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.
The book of Ezekiel is often avoided. It is filled with strange visions, unusual behavior, explicit and uncomfortable imagery, and a sobering message. The message is basically this: God’s People are living in rebellion against him and he is coming in judgment against them. This judgment gives way to the second portion of the book which is a vision of restoration that is unparalleled in Scripture. A picture of God’s hope and restoration of the entire creation. This restoration begins with God changing the hearts of a people, resurrecting them into a re-created humanity. God then proceeds to destroy evil and bring the entire creation into the harmony that was experienced in the original garden.
Understanding the context that Ezekiel finds himself is helpful. The Israelites are God’s People and because of their faithlessness, God has used a powerful nation to remove them from their land. They are now scattered and displaced. Ezekiel is among those displaced. He receives this vision as he sits along a water canal next to his exile camp. God opens the heavens and reveals himself to Ezekiel in a powerful and unforgettable way.
Last week, we focused on seeing ourselves as exiles, like God’s people in our text. They were broken, longing to go back - longing for peace and shalom. They were outsiders and very misunderstood. We can identify with them and their place.
Today, we will focus on seeing ourselves in Ezekiel. God chooses him, speaks to him, calls him, and sends him to do what seemed impossible. Matthew 28:18-22 is our commissioning - our sending. We are to live out the realities of Matthew 22:37-40.
If you could summarize this sermon in one sentence, it would be: We are to be obedient to the message of God regardless of outcome.
God Calls Us To Impossible Tasks
God’s sending of Ezekiel was to proclaim His truth to the people of God that were in rebellion. God repeatedly tells Ezekiel that he is supposed to do this no matter what - even if it doesn’t seem to work. Look at God’s instructions to him:
- They “are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them” (2:4)
- “whether they hear or refuse to hear” (2:5)
- “be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words” (2:6)
- “Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” (2:6)
- “And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear…” (2: 7)
- They “will not be willing to listen to you” (3:7)
- They “have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.” (3:7)
- These things are repeated by God to Ezekiel throughout his calling. It would be quite hard to be optimistic about this task. And yet, the calling that we have received from God - to go, make disciples, baptize, love God and love others comes with some warnings too:
- “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:17)
- “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
- “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12)
- Jesus dedicates three verses in a sermon to persecution. (Matthew 5:10-12)
Though the message that we proclaim is good news, life-giving, world-changing, transforming, and true from the mouth of God - it will not always be received with the same love that it is offered. There are times that there is great response - there are times that it is met with resistance. We are to keep sowing even when the seeds do not all take (Matthew 13).
The lack of desired response does not negate our responsibility to live out the Great Commission or the two Great Commandments!
Ezekiel is specifically called and sent to a people who have been unresponsive in the past and will be unresponsive in the future. His faithfulness will not be measured in numbers.
The Results Are Ultimately Up To God
This challenge should motivate us to pray more passionately for those around us. Praying that their hearts would be softened to the gospel - that they would repent and believe. Praying that we would be faithful to the task that we have been called to - no matter the consequences. We need to repent of the things that we have left undone - the sins of omission - the times in which we absolve ourselves of responsibility because it is just too big or difficult a task.
We cannot save anyone. We simply are to love and speak so that others see Jesus.
Ezekiel had the Spirit of God enter him (verse 2). God has poured out His Spirit on His people to give them boldness to be powerful and credible witnesses (Acts 2). God continues to use His weak and broken vessels by placing His treasure in clay pots to show that strength really belongs to Him (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Like Ezekiel, we need to fall on our faces and recognize that we have no strength, no gifts, nothing that we can contribute to the task, and plead with Him to fill us with His Spirit - gifting us and empowering us to be faithful servants.
Jesus Perfectly Modeled Obedience To God’s Call
Jesus was sent by the Father and was not received (John 1:11-12). He was despised, rejected, hated, a man of many sorrows who would bear a crown of thorns and the cross. He comes to save the world which was created through Him and by Him - and yet He shows us how to love by having dinner with a prostitute, lunch with a tax-collector, and takes precious time to bless children.
He was born to live a life I could never live and to die a death that I deserved to die. And yet in all of His suffering - He endured it all for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?