The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the River Kebar. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days – deeply distressed. Ezekiel 3:14-15 (NIV)
The book of Ezekiel records an incident where God interacted directly with Ezekiel, revealing to him that God wanted him to speak to the people of Israel. This is recorded in Ezekiel 2, where Ezekiel received his call as a prophet –
He said: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day.
You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. Ezekiel 2:3, 7 (NIV)
This is elaborated upon in Ezekiel 2:9-10 and 3:1-3 where the prophet is presented with a scroll and told to eat it. Ezekiel tells us –
Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. Ezekiel 3:3 (NIV)
Having tasted something sweet we would have expected Ezekiel to leave God’s presence feeling elated and content. Yet the verse quoted above from Ezekiel 3:14 reveal to us that the prophet was less than content, he was positively bitter and angry.
We could come up with several explanations for this:
- he was annoyed at having been taken away by the Spirit;
- his anger and annoyance were in recognition of the enormous sin of the people of Israel;
- perhaps he was fearful for his own safety having witnessed how the people of Jerusalem had received Jeremiah’s prophecy and how badly they had treated him.
In reality we don’t know exactly why Ezekiel, having tasted the sweetness of God, should have reacted so negatively. Looking back at Ezekiel 2:10 we read about the scroll –
On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. Ezekiel 2:10 (NIV)
Perhaps Ezekiel’s reaction was purely bacause he knew that the message he was to speak to the exiles was not good news, but lament, mourning and woe. What would make the difference to Ezekiel would be that he would not undertake the task alone as ‘… the strong hand of the Lord …’ was on him.
The enormity of the task God has called us to do can often be daunting, yet when we move forward with ‘the strong arm of the Lord’ on us, we will be equipped for the task. God’s message will not always be welcomed and often it will be ignored. Yet we must be true to our calling to share the gospel whatever the consequences.
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