St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

God Commissions His Prophet

Sermon on Ezekiel 2:1-5

Text: He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen — for they are a rebellious people — they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

We are familiar with what is often called “The Great Commission.” These words are recorded in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Sometimes, these words are referred to as the Church’s marching orders. This is what Jesus wants his Church to be doing until he returns in glory at the end of time. These words apply to all Christians. We are commissioned into his service. This is the universal priesthood of all believers. Our God also has put in place what is called the “public ministry.” These are Christians who are called to publicly share the Word of God on behalf of a calling body. We normally think of pastors who are called by a congregation to administer the Means of Grace among them. As we study Ezekiel’s call to be a prophet, it gives us an opportunity to focus on the public ministry, especially as it relates to pastors. GOD COMMISSIONS HIS PROPHET 1. By Preparing His Prophet To Listen To His Word, 2. By Showing The Prophet The Scope Of His Word, and 3. By Assuring The Prophet Of The Lord’s Effectiveness.

Ezekiel was among the exiles in Babylon. In the chapter that precedes our text, Ezekiel was given a vision of God. He saw angels, probably seraphs, who attended God. Above these creatures, Ezekiel saw God himself. The sight was so overwhelming for him that Ezekiel said, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” (Ezekiel 1:28) This is the natural reaction of a sinner in God’s presence. The sinner becomes keenly aware of his sins and the punishment that is due him by a holy God.

Then, God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” (Verse 1) God graciously reaches out to Ezekiel and tells him that he need not grovel on the ground. Implicit in this is that God had forgiven Ezekiel his sins. God, also, made the promise, “I will speak to you.” Then, “As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” (Verse 2) God spoke directly to Ezekiel. He had a very important task that he wanted Ezekiel to do. He was to go and speak to the people of Israel. Ezekiel had not sought out the task of being a prophet. God took him, as he sat on the banks of the Kebar River, and told him to carry out this ministry on God’s behalf.

God continues to call his prophets today. Before we go any further, it would be good for us to define the word “prophet.” Often, when we think of prophets, we think of them foretelling the future. In many cases, that is true. We think of all of the prophecies throughout the Old Testament that pointed ahead to the coming Savior. The book of Revelation is John’s prophecy of what would happen until the end of the world. However, that is only looking at one aspect of being a prophet. There were other Old Testament prophets who did not foretell future events. They were sent by God with a message to his people. In that sense, there are still prophets today, men who are sent by God to his people with a message,

Before the pastor is sent by God to his people with a message, God must speak to them. It does not occur directly, as it did in the case of Ezekiel. Rather, it comes through the Spirit-inspired Word of God. In that Word, the pastor sees himself as a sinner. He realizes that if he were to stand in the presence of God on his own, all he could see would be his sins. He would know that he has broken God’s laws again and again. He knows that, if he were left in that condition, he would be lost forever. He would be right there with Ezekiel, facedown on the ground. However, just as God told Ezekiel to get up, he tells the pastor to rise to his feet. This is not due to anything that he has done. It is not because of his office. Rather, the reason that he can stand in the presence of the holy God is what Christ has done for him. God tells him that his sins are forgiven because of the perfect life, innocent suffering and death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus. Now, he is a child of God. Now, he is to carry out that Great Commission entrusted to all believers.

However, the pastor is called to be a prophet in God’s kingdom. This does not happen directly, as it did in the case of Ezekiel. Rather, God, through a group of believers, calls a man to serve them with the Means of Grace. He serves in the name of the congregation. For that reason, he must be well-acquainted with God’s Word. That is why there is so much time spent in God’s Word, as he prepares for the ministry. He must be able to apply the message of God to himself. Then, he is to share the message that God gives in his Word.

This is what God told Ezekiel was to be his task. He said, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.” (Verses 3-4) God told Ezekiel that he was sending him to speak to a people that were rebellious. They were rebellious, as were their ancestors. The rebellion that God was talking about was the fact that they were rebelling against him by their sins. Sin is rebellion. It is throwing off God’s rule for your own rule. God points out the fact that they were “obstinate and stubborn.” In spite of God’s repeated warnings about their sins, they refused to pay heed. As a result, they were now in Babylonian exile. Yet, God says, they continue to be obstinate and stubborn.

