Ezekiel has just been told by God that he will be a prophet. Imagine what you would feel like if God told you that you will be a prophet. Would you be happy?
Ezekiel is really upset. He doesn’t tell us why. Look at Ezekiel 3:14 and the phrase, “the hand of the Lord was on him,” gives us a clue. It is highly possible here that Ezekiel is feeling some of what God is feeling about Israel. Remember that for centuries Israel had turned its back on God. Centuries of betrayal. We have to consider the wider scope of God’s relationship with Israel. Go back hundreds of years, reading the accounts of the leaders of Israel in 1 & 2 Kings, and we see loads of wickedness and unfaithfulness on Israel’s part. Time and time again, God, heavy in heart, longing for a loving relationship with his people, would give Israel another chance to repent, to change and restore relationship with him. God would send prophets to call the people to repent. If you read the books of 1 and 2 Kings, you get to a point where you start thinking, “Enough already! God, you are being too gracious and too forgiving to these people. Punish them!” Finally, God does allow Israel to be defeated and exiled. But imagine what it took relationally and emotionally for God to get to that point. You know how you feel when you are mistreated by the same person a couple times? You know how frustrating it can be?
It seems Ezekiel is feeling some of that, as the hand of the Lord is on him, and that makes Ezekiel bitter and angry.
We get a bit of a cliffhanger here in chapter 3, verse 15. Ezekiel has just had an astounding experience. What does he do when he goes home? Nothing. For a whole week, he is just overwhelmed. I get that.
Does Ezekiel say to his family and friends, “You will never believe what just happened to me”? Or is he quiet? Are his family members concerned about him? Can they tell that he is changed? Do they have a sense that the hand of the Lord is on him? Do they know he is angry and bitter? Does Ezekiel see them in a different light? Can he hide his anger and bitterness at the fact that his countrymen are rebellious and obstinate and stubborn?
What do you do when you have had a life-changing experience, and you have to return home? You’re not the same. Things will never be the same. And worst of all, you will have to talk about the job God just gave you, and that means you will have to confront your loved ones. But not just a small group of 5 or 10 people, you’re going to have to talk to the whole community of 10,000. While it might sound awesome to have the hand of the Lord on you, to have the Spirit empowering you, to be able to fly…I might trade all that for peace and simplicity. For Ezekiel, he takes a week to stew in his feelings, overwhelmed, because life is about to get difficult. Like I said, I get that. Maybe you are overwhelmed with life, and you just want to sit, to be alone.
But like Ezekiel, it seems to me that to one degree or another, we Christians all have a prophetic responsibility. We cannot just sit, overwhelmed, avoiding the responsibility.
I started this five-part blog series asking “Are there prophets among us?” There really are prophets among us. There are some of us who have a prophetic gift. But even those who don’t have the prophetic gift, we have the joyful privilege to be people who speak the truth in love. Let’s talk about both of these situations.
First, the prophetic gift. Our Leadership Team has taken what is called the APEST gifts assessment. APEST stands for apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, which Paul teaches in Ephesians 4:11-12. Prophets are those who tell the truth, those gifted by God to discern and see truth. Prophets have the heart and goal of truth speaking for the purpose of hope and restoration to God and the ways of His Kingdom. When people attempt to sweep sin under the rug, as we people often do, prophets lift up the rug and say, “See that under there, that’s not right.” That’s what Ezekiel was commissioned to do. We need prophets in our day to do the same. We should be people who embrace learning the truth about ourselves, about our church. Of course I try to do some of that prophetic work in my blog posts, hopefully allowing the word of God to be the prophetic message. But we also need individuals who can speak the truth in love to us. Are you a prophet? Consider taking the APEST test or using it your church family to find out.
Also, second, to those who do not carry the gift of prophesy: the message is still that God is the same God as the one who interacts with Ezekiel. He is always with us. He desires truth. He desires repentance. He gives grace. He wants us to live lives that are not fearful, but to live lives that are hopeful and to pursue Him and truth. So speak the truth in love. Again just because you’re comfortable with being bold, that doesn’t mean you’re a prophet. Though you might be comfortable with being bold, that doesn’t mean you’re loving in your boldness.