30Now, human, your countrymen gather by the walls and in doorways and talk about you among themselves. They say one to another, “Let’s go and hear what the word is that’s coming from YHWH!” 31And they come to you as people will, and my people sit before you. They listen to your words, but they don’t put them into practice. “Nice words,” is what’s on their lips, but they act according to what’s in their heart–selfish desires. 32What are you to them? A singer of fine songs with a pleasing voice who plays a harp skillfully. They hear your words, but they’re not putting them into practice. 33But when the things you’re warning about happen–and they will!–then they will know that a prophet was among them. — Ezekiel 33:30-33
One of the things you will notice about prophets in the Old Testament is that they were normally allowed to speak, but were rarely obeyed. There’s a tragic inevitability to reading history along with prophecy in the Bible, and watching as warning after warning is ignored, and tragedy after tragedy results.
You can read a particularly poignant story of this in Jeremiah 41-43. These three short chapters tell about how the remnant of the people in Judea after Jerusalem had fallen chose to go to Egypt. One person killed the Babylonian governor. They were in terror for their lives because the Babylonians would certainly avenge the governor’s death. They go to Jeremiah and ask for a word from God and even tell him that they will obey whatever word he receives. Jeremiah indeed receives a word from God that they are to stay in Judea and they will be protected, but disaster will follow if they go to Egypt. The result? They say Jeremiah is not telling the truth, they go to Egypt, and meet disaster.
Now I don’t know whether you believe in modern prophets or not, but there are many ways that you can receive God’s word in any case. You may receive God’s word by reading the Bible. I’ve been reading Ezekiel in my devotions, and you’ll notice how many things I saw there that apply to me right now. You may read a book by someone who teaches from the Bible. You might go to a Bible study. This weekend, I hope you’ll be attending church, and I hope that at your church you will hear a message that is God’s word.
What will happen to that word from God after it enters your ears?
Will you stop to shake your pastor’s hand at the door, tell him what a wonderful sermon it was, but forget everything he said?
Will you remember what was said, but feel that it’s just to hard to apply in your life?
Will you criticize the sermon for form, telling yourself that someone who preaches professionally should be able to craft a better sermon?
Will you hear the message, and decide to apply it in your life, but let yourself be derailed by someone else’s criticism?
Will you be angry with your pastor because he preached a â€œhardâ€ message, and you wanted something comforting? Or perhaps you’ll be upset because the pastor preached an encouraging message and you wanted something that would really show that guy down the pew from you.
The question I glean from our passage is this: Will that service you go to this weekend be for entertainment or for growth?
It’s an important thing to think about, because if your pastor preached God’s message from God’s word, it’s not going to return empty (Isaiah 55:11), and if you ignore it, or even if you say nice things about it but don’t put it into practice, there’s going to come a day when God’s word will be fulfilled, and you will know that a prophet was among you. It doesn’t matter whether you like the message or not. It doesn’t matter whether it was formed into the proper â€œseminaryâ€ patterns. What matters is whether you applied it.
When God’s word returns after completing it’s mission, will you be regretting that you ignored it, or rejoicing that you followed God’s will?