"And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and
speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange
speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; Not to many people
of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not
understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto
thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not
hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted."
This morning, failure is one of the hardest pills to swallow. Man, in his fallen
pride, does not like being told he is wrong or that he has been unsuccessful in
his endeavours. Most people are unwilling to venture into a field where failure
is a high probability, and no one is ready and willing to venture into a field
where failure is a certainty. Stock brokers shy away from stocks that are
dangerous, and they certainly avoid stocks that are "sure losers." Yet, failure
is a part of our daily lives, for we are fallible, fallen creatures. We daily
come short of the glory of God, and as much as we dislike it, we find our
purposes not being accomplished as we would have them accomplished. As we
mentioned in a previous segment, discouragement is a highly effective tool that
Satan employs in warfare against the people of God and especially on ministers
in their labour. However, everyone - ministers included - should understand that
not all of our activities will prove successful, and some of them will be
unsuccessful no matter how much energy is exerted in the effort.
There are some men in the Bible whose "job description" is one that I do not
envy in the least. Jeremiah, as the "weeping prophet", had a hard row to hoe at
times in his service to God among the people of Judah before and during their
captivity by Babylon. Ezekiel too had a difficult task at times in service to
God with the captives in Babylon. However, in both cases, these men were no less
responsible to serve God as He had called them and fulfill what He commanded
them. Even if they knew what the outcome would be before their effort was
exerted, their course was to be as diligently steadfast had they not known.
What the Lord, in our passage above, tells Ezekiel is that he is being sent to
people that he is familiar with. He understands these people, has the same
language, same heritage, etc. However, the Lord also foretells Ezekiel's success
(or in this case lack of it) in his efforts. No matter how fervently Ezekiel
would speak to the people of Israel, they were not going to hear him. Despite
his pleadings and warnings, their stiffnecked and hardhearted attitude would
prevent them from receiving the beneficial wisdom of God at the mouth of His
prophet. Knowing this thought, one might inquire, "What is the relevance today?
What does this teach us thousands of years removed from this historical record?"
One of the first things to be gleaned from this passage is the thought that not
all of God's people will respond favorably to the commandment of God. In this
day, God's word came directly from the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, and today,
the message comes personally through reading and study of God's word and
communally through the preaching of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. We
learn of His commandments and our intertwined duty through these different
channels, but not all of God's family are obedient to the call to duty. Just as
the children of Israel were afflicted with pride, stiffnecked and hard hearts,
so we today are just as dreadfully capable of doing likewise. Looking at the
children of Israel in the Old Testament, we see examples for us today - mostly
in what not to do. (I Corinthians 10:6, 11)
If it was indeed true that all of God's children would respond favorably to the
gospel in this age, then it would have been equally true that all of God's
people would have responded favorably to the prophet's word in that day.
However, the correlation does not exist, but a rather saddening correlation does
exist in that a great many did not in that day and do not in this day. Looking
at Christ's own words, we find a great many doing what they should not with just
a few finding the right way to go. (Matthew 7:13-14) Christ's own preaching was
a "turn off" to a great many people, some of whom are no less children of God
but could not endure His hard saying. (John 6:60, 66)
The problem in Ezekiel's day was not due to a language barrier. It was not due
to people being unrelatable to one another. God describes these people as
Ezekiel's own kinsman. Our lack of success in preaching today or discussing
Scriptures with others may not stem from people we cannot relate to or
communicate with, but it may stem from old-fashioned impudence and pride.
The next (and perhaps most important thing) to glean from this account is that
we need to be faithful to the Lord's commands regardless of the circumstance.
Sometimes we may ask ourselves, "What would I do if I knew the outcome
beforehand?" If we knew before we engaged in an activity that it would come to
nought, would we still do it? Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I knew that
the Lord was coming back tomorrow or next week. However, the same answer that
must be returned is that we need to be found faithful. Should we know the Lord
to be coming back next week or not, our course of faithfulness does not change.
Should we know that our efforts will be in vain but we are called upon to do
them, our course of faithfulness should not change.
Indeed, preachers get discouraged when our words return unto us void. It is
discouraging to see words fall on deaf ears whether in the church or out of it.
Discouragement many times abounds when we talk to folks about the goodness and
mercy of God as the Scriptures declare and find them unwilling to agree to the
concepts. My mind is frustrated when people in conversation ignore plain
Scripture and say, "I'm going to do what I want anyway." However, whether in
success or failure, our efforts need to be steadfast, unmovable, and always
abounding in the work of the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:58) Whether people are
stirred by the exhortation and discussion or not, our Lord is pleased when we
are faithful. He is well pleased when we do good and do not forget to
communicate of that goodness, offering Him praise and thanksgiving with our
lips. (Hebrews 13:15-17)
Ezekiel was given the outcome before he started, but later is shown the great
responsibility of his calling. Should Ezekiel be faithful to speak as the Lord
have him speak, he has saved himself, for the blood of the wicked person lies
upon that person. However, if Ezekiel fails to be faithful to God's command to
herald the Divine message, the wicked person would surely perish, but the
person's blood would be upon the messenger's (Ezekiel's) hands. (Ezekiel
3:17-20) Whatever our station in life (minister or otherwise), our command to be
faithful to the Lord and His guidance in our life is consistent and perpetual.
If there are those we are responsible for - ministers/congregations,
parents/children, teachers/students, etc. - we should faithfully fulfill our
duties to and for them regardless of the season or circumstance. What if they do
not hear, or more poignantly, what if we know they will not hear? It matters
not, for our calling of service requires faithful fulfillment until death claims
these old bodies.
God has not called us to be comfortable, nor is it always the case that He calls
us to great success in the realm of our brethren. In Ezekiel's case, his success
was foretold as impossible in this regard. However, He has called us to be
faithful to Him, and by fulfilling that, we are successful in His sight, which
is the important thing at the end of the day. There is an old expression that
does not quite hit the mark, "At the end of the day, you should be able to look
in the mirror and be successful in your own eyes, no matter what others may
think." A more apt description of Godly success is being able to look in the
mirror and be successful in Christ's sight. If we continue steadfast, unmovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, our labour will not be in vain in His
sight (in the Lord). May we be found so doing and so keep ourselves unspotted
from the world, and unlike Ezekiel, who knows what effect it may have on those
around us to the glory and praise of our Heavenly Father?