Ezekiel 2:7 (ESV) - And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
This is an interesting statement. God spoke these words to Ezekiel at the beginning of his prophetic ministry. Imagine being called by God and given a mission for life to speak on His behalf. God would speak very clearly to Ezekiel, and Ezekiel would hear with equal clarity. Then, Ezekiel would convey what he had heard to the Israelites. What a privilege!
But wait! God had something else to say. God forewarned Ezekiel that the Israelites would not listen to him. They would not take him seriously and they would disregard his warnings. Why? Because they had no interest to listen to God (Ezekiel 3:7).
That is Ezekiel’s call. It is a difficult call. Imagine having to spend the rest of your life speaking to a stubborn bunch of people who refused to listen to you. Worse, they would be hostile to him. I do not think it was any comfort to Ezekiel when God assured him that He would make him as resilient and long-suffering as these people were stubborn.
Ezekiel’s ministry would bear no fruit. He was a voice in the wilderness like John the Baptist, whose reward for fearlessly proclaiming God’s words and preparing the way for the Messiah was martyrdom. He was beheaded for daring to tell King Herod about his sin of adultery with his sister-in-law. The persecution from the religious establishment and the seeming fruitlessness of his ministry drove John to the extent of doubting his call. While in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was indeed the Messiah. John was no longer certain (Matthew 11:2-3).
Would you blame John for doubting that he might have pointed out the wrong Messiah to the people? God had sent him. He was the one Isaiah prophesied about who would ‘prepare the way of the LORD’ (Isaiah 40:3-5). Jesus affirmed that, and He went on to say that ‘among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist’ (Matthew 11:10). But what is the purpose since John did not bear any visible fruit in his ministry?
Ezekiel faced the same heart-wrenching question. What is the purpose of such a ministry? Having a hostile audience that had already decided to spurn God’s words and warnings. They were not going to repent anyway. Why speak to them when they refuse to hear?
These are not irrelevant questions in case you think that this is the Old Testament. We are in an Ezekiel moment! Many contemporary Christians are not taking the Word of God seriously, and public morality has gone down the gutters. Many Christians, including regular church-goers, do not have a biblical worldview. They do not think and process issues through a biblical framework. They do not care whether their views and opinions line up with the Word of God. The current debate on Section 377A and related issues on LGBT rights have exposed this raw reality.
So, if these people, both Christians and non-Christians, do not care about what God thinks and says, why should we continue to speak and make a representation of the truths of God’s Word and about morality? Why did God want Ezekiel to speak regardless of whether the Israelites would hear or refuse to hear?
The answers to both questions are the same. Firstly, by speaking, we bear witness to the people concerning God’s will. On the day of judgement before God, no one can claim ignorance. Secondly, it serves to warn people of their sins and the consequences. Some people might hear and decide to change their minds.
Take the current debate on the LGBT issues as an example. Many Christians believe that there is no point in fighting this battle since we are going to lose in time to come. The younger generation is getting more liberal, and the global trend is irresistibly strong in their favour. The world is corrupt anyway. Besides, speaking up is not going to convince anyone. On the contrary, it will strengthen the non-believers’ flawed perception that Christians are intolerant and bigoted, which serves only to alienate them further.
Such arguments sound logical except that they do not line up with the Word of God. God knew that the southern kingdom of Judah was going to fall, yet He commanded Ezekiel to speak. Ezekiel knew that ultimately the nation would go into exile in a foreign land, yet he faithfully spoke the words of God. The purpose was to bear witness to the Israelites and warned them of the consequences of their sins. Likewise, we must speak up whether people will hear or refuse to hear.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua