It was a daunting task from the beginning. It seemed destined for failure. When God called Ezekiel to prophesy to his fellow Israelites in exile, even He warned that it would be difficult and likely unsuccessful. God said, “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn … and whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2:4-5).
He went on to prepare Ezekiel that it might feel like he was living among thorns and briars and scorpions, but “Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen, or fail to listen” (2:6). God gave Ezekiel the words to speak. They were sweet, like honey, in his mouth (3:3). God sent him to his own people, people who could easily understand his message, not to people of obscure or difficult languages (3:5-6). Yet, even though they could easily understand the words, they would not listen to Ezekiel because they were unwilling to listen to God (3:7). When he finally got to the exiles at Tel Abib, all he could do was sit among them for an entire week – overwhelmed (3:15)!
I think we understand how Ezekiel felt, don’t we? We hear stories about how the church is growing in places where we can’t even speak their language, yet, right here at home the response is not much different than preaching to a brick wall! The message we have is the sweetest message ever told, yet because people are rebellious and obstinate, they no longer want to hear from us about God’s grace because they no longer want to listen to God. It’s frustrating. It’s overwhelming. And so our tendency is to just sit around and keep our gospel to ourselves.
But that’s not what God has called us to do. He has called us to take the gospel to the entire world whether they want to hear it or not (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to tell the gospel to people who may even respond with violent words or actions. Why? The answer is also found in Ezekiel’s story. God told Ezekiel his responsibility was not to be successful, but to be faithful. As a watchman, he had to warn the people of God’s coming judgment. He was not held accountable to the way the people responded to his warning, but he was accountable if he failed to warn the people (see 3:16-21).
To do this takes courage, lots and lots of courage. None of us want to teach people who are unwilling to listen. We’d much rather teach the willing, those with a heart for God. But God wants even the obstinate and unwilling to be given the gospel. Let’s be people of courage who are willing to rise up and teach all people the message of God!