2:1 He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. 2 And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. 3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. [NRSV]
TARGET: Sent to the Rebels, Transgressors, and those impudent and stubborn…
Ezekiel is a prophet given an ambitious charge. He audience is not the faithful regulars. It is those who know better. It is those who know what is good, true, right and just but do not trust, believe and act accordingly.
If you made a quick top ten list of the first 10 sins that plague our community what might they be? i asked a number of folks, quite unscientifically and not in ranked order, but looking for first impressions here the list I heard:
- Depressed Economy
- Illegal Drugs
- Disparity of Education
- Lack of Motivation
- Lack of Leadership
- Excessive Heat
It is an interesting list. Each answer touches on real problems that face our community and most every community around us. But it is interesting, that of every person I asked, not one mentioned God. And not one of them named themselves. What do we make of that?
Well to be fair, I asked about the community and not of the church. Church and State are to remain separate, right? I suggest that is the politically correct answer, but not at Godly one. Let’s look a little deeper:
We could get lost in the history lesson of learning about why ‘those people’ had moved away from God and the life God hopes for God’s people. We could be lulled into thinking that this is only a story about Ezekiel and some other people. But God’s call is not just historical. It is present through us. The message given to this prophet is remembered because it is a universal call for each of us. God’s call to work and speak through the faithful is timeless and include you and me.
There are folks who look at what is right and wrong and come up with every answer under heaven, without consulting heaven from the start.
Therefore Ezekiel’s audience is our target, and Ezekiel’s prophetic charge is our work and calling today.
At a Braves game, the winning runner turns the corner around third heading for home. There is a collision with the catcher at the plate. The Cub’s fans yell, “OUT” and the Braves fans scream, “SAFE” and the umpire says, “He is nothing until I make the call.”
God makes the call. Some times we are safe. Some times we drop the ball and we need to remember who decides the outcome of the game. God!
REASON: They shall have no excuse
God’s single mission is to take away the excuse factor.
Remove the blame from our game. One of the things that is a tremendous waste of time and clouding of reality is the quest for who to blame when things go wrong.
In our sue or be sued culture, billions of dollars fund thousands of court cases ending with determinations of who is to blame and who is responsible for making things right. At home, families become divided over who is at fault for mistakes and failures.
Can you image how successful the reality show would be if people took responsibility for their actions and moved on from their mistakes showing forgiveness and learning to make better choices. I don’t think our society would watch more than the first commercial break and call it fake and unrealistic.
The prophet hears the call to point our blame, not for vengeance, meanness, or correctness. Rather it is for restoring what is good, true and righteous. God is just taking the need for blame out of the equation of faithfulness.
This is actually a very gracious thing. It sounds demanding, but it is actually filled with Grace. God is not as interested in excuses as God is interested in the us: the Rebels, Transgressors, and those impudent and stubborn.
Go tell the rebellious ones God is warning and telling you God is making things plain…
In this world of upside down values and priorities… God is turning the world’s ways back: God side up.
All our task is to take on the roll of prophet is so to relay God’s work… not ours.
Debra Fine (in The Fine Art of Small Talk) wrote about 8-year-old Nick who told his dad about his day: “Dad, I had a great day at school. We had art class today, and I painted a cool picture of the mountains. We played soccer during gym, and I scored a goal. And guess what? They served pizza for lunch.”
Looking at his dad whose nose was buried elsewhere, Nick said, “Dad, you’re not listening.” His dad replied, “Yes I am, Son. You painted a picture of the mountains, scored a goal in soccer, and had pizza for lunch.”
ACTION PLAN: God is talking to you, listen up, now!
The remarkable part of this text from Ezekiel is that God is speaking to God’s prophet. The prophet not only has God’s word to share, they hear and see God speaking.
It would be nice, especially in our stubborn times, for God to speak as clearly and plainly as God speaks here to ‘Zek. But it may be more difficult that we make it out to me. We are generally demanding of God: “Speak to me, and speak up right now!” we demand. And we hear instead a familiar family, neighbor, friend, co-worker, or even stranger speak and we feel they are a distraction, when they very well are God speaking to us.
Here in Ezekiel we have the whole message, start to finish, made clear:
Go tell folks God has something for them to hear, Listen up now:
God is not interested in excuses or blame. God wants your trust. You have not excuses left. It’s time to trust God..
It’s a two sided message: It is one we need to hear and its one we need to actually share, not one or the other.
Ezekiel needed to hear as much as he needed to tell the world around him. God got through to him and three thousand years later we still read how Ezekiel listened to God and still speaks to us RIGHT NOW.
Go tell and world and they just might still hear your faithfulness 3000 years from now! Amen? Amen!