The prophet Ezekiel, who also served as a priest among God’s people, prophesied under unique circumstances. In the region of the River Chebar, he worked among the Jews who had been taken captive to Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1).
A true prophet of God, “The word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest” (Ezekiel 1:3). With God’s blessing, Ezekiel faithfully labored among his own exiled people in that far-away land. God wanted the Jews in that area to know that His messenger, a true prophet, had lived and worked among them. God declared to Ezekiel, “As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse – for they are a rebellious house – yet they will know that a prophet has been among them” (2:5).
Ezekiel’s mission was clear. Jehovah charged him, “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellions nation that has rebelled against Me . . . You shall speak My words to them . . .” (2:3,7). What God’s people needed to hear was “Thus says the LORD God” (2:5). Ezekiel was not commissioned to be a P.R. man (public relations guy), but a mouthpiece – the Lord’s. Literally hundreds of time in the great book of Ezekiel, we read that Ezekiel’s message came from God. Today we need the preaching style of the prophets like Ezekiel – a zeal for preaching the truth of God. It is not enough just to talk. It is not enough just to present a religious message. The church and the world need to hear the words of life that only the Lord can give. Our message must be distinctive. Let every member of the church who teaches privately or publicly be committed to speak only as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).
God predicted the response that His people would have to Ezekiel’s pointed preaching. “But the house of Israel will not listen to you, because they will not listen to Me, for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted” (3:7). We are elated that there still are people who have a heart that is ready to accept the truth, but we also recognize the reality that many have no intention of submitting to the will of God that is revealed in the Bible. Success as a sower of God’s word is not determined by numerical responses. As seed sowers, our task is to sow the right seed with the right spirit, supporting that effort with a godly lifestyle. When we do that, God is pleased, regardless of the reaction of those who hear our message.
How did the Lord want Ezekiel to approach the task of preaching His word to a people who basically did not want to hear it? First of all, Ezekiel was to preach, regardless. “You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious” (2:7). Like Ezekiel, we must be prepared to proclaim God’s word “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). We must not allow the reaction of the hearers to dissuade us from proclaiming the whole counsel of God.
Second, Ezekiel must not be afraid of those to whom he would proclaim Jehovah’s message. “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words . . . do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house” (2:6). The apostles of Jesus were scolded, threatened, and beaten. Yet they boldly continued to preach the gospel (Acts 4:18-20; 5:40-42). We must learn from such courageous examples! It is easier, much easier, to teach a person or group of people if you know that they agree with the truth that you are telling them. It is more challenging to keep on teaching the truth when you know that your hearers will despise you or your message.
What was a third aspect of Ezekiel’s approach to presenting God’s word? The Lord did not want him to become like the rebels to whom he would preach. Jehovah said it this way: “But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house . . .” (2:8). We preach to all kinds of people. We must not allow them to corrupt us in the process. Teachers in the new covenant era must be a good example of believers, taking heed both to their own conduct as well as to the message which they proclaim (1 Timothy 4:12,16).
As Ezekiel worked in preaching God’s word, he was blessed to have the Lord on his side. In that case, Ezekiel was never alone! “. . . the hand of the LORD was strong upon me” (3:14). We are encouraged and comforted to know that the Lord promises to be with us as we live for Him and teach His word to others (Matthew 28:20).
When Ezekiel arrived in the territory near Babylon where the Jewish captives were, what did he do? In his owns words, “I sat where they sat” (3:15). If we want to influence others by teaching them the truth, we must show an interest in them and be willing to go to them and sit where they sit. When the souls of people are at stake, we need to be willing to step outside of our comfort zone and become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22), even if that means going into some less-than-clean or less-than-comfortable places.
We have heard horror stories about the preaching and teaching that goes on in some local churches of the Christ. Week after week the members are given a diet of non-distinctive messages, storytelling, and few references from the Scriptures. How tragic. Ezekiel probably would be unwelcome at such congregations. God’s people need to be fed with His heart-changing, soul-saving word. Let us be committed to doing so without fear.
— Roger D. Campbell