God sent Ezekiel to speak to a rebellious people and while this man might be classified today as a ‘gloom and doom’ prophet, he used a method that shows me a thing or two about talking to anyone who seems to need some ‘advice.’
Ezekiel 3:12 starts with, “Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: ‘Blessed is the glory of the Lord from His place!’”
This man started his mission with a strong understanding that the Spirit of God was sending him. That is paramount, but more than that, he had praise for the glory of God as his focus. Lesson #one. How many times have I felt God wanted me to speak, but my focus was not on His glory but more about my anger at what the other person was doing, or worse yet, about them being wrong and me being right?
Verse 14 says, “So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.”
Maybe Ezekiel was full of passion or anger too, which makes me feel a bit better. However, lesson #two: he was still being moved by the Spirit, controlled by the Lord. He wasn’t flying off to vindicate himself, or God. Instead, God was his motivation and controlling factor.
The next verse startles me. Ezekiel went to these rebellious people and “I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.”
The words used here (also in Job) describe the sharing of deep grief. Yes, God’s people were not obedient, but they were also miserable (which almost always goes along with disobedience). Lesson #three: Instead of jumping right at it and telling them what they ought to be doing, he felt with them their sadness and heartache. By identifying with them and where they were coming from, he would not only earn their confidence, but his own heart would be softer, more gentle, even merciful as he delivered whatever God wanted them to hear.
God did tell him what to say, in the next verse. “Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word form My mouth, and give them a warning from Me.”
Lesson #four. After Ezekiel sat with the people and identified with their sorrow, God told him what to say. How much better this is than speaking in “the heat of my spirit.”
You’d think that this method, given to this man by God, would work, that the people would respond and repent and stop their resistance to God. That is what I expected. But God told Ezekiel that most of them would not listen. In fact, “they will put ropes on you and bind you with them.” However, He also promised, “But when I speak with your, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house” (verse 27).
One more lesson, #five. I tend to think that if I do everything the way God wants it done, success will follow. People will hear what I say and change, mountains will move, prayers will be answered. The Old Testament prophets, particularly Jeremiah and this one, Ezekiel, show me that this is not always the case. God wants me to do right, regardless of the results. My motivation is not supposed to be what I can accomplish, but pleasing Him, obeying Him, no matter what.
Today I feel like what I am reading is way over my head. I’m not there yet and the target is far beyond my reach, but maybe today He will show me a bad situation that needs addressing, and I’m to remember one of these lessons, perhaps to be silent for seven days and just put myself in that other person’s shoes.