No doubt there would have been those to whom Ezekiel was to prophesy who would point to the fact that Israel was God’s chosen people. They had a special relationship with God that no other nations had enjoyed. To be sure, all of those other nations deserved whatever happened to them. Yet, we are fine, because we are God’s people. Jesus faced the same thing in his day. When he told them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” the people responded, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”. (John 8:31-33) They felt that they didn’t need to pay heed to what Jesus was saying, because they were descendants of Abraham. Just like Ezekiel, Jesus was sent to wake up these rebellious people.

This is part of the scope of what the pastor must do, as well. It would be easy for the pastor to just tell the people what they wanted to hear, what made them feel good. As a matter of fact, one of the largest churches in California, which had also broadcast her services around the world, was started by a pastor who came into an area. He went from door to door, asking people what they didn’t like about the churches they had been attending. The overwhelming answer was that people didn’t like to be told that they were bad, that they were sinners. As a result, when he preached, he never mentioned sin. His church grew and grew. However, he was withholding one of the most important parts of what God wants his people to hear. They must hear that they are sinners.

This is not something that people like to hear. They will come up with excuses as to what they did not being so bad. They will point to the fact that they have been members of a church for all their lives. So were their ancestors. They are believers. That may all be true. Yet, even the believer needs to hear that they have sinned. The reason is that they have a sinful nature. It is so easy for that sinful nature to try and take control of our lives. The sinful nature tells us that what we are doing is not all that bad, especially when we compare it to what others have done. The sinful nature is obstinate and stubborn and refuses to accept any sort of rebuke. We become defensive when someone points out that we are sinning. It lashes back at the one who is pointing out the sin. The sinful nature will even try to use the fact that Jesus has forgiven us as a license to sin. It is for these reasons that the pastor, as a prophet of God, must point out sin. It must be noted that the pastor does not enjoy doing this. He does not delight in causing pain. However, it is necessary, so that we see the depth of our natural depravity. We need to see that each and every one of us is a sinner.

Once that has been done, then the pastor has the wonderful privilege of speaking forgiveness to the people. Once sin is exposed and the consequences seen, then the pastor can tell the person who has fallen facedown before the Lord, ‘Get up. Your sins have been forgiven.’ He has the wonderful news to share that Jesus has paid for that sin, too. Jesus lived in your place. Jesus suffered and died to pay for your sin. Jesus rose again to assure you that you stand perfect in your Father’s eyes. You have heaven to look forward to. Rest in the assurance that you are God’s child. God commissions his prophets to share the whole Word of God, both law and gospel, with his people. That is the task that he has been given.

In the best case scenario, the person hears the words of the law and repents. What happens if they don’t? Was there something wrong with the message? God answers that question as he speaks to Ezekiel. He said in verse 5, “Whether they listen or fail to listen — for they are a rebellious people — they will know that a prophet has been among them.” God points out the scenario that there will be some who will listen to the law’s admonition and those who will not. Yet, the fault does not lie with the message that the prophet brings, whether in Ezekiel’s day or today. Mankind has the unbelievable ability to say no to God. They refuse to see that what they are doing is wrong. They choose to pull themselves away from God. If a person does this, after faithful admonition from the prophet, it is not the prophet’s fault. It is not the message’s fault. It is that person’s fault.

On the other hand, if a person sees that they have sinned and they repent and come back to God, it is not because of any special quality on the part of the prophet. It wasn’t because they were so persuasive. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit working through his words that causes the change. The Holy Spirit works through the law to point out the rebellion. The Holy Spirit works through the gospel to assure the repentant sinner that Jesus has paid for that sin. The Holy Spirit is the one who motivates through the gospel to live a life of thanksgiving to God for all that he has done for us. The prophet is merely the messenger of God. God is the one who effects the change in us. God’s Word always has an effect on people when it is proclaimed. God said in Isaiah 55:11, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We thank God for caring so much about us that he tells us all that he has done for us. May God open our ears to hear the message that his prophets bring to us.

This morning, we thank of all of the faithful prophets that God has provided for our congregations. We thank him for those men who have faithfully proclaimed all of his Word. We are thankful that he loved us enough to correct us through the proclamation of the law. We praise his holy name that he had revealed to us all that he has done for our salvation. We pray that the Lord would keep our ears open to the message that he shares with us through his prophets. We also ask that the Lord would continue to provide faithful prophets in this house of worship, both in our day and in the years to come. Amen.