Born to be Wild

Text: Ezekiel 2:1-5
Date: Pentecost VI + Proper 9 + 7/8/12

“God has spoken by His prophets,” but who’s listening? The record of the scriptures demonstrates how, through the ages, “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but [certain] men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20-21). That their word is God’s Word is attested to by the Spirit of God Himself guiding and directing His people in the faithful preservation and transmission of those sacred writings that clearly agree with each other concerning God’s revelation, His justice and mercy, Law and Gospel, and ultimately all that attests to and is fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. All of the Old Testament prophets knew they were called by God because the true God speaks and communicates in words. Today we heard a bit of the call of Ezekiel, St. Paul’s description of his ministry (2 Cor 12:1-10) and Jesus’ call of the twelve disciples (Mark 6:1-13). God has given gifts, namely, “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” (Eph 4:11) to proclaim repentance (Mark 6:12), to announce and preach the Word of God.

Nothing happens, ultimately, without the Word of God. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God” (Heb 11:3). And though “long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:1-3). Nothing happens, ultimately, without the Word of God.

But we know that a lot of things do happen that are opposed to the word of God. That’s because though God has spoken by His prophets, few or at times no one is listening! A barrier has been built, a wall of interference that actually makes us and all mankind deaf to God’s Word. That is, though God speaks we still can’t hear Him! Ever since the question, “Adam, where are you?” sin has separated us from God.

And it’s not only that we can’t hear God. To be blatantly honest, it is that we don’t want to hear God. St. Paul diagnoses our spiritual condition not only in terms of what we lack and have lost by the fall into sin, namely that we are spiritually blind (2 Cor 4:4) and spiritually dead (Eph 2:1), lacking spiritual sight and life, but that we are also actively enemies of God (Rom 5:10). This is also how the Lord God described His people when He called the prophet Ezekiel to preach to them.

Notice first in our text the power of God’s Word. God the Holy Spirit works actively and powerfully through the Word of God. When Ezekiel tells us “[The Lord] said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you,’” he did not then stand up by his own will or his own strength but, he says, “as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet” in one swift action. And the prophet said, “I heard him speaking to me.”

Have you ever heard someone claim that they heard God speaking to them? Have you ever claimed hearing God speaking to you? Now certainly God can do whatever He wants. He’s God! That being said, we have no promise that God will speak directly to anyone apart from the revealed Word. That kind of speaking, after Adam and Eve, was reserved for the prophets and apostles and evangelists. Not even Christian pastors can or should ever claim direct revelations from God. Such claims are almost always power plays by false prophets and teachers. As we say in our Lutheran Confession, “God cannot be apprehended except through the Word.”[1]

It was the Word of God that apprehended and grabbed Ezekiel and “spoke” him to his feet. Then God said, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel.” Well, at first he could have thought that should be a pleasant thing. After all he wasn’t being called to be a missionary to a foreign or alien people but to God’s people, people to whom, as the apostle Paul described them, “belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” Yet Paul says that “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring” (Rom 9:4-6). To Ezekiel God calls the people of Israel “nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn,” literally “hard of face” and “hard of heart.”

So then what was the prophet being sent to say to them to change them, to make them obedient and willing to be saved? Well, that’s up to them! All He says to Ezekiel here is, “I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’” Even before giving him the content or words to speak to them, the first issue is whether they will listen or not. And we still have that awesome ability to ignore, reject, say “no” to God. If they, if we hear God’s Word we will repent, believe and be saved. If they, if we refuse to hear God’s Word (either at all or even though it penetrates our eyes and ear canals but not our head or heart) we will remain in our sins. Yet, either way, says the Lord, “they will know that a prophet has been among them.” They, we will know either joyfully right now in godly repentance and faith, or in the final judgment when the dust of the prophets’ and apostles’ feet testifies against our ignorance and rejection of their Word…God’s Word.

The truth is, first, that God the Holy Spirit can and does work saving repentance and faith when and where it pleases God in the hearts of those who hear the Gospel. And, let’s be clear, the Gospel is God’s announcement of what He has done for us and for our salvation. It is the good news that God sent His only Son into the world of our rebellion, who took our impudence and stubbornness, our sin upon Himself. Dying as the one and only sacrifice for all sin He rose again from the dead so that those who hear, repent and believe in Him are changed from unbelievers to believers, sinners to saints, blind men given sight, dead men given life, enemies turned into friends; friends of God through His Son, our Savior and brother, Jesus Christ.

Still, it is also true that people can reject God’s Word and remain deaf and rebellious against God. Even after Jesus preached in his hometown “he marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:6). So the instruction Jesus gave to the twelve is also true for us: “if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11). That doesn’t mean having a last word of anger or judgment and then stomping away. It means, simply, move on.

See that you truly listen to the Word of God. Have confidence that the Holy Spirit will soften your heart and draw you to His, equipping you “with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb 13:21-22).

[1] Apology IV, Triglotta 139:67.