A Prophet Has Been Among them

There are some single lines in the Bible that ring in my ears every time I hear them. One such line is found in Ezekiel 2. I hear the sound of this sentence, and it sort of has the impact of hearing the Rocky theme for a preacher who cares about what he is doing.

Ezekiel 2:3-5- 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.

God is sending Ezekiel to a people who have been stubborn and disobedient. His job will be to tell this rebellious people the word of God. And any preacher would wonder what he should think about the mission. What if I’m not successful? What if they will not listen?

God says to Ezekiel, and this is what rings in my ears, “And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” No matter what they do, whether they listen or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Christians, does this not set your blood aflame? We are in a stubborn and fallen world. We have a gospel to proclaim. They may not listen. But do we not want them to know that there have been preachers of God’s word among them?

And pastors, does this not set your heart aflame? We will stand in pulpits. We will bring the word of God to a people, some of whom care and some of whom are ticking a box on their to-do lists. But you and I, we can preach the word. We can tell the truth. We can refuse to compromise. We can make sure they know that a prophet of God has been among them.

What Makes a Pastor

There are many attributes that should mark a biblical pastor. There are things that should be true of your pastor. Sadly, I do not know that many churches these days have this all figured out.

Years ago, I looked on line for a new pastoral position (Long story, Maybe I’ll tell you someday). As I looked, I found something disturbing. Churches listing for a new pastor listed what they wanted. They sought men who are leaders, organizers, driven, visionaries. They advertised for the men who would take their church to the next level or who would specialize in engaging the lost.

What was so often missing, however, was anything to do with the actual calling of a pastor. No, I’m not meaning a spiritual inner calling; I’m talking about the things that God has listed in his word that pastors are called to do and to be. I probably saw one church in ten, maybe twenty, looking for a man who would care for the church, who would be diligent in prayer, who would preach the word faithfully. Oh, many churches looked for a man who would be a good communicator, they wanted engaging and relevant sermons, but almost none listed a desire for a man who had a passion to feed the people of God with the clear, glorious, deep, unadulterated word of God.

Think of what Paul said about himself when he thought about preaching the word.

1 Corinthians 9:16- For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Paul said that he could not stand it if he did not preach the gospel. Something about bringing the inspired word of God to the people around him drove Paul. He pronounced woe on himself if he failed to preach. And, no, this passage is not merely referring to evangelism. Paul is clearly speaking of faithful biblical teaching of believers too.

I do not have any problem with a pastor being a good organizer or communicator. I’m fine with a man who is good at developing systems. But let us not be so foolish as to miss that a passion for proclaiming the word of God to the people of God is a clear necessity for a man to be a good and godly pastor. If a man has no fire in his bones for bringing the word of God to the flock, something is very wrong.

If you have a man who loves his systems and loves his organizational charts and is great at planning programs but does not love—I mean deep down in his bones love—the preaching of the word, pray hard. Pray either that God will bring that man spiritual healing and personal revival, or pray that God will give that man an understanding that he is in the wrong line of work. And if your church will tolerate a successful business man who does not love the word of God and who does not love proclaiming the word of God for the glory of God, for the benefit of the people of God, and then for the lost to hear afterward, be concerned. Your church might have a lay elder or two who still does not love preaching, and that makes sense. These guys are stepping out way past their comfort zones to do something many of them have not formally trained to do. But when your church is looking for the pastor who will regularly be preaching the word, may they not settle for anyone who does not love the proclamation of the word.

We’re In Trouble Now

When Josiah took over as king in Judah, it had to be like a breath of fresh air. Finally, on the throne of David, there was a king who, like David, desired to follow God with his whole heart.

During Josiah’s reign, he was presented with a book. It turns out that the book of the law of God, what we now think of as the first five books of the Bible, had been lost. The priests were doing their own thing in the temple, but the Bible that should have guided them was forgotten, misplaced, gone.

2 Kings 22:11-13 – 11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

When Josiah heard about what had happened, and when he finally understood what was in the book of the law, he was terrified. Josiah realized that, for years, decades, maybe longer, the people had been living according to their own standards and violating the covenant that Israel had agreed to with God at Mount Sinai. But that covenant, the covenant with national Israel, contained in itself judgments for the nation when she violated the terms of her agreement with God. So Josiah knew that the nation needed to repent right now.

Josiah, of course, makes great changes in the nation. But his changes come too late to stop the judgment that the nation had earned under leaders like King Manasseh. So, though much changed, at Josiah’s death, the nation would begin its fall toward captivity in Babylon.

What got my attention as I read through this account in my daily reading is this question: How many churches have lost the word of God just as Judah did before Josiah? I wish that was a ridiculous question, but it is not. The sad difference is, the priests of Israel actually physically lost the book. In our day, churches and supposed Christian groups are led by people with Bibles in their hands. But it appears that many groups have lost any concept of the meaning and authority of the Bible they hold and even quote from time to time.

If we are to be the people of God who please the Lord as his church, we must never lose his word. That means that the Bible has to be front and center in all we do. It means that we need to know the word, respect the authority of the word, and obey the word. Even when the world around us rejects the word, we need to unashamedly proclaim the word of god as truth and authoritative, even if our culture thinks it outdated or offensive.

Has your church lost the word? Think well. Are the messages you hear preached actually fully dependent on the word, or are they dependent on the preacher’s own cleverness and advice? Is your pastor preaching through books of the Bible, or are his sermons borrowed from books by human authors? Is the Bible your standard for all things, or does your church compromise her actions based on what will make the church look good to the culture around her? May we not be people who have lost the word.