“Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them,” Ezekiel 3:1-4.
On August 29th, I began reading the book of Ezekiel as part of my daily reading. On Thursday, the last day of August, I read the above verses at the beginning of the chapter in Ezekiel for that day.
I was immediately struck by what it was the Lord said to Ezekiel and saw the character and features of a true servant of God set out in the verses. I would like to share the thoughts that arose in my heart at that time.
While there is much in this book which, on the surface, appears ‘hard to understand’ (2 Peter 3:16), that difficulty arises from the dulness of our minds regarding the things of God and is not to be made an excuse to avoid reading and studying this wonderful book.
The verses which head this article are not difficult to ‘decipher’! The Lord here speaks plainly though employing metaphorical language at times.
I. THE FIRST THING I NOTICE ABOUT A TRUE MAN OF GOD IS HIS CALL BY GOD TO BE HIS SERVANT.
“Moreover he said unto me, Son of man . . . .”
I recall that early in my Christian walk, I heard Dr Paisley quote a saying by the great C H Spurgeon. The honoured Baptist preacher was in conversation with a young man who was enquiring about the requirements of being a preacher of God’s Word. CHS questioned the young man on his desire to be a preacher and told him that if there was anything else in life that he COULD DO, then he was to do it! Preachers are men who can do NONE OTHER than preach. They are driven men.
It is true, many of God’s great servants were most reluctant to respond to God’s call. Moses was one such. He put up many objections. This was the final one. “And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue,” Exodus 4:10. The Lord answered this objection also. “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say,” Exodus 4:11-13.
Jeremiah was another, at the first, reluctant preacher. “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant,” Jeremiah 1:4-10.
The Lord’s responses to Moses and to Jeremiah were His way of persuading and convincing these men that it was His will to serve Him in this manner.
Where there is a willingness and an eagerness to go forth as a preacher, it is usually a sure sign that the impulse is of the flesh and not of God. When Saul of Tarsus, later the greatest human preacher, I believe, said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Acts 9:6, we are told that when he asked that question he was “trembling and astonished”. He was humbled down into the dust in fear and terror, having seen the glory of Christ. Such a view forbade all dissent and every objection!
II. THE RELATIONSHIP THAT THE WORD OF GOD HAS WITH A TRUE PREACHER
“Eat that thou findest; eat this roll . . . cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee.”
1. To eat the ‘roll’ or Word of God, is to ingest it into our very being. Here the language is figurative or metaphorical. This metaphor is common in Scripture. John the apostle was engaged in the same figurative exercise. “And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter,” Revelation 10:8-10.
Paul wrote to Timothy and urged upon him the same relationship with the Word of God as here is urged upon Ezekiel by the Lord, though in plainer terms. “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee,”1 Timothy 4:13-16.
When we eat food we absorb it, it becomes part of us! The Word of God must become our ‘food and drink’ and thus become part of us. I recall shortly after I began my studies for the gospel ministry, Dr Paisley had me accompany him to his father’s church, the Independent Baptist Tabernacle, in Waveney Road in Ballymena, where he was to preach. He had me get up and give my testimony before he preached. After the meeting, I was approached by a well-known member of the Tabernacle, Mr Tommy McAuley, who said to me: ‘Son, read your Bible every day and it will speak out through you’! I cannot say that I fully grasped the significance of what he said back then but I know now that his words were in complete harmony with what the Lord here says to Ezekiel.
2. What you eat is what you become! I have ever marvelled at how God has ordained and ordered the process of nourishment. A cow can eat grass and produce milk, which in turn can be made into butter and cheese. It can produce meat in a variety of flavours and textures. In the wonder of God’s providential mercy, soil brings forth grass, the animal is used to process that into delicious food that feeds mankind. Of course, the cow is not the only ‘cog’ in this wonderful process, but it is one of the main ‘cogs’!
Here the Lord uses the process of digesting food to illustrate the means by which a man becomes a provider of the ‘meat’ of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:2) to those to whom the Lord sends him.
The one who feasts upon the Word of God will ‘produce’ its truths, its sentiments, its standards and its power to all to whom he speaks. He will feed ‘from his mouth’ those who heed what he says. Thus Paul likened himself, in his ministry in Thessalonica, to that of a ’nursing mother’. “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children,” 1 Thessalonians 2:7. Literally, we may read that as a mother nursing her infant, imparting nourishment to her little one. So Paul fed the Thessalonian saints with that which came of himself, the Word of God that he had, like Ezekiel, ingested.
3. Eating and consuming false doctrine will result in a preacher poisoning his flock. The tongue can be a source of deadly poison. “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison,” James 3:8. The dire result of such poisoning lie all around us in today’s society. All the ills of modern society have been watered and caused to grow and increase by the ‘poison’ of false doctrine, emanating from the lips of the false teachers who have sprung up amongst the ecumenical and modernistic denominations and the influx of paganism that has defiled the land. This poisonous concoction of lies and falsehoods has created a slaughter that causes the sum of those slain in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese cities which were targeted by the dropping of the first atomic bombs, to pale into insignificance.
That may seem an outlandish claim but consider the multitudes, over innumerable generations, throughout the nations of the earth who have heard and heeded the false teaching of pagan myths and the deceptions of heretics and apostates within ‘Christendom’, and you will get some idea of the numberless host of those brought down to hell by the poison of error and false doctrine!
