How God empowers us to respond to the grievous truth
And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.
“And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Be not rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.
And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel—not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.”
Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its place!” It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days.
Impudence. Stubborness. Briars and Thorns. Scorpions. That was the kind of people Ezekiel was called by God to prophesy to — the rebellious house of Israel who had not repented of their rebellion against God’s precepts. God prepared Ezekiel to deal with these hard people by making his face as hard as their faces. Their foreheads might have been as hard a flint, but Ezekiels’ foreheard was made even harder: as hard as the more abrasive emery. Ezekiel was encouraged not to fear them, nor be dismayed at their contemptuous looks.
But this was not all that God did to prepare and empower Ezekiel for his mission. He gave him the vision of the Himself and some of the angels who served him in perfect, instantaneous obedience. He gave him the scroll on which, front and back, were written words of lamentation and mourning and woe, telling him to eat it — to absorb its message into his belly. And although the message was grievious, it was sweet to eat.
How many of us can relate to this! The revelation of identifying abuse for what it IS, no longer minimising or denying it, no longer pushing it under the rug or being benumbed and bewildered in the tangle of self-doubt — is a revelation of woe and lamentation and mourning; but it is sweet as honey to know the truth.
And we do well to absorb it into our bellies. Mull over it. Chew the cud of it. Let it permeate our unconscious and conscious minds. Let the revelation work its way through at the cellular and visceral level. Process the implications. And due to the power of the revelation we may feel overwhelmed for seven days (or seven months) but as the Spirit does the unconscious work, we find ourselves consciously recalibrating. And then, without buying into feeling guilty for having ‘hard foreheads’ in the face of scorpions, we can take the next steps, whatever steps we are led to take for safety and justice for ourselves and other survivors of abuse.