Saturday July 17th, 2010
When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and and you give them no warning nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.
Ezekiel was made a watchman for the house of Israel. His job was to watch for danger and warn the people. But God told him plenty of times that the house of Israel was a rebellious house and would not listen. Now I can imagine that Ezekiel was a bit discouraged by that information. I would have complained to God saying, “But why should I go if they aren’t going to believe anyways?” This is a different situation from Jonah and the city of Nineveh. For one, the city of Nineveh was a foreign land, whereas Ezekiel was warning his own people. Two, Jonah knew the people of Nineveh would repent and that God would have mercy, but Ezekiel gets told up front by God that they won’t and God will make his “forehead strong against their foreheads.” (Ezekiel 3:8) Even though Ezekiel knew that the message was not going to be received, he still had the job of going to tell everyone that God wasn’t pleased.
God gives us jobs too, and our love for Him is on the line. Can you imagine Jesus saying to Ezekiel that if you love me, you will follow my commandments? This is a commandment from God and Ezekiel must follow it. It is not an easy one and it seems harsh for Ezekiel, since after hearing this command, he is now responsible for the lives of people he may not know, or maybe he knows them and doesn’t like them, or maybe he likes them and is sad that they are not obeying the Lord. So he must go to the wicked and warn them of the impending doom that God is sending (in the form of the pagan army of Babylon) judgement upon Judah, knowing that they will not repent. But he must do this to give them every chance to repent, because God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He wants all men to come to repentance. God likes to make the choice simple because He wants us to have an easy choice. Life or death? But we complicate things and elevate concerns over what is simple. The Israelites in the wilderness constantly complained that they were going to die in the wilderness (and because of this complaint, they did) and would rather be slaves and live. (But of course, while they were slaves, their male children were killed as soon as they were born. (On another note, if I were evil and trying to control a population, I wouldn’t destroy the males, but the females. One male and many females can make a lot of babies, but one female and lots of males don’t. Silly Pharaoh, and he thought he was god.))
So maybe God is telling you to do something that you see as pointless. Go do it anyways. If you don’t do it, God will hold that against you. He deserves and commands your obedience. Remember that God gives every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) and He will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11) But you don’t know what will happen. If he repents, you have gained a brother, but if he doesn’t, you have given him yet another opportunity and have shown God’s longsuffering, which we are called to show. If you pronounce judgement, like Jonah did, God may still use it, but we are not called to bring about His wrath. That’s His job. James and John got rebuked when they wanted to bring down fire from heaven. (Luke 9:55) Jonah got rebuked gently when he sat over the city waiting for its destruction, (Jonah 4) and Peter got rebuked… well… a few times, but I’m thinking of John 18 when he cut off Malchus’ ear. So we say, “Yes, Lord.” And go do the hard thing that God tells us to do. It’s good for us. I’ve told people things and they haven’t received it and I didn’t see them again for years. But then God spoke to them and brought to them our encounter and they repented. They have come up to me and apologized for the way they acted and asked for forgiveness and I gained brothers. (By that time, I had even forgotten what it was all about.) You are not responsible for their repentance. You are responsible for the message which you have to give. Once you give that message, you are freed from that responsibility.
Imagine a general loses a battle, and sends a messenger back to the king with the bad news. The messenger is afraid the king will not like the news, but he must still go before the king and report. Not giving the message would surely result in death. It’s that serious for us, but the tables are turned. We are getting a message from the King to go to the people, and we are afraid of how they will think of us. We are afraid of being thought weird or a nerd or whatever the bad things is today. We want people to like us and sometimes, we think people will like us better when we don’t talk about Jesus. And I think that we might be right. They will like us better if we don’t talk about Jesus. However, if God told us to talk about Jesus, then we should do just that. I would rather be hated by everyone and loved by God than loved by everyone and hated by God. What about you? Jesus said He came not to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:34) There will be people who don’t like us because we remind them of Jesus. If I am to be disliked here on this earth, I would want that to be the only reason. What about you?