Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
John 9:24-41; 1 John 1:1-4; Job 5; Ezekiel 1-3
Ezekiel is given a spectacular vision of the glory of the Lord. The beauty and power of the living creatures must have been awesome. No wonder he fell on his face! Having encountered God in such a tangible way, he would have been ready to do whatever God told him. He must have been surprised to be told that he was to go to a people who would not listen to him. A prophet is rarely well received in his own country, but before going, Ezekiel has to accept God’s message himself. He must listen first and take to heart God’s words himself (2:8; 3:10). Ezekiel is warned not to rebel himself, which would have reminded him that he too has a rebellious nature.
What sets Ezekiel apart is the Spirit of God which has come into him (2:2), along with him ingesting the Word of God (3:1-3). Without God’s word and power, through the Holy Spirit, Ezekiel would have done none of what he does (3:12, 24). We too need the Word of God – which can be a bittersweet experience. On the surface it is unattractive (2:9), but when ingested, it is sweet (3:3). What God asks may go against our stubborn, rebellious hearts. Yet when we take it to heart, we know it is true and good.
Ezekiel obeys, but with bitterness and anger in his spirit (3:14). This is a difficult phrase, and may describe Ezekiel experiencing the anger that God has towards the rebellious Israelites. It could also mean that Ezekiel was bitter and angry at the task God was giving him. He is told not to be afraid of the Israelites or what they will say to him (2:6). This suggests he had such fears, and was inclined to rebel himself (2:8). He may have wanted to turn down his mission, and let the people face God themselves. God then tells him that if he will not warn the people, they will not repent, and Ezekiel will bear some of the responsibility for their destruction. God uses human messengers, and when they refuse to speak, there are serious consequences.
Ezekiel’s calling was to declare God’s message, not deliver certain results. We too are responsible to declare God’s message, whether about salvation or other issues that God provides a clear perspective. Sometimes we are overly focused on effectiveness, rather than faithfulness and truth. I regularly debate ethical issues on college campuses. Some question why I bother since I’m invariably on the losing side. I believe my responsibility is to discern whether God wants me to speak or be silent, and when I speak, to be faithful to his words.
At the same time, we should speak with empathy and sympathy. Otherwise, our words may be tainted with judgmentalism or self-righteousness. Ezekiel sat among his people and felt their distress (3:15). We must live in the world and know what people are going through, even if they chose against God. Like Ezekiel, we must remember that we share a nature that is inclined to rebel against God (2:8). After preparing ourselves with God, we can then speak out of honest concern for people. We can describe courageously the good life that some will view as ridiculous or unattractive. When our experience of God is real, the life we present and proclaim is true life.