In Ezekiel chapter 2 and 3, God is challenging the prophet Ezekiel to speak, to the people of Israel, the words that are set before him. However at the same time God says that these people will not hear, they will not respond, their faces will be obstinately against the words spoken. Though Ezekiel is speaking on behalf of the Lord God, the house of Israel will not listen to Ezekiel, just as they would not listen to the Lord. They would not only refuse to listen to Ezekiel but their returning words and actions would be so vicious, cutting and venomous that it would cause these people to be like briers, thorns and scorpions (Ezek. 2:6) .
When people viciously attack, gouge and poison us by their words and actions there is a natural tendency to defend ourselves. To protect ourselves from their outward resistance we become thick skinned so that their rejection does not personally hurt us. Just as constant pressure upon sensitive areas of the skin can cause those areas to become calloused to protect the tender areas, so also, the constant pressure of their resistance and provoking attacks cause us to become calloused or thick skinned in the very areas that we are to be sensitive and tender. When our words or actions are not applied, instead of continuing to be kind and gentle we easily throw up our hands in disgust and dismiss the people who rejected us. Closing our hearts to the needs of the people, we give up on them for “after all they have done to me.”
However as God’s people we are required to have a gentleness of heart towards individuals, to not be calloused towards them or insensitive to their situations and needs. We are to always be loving, kind, long suffering, bearing all things (1 Cor. 13: 4-7). In our lives people are to constantly experience joy, peace, gentleness, goodness and self-control (Gal 5:22,23). Yet it is always a challenge to have these soft and tender attributes before the Lord and before people, when these same people are attacking, rejecting and deliberately hurting us. How is it possible to constantly exhibit the soft loving nature while at the same time protecting ourselves from the harshness of the people around us?
As God speaks to Ezekiel and other prophetic people in the same situation, God declares that He will put a protective hardness or wall around the ones who minister on His behalf. We do not need to harden ourselves to protect ourselves, we are to remain soft knowing that the Lord will help, He will protect and cause us not to be ashamed (see Is. 50:7; Jer. 1:18). With whatever hardness of face or head others have against you, with whatever attacking, gouging, bitterness or poison is shot against you, God will enable your face to be substantially hard and protected. “But I’ll make you as hard in your way as they are in theirs. I’ll make your face as hard as rock, harder than granite. Don’t let them intimidate you. Don’t be afraid of them, even though they’re a bunch of rebels.” (Ezek. 3:8,9 Message)
When God is our protector, then we can continue to be soft and gentle for He is the one exhibiting the hardness and not us. Take a moment to examine where you need to rest in the protection of our Lord so that you do not become hardened or calloused towards others. In prayer yield that situation to the Lord Jesus Christ.