3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
As God began Ezekiel’s mission, he let Ezekiel know that his job was to preach to a people who, as a nation, were stubborn, rebellious, and simply unwilling to hear. They were a nation who had already been punished by God for their rebellion, as they were already in exile. One might think that their circumstances would make the nation more likely to hear, but they clearly were going to continue to be difficult.
As I read this section from Ezekiel’s calling, I find it resonating in my heart. Any Christian pastor today is called with much the same calling. We stand in a nation that has, for the most part, turned and rejected the commands of God. We have seen the destruction that turning from the commands of the Lord brings. We have seen the pain of divorce, of substance abuse, of a simple hardening of the hearts of the people; yet we continue, as a nation, to rebel.
For some pastors, they are given a call like Ezekiel’s for the church they serve. They stand and preach the word of God to a people who no longer are willing to submit themselves to it. They stand in pulpits across the land, open the word, and have an entire body of men and women declare, “That’s one opinion.” These men are called to preach to a people who Paul said would not endure sound teaching (2 Timothy 4:3).
And whether the pastor simply stands in a spiritually rebellious nation or among a people who refuse to hear, the calling of Ezekiel must resonate. God says, “whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” This is the call: Whether they hear or refuse to hear, when all is said and done, be sure that they know that a preacher of God’s word has been among them. They may hate what you say. They may rebel against what you say. But never let them miss the fact that a preacher of God’s word, not of man-made cleverness, has been among them.
In my particular setting, in the church, I have tended to encounter a people who want to hear the word of God. Our congregation seems to enjoy being taught from scripture, and always seems eager to acknowledge that the text of God’s word trumps all personal opinion. This does not mean that everything always comes easily for me as a preacher, but I seldom doubt that our congregation is committed to the scripture.
However, I have no guarantee that this trend will remain. Who knows how God will move in the hearts and minds of the people. There could be a day when I find myself standing before a people who do not submit themselves to the word of God. Regardless of whether or not the people want to hear the word of God, my mission is for them to know that, when they have heard me preach, they have heard a preacher of the word of God bringing them the word of God. My opinions do not matter. My cleverness is not relevant. My personal agendas are completely unimportant. What matters is that they know that a preacher of the word of God has been among them. And that means that I must be careful to bring them the word of God rightly-divided.
And for sure, I stand with many pastors in a land that has turned itself from the word of God. Let us preach boldly anyway. Even if the nation refuses to hear, let us preach. Even if the laws are changed so that we lose tax-exempt status if we continue to rely on the scripture, let us preach. Let it be said in the United States, whether they listen or not, that they know that preachers of the word of God have been among them.