October 23, 2014

Shut up and Speak

Ezekiel was a prophet of God during the time His people had been exiled to Babylon. He was there with them and God gave him much to say and do. He is most known for his vision of the valley of dry bones and the restorative power of God.

Being a prophet had to be one of the most difficult callings. The Lord expected total obedience and total dependence on God for everything, including what to say. In a short section where Ezekiel was instructed to warn people to repent, the focus seems more on what would happen to him if he obeyed or disobeyed, and not as much on the people who needed to hear his message.

After God told him what to say, Ezekiel records this: “So I arose and went out into the valley, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face. But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me, ‘Go, shut yourself within your house. And you, O son of man, behold, cords will be placed upon you, and you shall be bound with them, so that you cannot go out among the people. And I will make your tongue cling to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be mute and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.’” (Ezekiel 3:23–27)

Last week I had the strange experience of being given words to say. My preparation for the retreat was nearly finished. The assigned topic was “spiritual gifts” and I had it covered for Friday and Saturday. However, I’d been given a time slot on Sunday morning and had no idea what God wanted me to do with it. On Thursday with desperation nipping at my heels, I prayed again asking the Lord what He wanted. In a moment, the Scripture references began to come to mind. As I wrote them down, they were in a logical sequence and glorified God in His greatest gift to us, the gift of Jesus Christ.

That presentation was the most difficult. I knew the material and the prior presentations went well with an ease I didn’t expect. This one was different, perhaps because it was so filled with the Word of God and my comments on “thus says the Lord” were few.

Today’s devotional reading says that when God speaks His Word through those who proclaim it, the one speaking needs to realize that His glory is the issue, not my oratory skills or even what my emotions are doing in the delivery. Yet at the same time, when I or anyone else honors God, that honor is important in my spiritual life. God wants me to be deeply convinced and convicted of His glory. When I am, then I am able to glorify Him.

For Ezekiel and for any other follower of God, this is not about how well we can speak but about how well we can obey. God even shut his mouth and shut him up in his house so he could deeply understand that obedience had to be from God. There was no way he could do it himself. Then God opened his mouth and put His Word into it, enabling this man to do what God asked.

For the first time in my life, I can relate a very small little bit to the prophet Ezekiel.

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