III. FOR A MAN TO INGEST GOD’S WORD HE WILL NEED THE HELP OF GOD
“So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll.”
1. God’s man is personally fed the truth of God by the Lord. We have already mentioned Moses’ reluctance to submit to the Lord’s call. One of the chief reasons for that was a sense of inadequate ability and understanding of the mind and will of God. In response to this fear the Lord said: “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say,” Exodus 4:12.
Jeremiah had a similar experience. “Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant,” Jeremiah 1:9-10.
The apostle Paul shared in the experiences of the other apostles when the accompanied the Lord during His three years of earthly ministry. He did however spend an equal length of time in the Saviour’s presence, being taught as were they. This is referred to by Paul in Galatians chapter 1, where herelates something of his experiences immediately after his conversion.
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: and profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus,” verses 11-17.
Paul here declares that the gospel he preached was not taught to him by men but by the Lord. That period of teaching took place during his time in Arabia, mentioned here in verse 17. That Paul was to be taught certain matters by the Lord directly is seen in the Saviour’s exchange with Ananias in Acts 9. “Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake,” verses 13-16.
The Lord here clearly indicates that a time of instruction, a time when the Lord would show him “how great things he must suffer” for the Saviour’s sake, lay ahead of Paul.
Paul’s words in Galatians 1:16-18 — “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days” — indicate that he was not associated with the other apostles nor taught by them before this visit to Jerusalem, some three years after his conversion. The phrase ‘to see Peter’ carries the meaning of becoming acquainted with Peter. He had not personally known him before. But he now was being identified as one of them and his apostleship endorsed by them, subsequent to that period of instruction in Arabia.
So it is with every man called of God. Whatever orthodox college or seminary he may attend, he must experience the personal instruction of the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit in and through the instruction there received. Otherwise, irrespective of what diplomas presented to him by the place of instruction he attended, be it ever so faithful to God’s Word, the instruction received is far short of the LORD putting forth his hand, and touching him and putting His words in his mouth!
2. I feel that is what is lacking in many of the men who fill evangelical pulpits today. Is there not a powerlessness abroad amongst the evangelical, fundamentalist camp! Human instruction and diplomas and degrees aplenty there may be, but where is that instruction which empowers a man as Jeremiah was empowered? I repeat the words uttered by the Lord over Jeremiah. “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant,” Jeremiah 1:9-10.
The pulling down of the structures of apostasy and rebellion against God is hardly taking place. A toothpick rather than a pickaxe is about all that most pulpiteers use against the enemies of God. Such feeble labours denote an absence of that touch which Jeremiah received!
May God raise up men who have been touched as were the prophets of old!
3. I believe that it is still the will of God to so bless His servants in these last days. Without a shadow of a doubt, we are told that the last generation of believers will be endued with power to stand against the enemy, irrespective of the failures previous generations may have proved to be! Listen to these prophetic words of Daniel.
“And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days,” Daniel 11:31-33.
Three things are taught us here in these verses from Daniel.
- The time of this doing of ‘exploits’. It is at the time of the very end as is indicated by the Saviour. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. . . . . . Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” Matthew 24:15-21, 29-30. I believe that the ‘great tribulation’ will last for three and a half years. It is that period often referred to in Scripture where other methods of numbering are used, just to ensure that we fully understand the length of time the Lord is referring to.
See “a time, times, and an half“, Daniel 12:7 and “forty and two months”, Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. Also, “a thousand two hundred and threescore days”, Revelation 11:3, 12:6. All of these measurements amount to the same length of time – three and a half years.
- The ‘exploits’ will be done by a people who know their God. The word ‘know’ means to ‘perceive, to understand, are learned’. They are a people who have been taught of God above a mere ‘casual acquaintance’! I always think of those we read of in Matthew 25:6-10, who were awakened and aroused and who stood up and trimmed their lamps and were ready when the Bridegroom came. The parable symbolises the arousing of that generation of believers who are alive on the very eve of the Lord’s return and who are revived and strengthened to hold high the lamp of truth in defiance of the spirt of Antichrist abroad at that time.
Chief amongst God’s people in that day are the two ‘witnesses’ spoken of in Revelation 11, who will lead the opposition in Jerusalem to the apostasy and rebellion of Antichrist. “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days (the period of the great tribulation), clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will,” verses 2-6.
- The ‘exploits’ will bring the wrath of the Antichrist upon that people who know their God. This bold stand by the last generation of believers of this age will cost them dearly for their faithfulness. “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them,” Revelation 11:7-12.
This is going to a time of the martyrdom of many of God’s saints. These verses substantiate this truth. That in itself indicates an ‘empowering’ of the saints alive in that day, for to be ready to die as a martyr requires an empowerment from God!
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled,” Revelation 6:9-11.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years,” Revelation 20:4-6.
These verses indicate that during that period when the Antichrist will be at the zenith of his power, many of the saints of God will pay the ultimate price for their faithfulness to Christ. Bless the Lord it is a short time, a “little season” (Revelation 6:11), for his time is limited by the Lord. “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months,” Revelation 13:5.
I believe we can say that the Lord will raise up a band of witnesses at the end of this age who ill match any that have gone before. I have always believed that the Lord will return to a Church that He has emboldened and infused with Holy Ghost power rather than an insipid collection of cowering Christians, so similar in spirit to the army of Israel that faced Goliath. “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. . . . . And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid,” 1 Samuel 17:11, 24.
May we see that wonderful transformation taking place soon.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
2nd September 2023