The covenant with God had been forsaken and the contract with Nebuchadnezzar had been ratified, the temple had been destroyed and the Diaspora developed, Canaan was out and Babylon was in. The Israelites were foreigners in a foreign land desperate for a familiar voice.
In response to the people’s cry, God had sent poet and priest to share the good news of repentance, and in today’s text, God commissions and sends the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 2:1-7 He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of them, and do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.
What makes Ezekiel a faithful prophet?
He understood that God was God and he was not.
He didn’t confuse his words from the Spirit’s speaking through him.
He obeyed God’s calling even though pricks and stings were waiting.
He spoke a word nobody wanted to hear.
What makes Ezekiel a faithful prophet?
His prophetic career was initially, by every measure, a failure but he kept on prophesying anyway. Being a prophet is defined by obedience to the call rather the world’s reception to it.
“Are you not discouraged seeing so few successes in your ministry?” Mother Theresa was asked, “No,” she replied, “I do not become discouraged. You see, God has not called me to a ministry of success. He has called me to a ministry of mercy.”
He contracted polio as a child and was paralyzed from the neck down. When he wasn’t pulling his next breath in an iron lung, he was pushing his way in a wheel chair. His advocacy began in high school when an administrator threatened not to graduate him until he completed driver’s education and P.E. Edward Roberts was the first to proclaim, “Thus says the Lord…” the disabled have rights too. But initially, he wasn’t heard.
She witnessed the insane chained and tethered in basement dungeons, the lunatic fringe dismissed as inhuman and beyond healing. Through writing letters and penning editorials, reporting to legislators and founding asylums, Dorothy Dix was the first to proclaim, “Thus says the Lord…” the States should care for the mentally ill. But initially, she wasn’t heard.
His gay patients started showing up at the clinic with rashes and fevers, swollen lymph nodes and defective immune systems. He detected the virus and co-authored a report for the Centers for Disease Control that put the world on notice. Dr. Joel Weisman was the first to proclaim, “Thus says the Lord…” people living with HIV/AIDS deserve research, prevention and treatment. But initially, he wasn’t heard.
Church, every great cause of God began with a lonely prophet stuck on repeat, offering a solitary voice for the ministries that can’t be measured, the tasks that can’t be completed, the commissions from heaven that appear to be useless on earth. Whether they hear or refuse to hear, whether they change or they refuse to change, say and do them anyway.
“Thus says the Lord our God,” we, who are commissioned Christian prophets, are called, not to be effective, but to be faithful.