Discover His heart: He gives hope for restoration through discipline
Our heavenly Father is not the kind of parent who gives empty threats or perhaps is too busy or too lazy to even care. It’s painful to watch the parent who threatens punishment for a willful child over and over again but never follows through with discipline. And of course, that child usually remains willful.
Almost 900 years before Ezekiel was written, God had threatened to wipe disobedient Israel off the planet because of the worship of the golden calf. Up to this point in our reading, He hadn’t done it. It wasn’t because He was lazy or too busy – something He could never be – but because He was and is longsuffering and merciful. Aren’t we thankful for His mercy! However, we find in the book of Ezekiel that punishment had finally come to the house of Israel.
Punishment of our children is seldom helpful to them if we don’t explain the purpose of it. It may make us feel better to punish them, and children will tell you the old “this hurts me more than it hurts you” is a myth, but it won’t bring about a change in behavior unless they understand the reason for their punishment. God was interested in change for His wayward child, Israel, and sent prophets to warn of punishment and to explain the reason for it. Ezekiel was one of them.
Ezekiel was a priest and prophet who grew up during the great spiritual reforms of King Josiah, a king who did right in the eyes of the Lord. Ezekiel had been exiled from Judah to Babylon during the second exile in 597 B.C., and at 30 years old, this young prophet had an encounter with God that changed the course of his life. “On July 31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God,” (1:1) and Ezekiel goes on to explain the four living beings that he saw.
Let me just say, if I had experienced this, I would be on the ground with my face in the dirt, and apparently so was Ezekiel, “Stand up, son of man,’ said the voice. ‘I want to speak with you.’ The Spirit came into me as He spoke, and He set me on my feet. I listened carefully to His words…‘I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation…I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ And whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet among them…but the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.’” (2:1-5;3:7) Whew! This was going to be a hard sell for Ezekiel.
It was disheartening for Ezekiel to realize that he would spend the ensuing years of his life as a faithful watchman over Israel, warning of impending doom, yet assured by God that no one would listen. Over the course of time, we learn that very few, just a remnant, listened to the prophet Ezekiel, but they came through the punishment understanding why it happened and more determined than ever before to follow after God.
Today as we attempt to reach a nation much like the one of Ezekiel’s day, we can only hope that God doesn’t choose to use us with the methods and illustrated sermons in Ezekiel. Would I be willing? I might not mind 430 day of rest, but 430 days of the same meal? Help! But there has never been a day when the gospel has been easier to share than today through the unlimited media of television, radio, the internet and print materials, not to mention the convicting power of the Holy Spirit working through us.
Yes, we will meet some opposition and perhaps persecution along the way, and we may not be as popular as we would like when we share the gospel of Jesus, but our responsibility is not how it is received, but solely in the telling of it. “Whether they listen or refuse to listen…at least they will know they have had a prophet, [a messenger] among them.” Ezekiel 3:18 assures us that the Lord will not hold us responsible if they do not listen.
Moving Forward: I will be His watchman over my nation, my personal world that I move in throughout the day. With His wisdom, I will share the good news, not hindered by fear of rejection but emboldened by His love.
Tomorrow @ Luke 11-12