Ezekiel 33:2. If the people of the land take a man— and set him for their watchman; and if he be asleep, and blow not the trumpet when the invading army approaches, all are agreed that he ought to die. How much more then a priest, a prophet specially invested with that highest trust of heaven, the souls of men.
Ezekiel 33:7. Oh son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel. See Ezekiel 3:15.
Ezekiel 33:10. If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them. When Ezekiel revolted the jews by these words, as in Ezekiel 24:23, he cited the denunciation of Moses against apostasy. “Ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up; and they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in the enemy’s land.” Leviticus 26:38. The prophet cited this prediction to bring the jews to repentance, but they turned it to despair, and reproached the Lord with injustice, by saying, and with constant repetitions, that “his ways were not equal;” that their punishments were greater than their faults. Certainly, God gave the jews a power by covenant grace to abstain from idolatry, and the immolation of their children to Moloch, else how could he destroy them for those sins? How gracious then, that heaven should yet say to a nation in full revolt against their Maker, Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways.
But there’s a voice of sovereign grace, Sounds from the sacred word; Oh, ye despairing sinners come, And trust upon the Lord.
Ezekiel 33:21. In the twelfth year of our captivity. Ezekiel was led away with Jehoiachin, who is called Jeconiah, and Zedekiah was appointed to succeed him on the throne; but there might be a small loss of time between the taking of the city and the appointment of Zedekiah; for it is a surprising circumstance that Jerusalem should be taken in the eleventh year, the tenth day, the fifth month of Zedekiah’s reign; and Ezekiel not hearing of it till a year, and five months, and five days had elapsed. However terrible the tidings, they conferred the highest honour on prophecy.
Ezekiel 33:22. My mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb. The fugitive having apprised him that Jerusalem was smitten, he addresses himself to the jews allowed to remain in the land, still in their blood, and still attached to their idols. He preaches to them on the banks of Chebar, as Jeremiah preached in Judea, and declares that the sword, the wild beasts, and the pestilence should still pursue them. The same Spirit inspired both the prophets to say the same things. There is no peace to the wicked: the war of heaven against them is like the brake of the sea roaring on the beach. Mercy can never be preached to men who retain their sins under the severest visitations of providence.
Ezekiel 33:26. Ye stand, or lie down, or lean upon your sword. There are many glosses on this text. Some suppose it means a cruel mode of putting men to death; but being joined with working abominations, I think Dr. Spencer right in supposing it to be a pagan mode of putting their sacrifice into a vessel or pit, while they consulted their evil genius, and standing with their swords drawn to keep demons at a distance.
The first object which strikes us here, next to the watchman’s duty before considered, is the long suspension of all divine communication, which shows that the captives were confirmed in the old habits of idolatry and vice. God answers not the wicked except in wrath. Saul and Johanan, and many others, could obtain no answers, though they had intercourse and were acquainted with the first of prophets.
The captives made despondency an apology for crimes. When they asked Ezekiel why he mourned not for the sudden death of his wife, he informed them of the carnage which should be in Jerusalem of their relatives left behind, and that there should be no mourning for them; and as they repented not in exile, so their iniquities should be upon them, and they should pine away in their sins. This word revolted all their feelings; and perhaps their unbelief kept them from stoning the prophet. Hence they took occasion to charge all their calamities on the iron fate of God’s supposed decrees, and resolved to live as happy as they could in impenitence and sin.
The Lord is highly indignant when mortals charge their miseries on his government and care. Hence we seem to hear him say, Go, go, Ezekiel, go and undeceive them concerning the blind doctrines of a pagan fate: go tell them that this fate is all a fable which the wicked gentiles have invented to shift the blame of guilt from their labouring consciences to providence. Go and tell them that I abhor it as the worst error that ever entered the human heart, an error which torporizes moral sentiments, obstructs repentance, and reproaches heaven: go and tell them that I denounce and detest it by oath. I would swear by the heavens which shed so many blessings on their heads, but they shall wax old as doth a garment. I would swear by these hills and vales which nourish them with bread, though polluted with their sin; but they also shall pass away. I swear therefore by myself; for I know the truth and cannot lie. I swear that I may for ever confound all libellous reproaches of my impartial providence. I swear that I may clear up my righteousness as the sun at noon day, and charge the whole of human misery on human guilt. I farther declare that I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, it being my positive pleasure that he should turn and live. Yea, I appeal to all my works of providence and grace for the confirmation of this grand truth. I appeal to all my feelings as a Father, to all the wooings of my Spirit, and to all the tears of my prophets which cry throughout all ages, Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die, oh house of Israel.
God having cleared his providence of the horrible doctrine of fating men to eternal death, and attached the whole blame to the wicked, next most tenderly expostulates with a people who erred in the ways of sin. Why will ye die? I have been to you a nursing Father. Why will ye not love me? I have opened a bleeding altar, even Calvary, that the foulest of sinners may approach. Why will ye stay at a distance in shame and sin? I have borne and had patience. I have stretched out my hands all the day long to a gainsaying people. My prophets have laboured and wept: they aver, being filled with my Spirit, that their hearts’ desire and prayer is, that Israel might he saved. Why will you thwart the ministry of grace? I have aided the ministry with slow and gentle corrections. Why will you fight against me? You are beloved for your fathers’ sake; you have been to me a pleasant vineyard. I have planted you with the choice vine of Sorek; and what could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done? Why then will ye prefer idols to me? Why will you prefer shame to glory, death to eternal life; yea, and force me at last to cast you off, and to elect the gentiles for my peculiar people. Thus, oh Israel, my ways are equal; for when the righteous man leaves my worship for that of idols, he shall die; and when the wicked man turns from his wickedness, he shall live. But your ways are unequal, and the whole blame of your misery lies at your own door. See this subject illustrated in chap. 18.
To conclude, I cannot here deny myself the pleasure of recommending Richard Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted, written on this text. He began the work at the request of archbishop Usher, and extended it to the length of about four sermons. The preface is admirable, as well as the work. It ran through more than twenty editions during the author’s life; it has awakened many careless sinners, and deserves to be studied, analyzed, and imitated by all ministers. His little book on Matthew 22:5, and on Hebrews 4:9, are possessed of equal merit. The late Mr. Edwards has favoured the christian world with an octavo edition of Baxter’s works, a treasure indeed to families and ministers.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 33". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany