2 Comments to “Listen – Ezekiel 3: Part 1”

  1. Donald McMahon
    September 9, 2019

    “Ezekiel 3 (Part 1) Listen” (Ezekiel 2:9–3:27)(9.8.19)
    In my nearly five years here, this will be only the second message from Ezekiel. The first message was on the Valley of Dry Bones. With the exception of that passage and the theme of “Watchman,” Ezekiel is not a popular book of the Bible to preach. Most of my favorite preachers rarely forayed into the visions of Ezekiel.
    Why might this be? There are many things that are hard to hear in Ezekiel. Over the centuries, the people of Israel had not heeded God’s warnings through earlier prophets. The Almighty threatened them with correction and discipline through other nations up to and including defeat and exile.
    God’s chosen people refused to hear, refused to listen, and the northern kingdom, the 10 tribes of the north, were conquered and deported by the Assyrians. One hundred and forty years go by and the southern kingdom, Judah and Jerusalem, has refused to open its ears. A major defeat by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar has already happened. Much of the aristocracy and upper class has been deported, exiled.
    Ezekiel is in this first wave of exiles. His mission, which he had no choice but to accept, was to be the people’s last chance. He was to warn them that they must return to Jehovah their God now, immediately. Final defeat, final judgment was just around the corner. Will they listen?
    Another reason Ezekiel is rarely preached is because gospel preachers want to provide hope. We want to point to the Lord Jesus. While this can be challenging in the first half of Ezekiel, it is clear to me that Jesus frequently addressed the lack of listening just as we read in Ezekiel 3. Several times, Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Then in two of his I tell you the truth sayings, Jesus says, John 5:24–25 (NIV84)
    24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead (spiritually dead) will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”
    John 5:28–29 (NIV84)
    28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
    Clearly, we are called to listen to our Lord. The consequences are eternal. Now, let us hear from the watchman, Ezekiel.
    Ezekiel 2:9–3:27 (NIV84)
    9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.
    3 And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
    3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
    4 He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. 5 You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. 7 But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. 8 But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9 I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.”
    10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.”
    12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound—May the glory of the Lord be praised in his dwelling place!— 13 the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. 14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me. 15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—overwhelmed.
    16 At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.
    20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”
    22 The hand of the Lord was upon me there, and he said to me, “Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.” 23 So I got up and went out to the plain. And the glory of the Lord was standing there, like the glory I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown.
    24 Then the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet. He spoke to me and said: “Go, shut yourself inside your house. 25 And you, son of man, they will tie with ropes; you will be bound so that you cannot go out among the people. 26 I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, though they are a rebellious house. 27 But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: “Ezekiel 3 (Part 1) Listen”
    Mateo wants cupcakes for dinner. His mother, Linda, prohibits this. (play video)
    Yes, this is an entertaining video, but my purpose is not to entertain you. I suggest that this is the human condition. We, in our natural state, are Mateo resisting the authority of our divine parent. We want our cupcake, or whatever your chosen sweet happens to be. Of course, it will supplant the nourishment of the word of God. We rebel against God and God’s authority. We reject Ezekiel’s call to repentance, to turn away from sin and back to God Almighty.
    Visions like Ezekiel’s are not commonplace. Dreams are complicated and difficult to interpret. A direct word from the Lord is a rarity. But we have the great blessing of God revealed through the Holy Scriptures. In biblical times, the books of the Old Testament were written on scrolls. The average person did not have access to these scrolls. A very high percentage of people could not read. Today, literacy is very high. The word of God is literally everywhere. There is no excuse.
    Are you listening to God? Can you hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you of Jesus? Is your conscious active and audible in your spirit? Do you make time to ingest God’s word? Do you make time to internalize the testimony of Jesus? Some of you are in Bible studies, but most of you are not. If you only read or study by yourself, how do you know if you are really hearing God speak to you? Iron sharpens iron and discussing God’s word blesses each person involved.
    Do you read your Bible with a critical mindset? You come across a difficult decree. There is an apparent contradiction. You subject God’s word to the censor of human wisdom. My brothers and sisters, when I am reading my Bible and I discover a problem, I know that the problem is with me. For God is true and all men are liars.
    News reports from 2018 indicate that the time we spend reading is at an all-time low. Television is the major culprit. Then there are video games, the Internet, social media, smartphones and headphones. We work a lot. There are so many entertainment and activity options. The reading that is done is light or short articles. We just cannot concentrate. Our attention spans are short and getting shorter all the time.
    When I was in the Coast Guard and working on radios, we aligned the receivers for optimum signal-to-noise ratio. The signal contains the intelligence that has been transmitted to the receiver. The noise is all the clutter and interference that would prohibit the signal from being intelligible. The noise blocks. The noise interferes. The noise is irrelevant data and information.
    Jesus tells us to go into our closet, our secret place to pray. We need to get away from the interference. To listen to God, we need to quiet the noise. We need to adjust our signal-to-noise ratio in our lives. If you are like me, the hardest part about praying is quieting my mind. It keeps changing the frequency so that my thoughts are about everything except hearing God speak. Oh, transmitting my requests, wants, perceived needs, and desires seems to go fine. But, my receiver is often misaligned. I am not prepared to listen.
    The fact of the matter is that the people of our nation are like the Israelites. They are refusing to listen. There are several ways in which this is demonstrated. Even though the exile had begun, there were plenty of false prophets running around proclaiming, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”
    Yes, we have many false prophets today proclaiming that we have peace with God even though sin has infiltrated every aspect of our society. Cheap grace is no grace and leaves people in a faith coma. Just sprinkle a little Jesus on your life and season to your personal taste.
    Yes, God says it is a personal choice. God says it is a matter of the will. God says that those that don’t listen to Him are hardened and obstinate. Leave us alone Lord; let us live as we like. The idea of hardened hearts is consistently addressed throughout scripture. Because the Lord tells Ezekiel not to be terrified of this rebellious people, He implies that they may even react violently towards anyone delivering God’s message.
    In my Bible dictionaries, there is actually an entry for this hard heartedness:
    “Hardness or dullness of heart is regularly expressed in a number of equivalent phrases, metaphors, and other figures of speech, including obduracy, blindness, deafness, moral insensitivity, foolishness, unbelief, stubbornness, stupidity, brutishness, deficiency in understanding, darkness, and stiffness of neck.
    According to the Bible, humans bear the responsibility for this condition because it demonstrates willful unbelief in the face of God’s clear message and works. At the same time, in a number of passages God confirms a hard-hearted individual in that state by a further hardening.”
    In other words, it can come to the point where the Lord says, “Have it your own way. Have your cupcake. See how it works out for you.”
    Yes, this is addressed in our New Testament too!
    Hebrews 3:8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,
    Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (hardened by sin’s deceitfulness).
    In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains why some do not accept the message of the kingdom:
    13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
    “Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
    14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
    “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
    15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.’
    16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
    18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
    The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
    At the close of Ezekiel chapter 3, the Lord reveals another way of communicating: silence. Have you ever been given the “silent treatment” by someone you love? If you have, you know this is a serious demonstration of a breach in the relationship.
    This silencing of Ezekiel has three different facets. He is told to shut himself up in his house. At the same time, he has been tied up or incapacitated by the people. Maybe you are thinking that doesn’t happen today. Church attendance has been steadily declining across our nation. Here at Emmaus Church attendance has been declining. I certainly feel restrained in my capacity to convey the fullness of God’s message. I am not able to compete with the gods and idols of this world. If people are not here, how can they hear? How can they listen?
    The third way Ezekiel was silenced was the Lord causing his tongue to stick to the roof of his mouth. Ezekiel is prohibited from sharing the warning message of God. Is this the state of the American culture? I think the answer is yes. As the scroll that Ezekiel saw was filled on both sides with words of lament and mourning and woe, I hear that message in the 1963 song by Simon and Garfunkel: “The Sound of Silence.” Listen to the lyrics and feel the melancholy of the music. (play video)
    This week at the prayer booth an older couple stopped by for the first time. They have an adult granddaughter that is planning to be married. The problem is that she feels unloved and rejected by her family. They assure me that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The granddaughter is unable to hear them. No matter who in the family reaches out to her, she refuses to listen. No matter what they try, she will not receive the truth of their love they so desperately want her to know.
    I imagine the way these loving grandparents feel about their wayward granddaughter is much the same way our Lord feels about humankind. John 3:16–18 (NIV84)
    16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
    In rejecting Jesus, people are rejecting our God and Father.
    There is hope, for The Sound of Silence will be broken. The Sovereign Lord says to Ezekiel that he will speak again, and he proclaims, “Whoever will listen let him listen.”
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.

    • Donald McMahon
      September 9, 2019

      The Sound of Silence
      Simon & Garfunkel
      Hello darkness, my old friend
      I’ve come to talk with you again
      Because a vision softly creeping
      Left its seeds while I was sleeping
      And the vision that was planted in my brain
      Still remains
      Within the sound of silence
      In restless dreams I walked alone
      Narrow streets of cobblestone
      ‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
      I turned my collar to the cold and damp
      When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
      That split the night
      And touched the sound of silence
      And in the naked light I saw
      Ten thousand people, maybe more
      People talking without speaking
      People hearing without listening
      People writing songs that voices never share
      No one dared
      Disturb the sound of silence
      “Fools” said I, “You do not know
      Silence like a cancer grows
      Hear my words that I might teach you
      Take my arms that I might reach you”
      But my words like silent raindrops fell
      And echoed in the wells of silence
      And the people bowed and prayed
      To the neon god they made
      And the sign flashed out its warning
      In the words that it was forming
      And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
      Are written on the subway walls
      And tenement halls”
      And whispered in the sounds of silence


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