted the difficult task ahead of him; He stepped over the mountain of disappointment in loosing his dream career, and he humbly received the new job God had for him, knowing the pain it would bring into his life. And here is the beautiful part…. “and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.” God made it sweet to him. There is no way that commission would be sweet on it’s own. But God gave Ezekiel the grace that he would need to accomplish the difficult task.
The things God may call us to face in our lives may be scrolls inscribed with lamentation, mourning, and woe. But if we will be humble enough to receive them from His hand with trust, He will make them sweet to us as well.