Ezekiel 2: What about When People Don’t Listen?
In Ezekiel 2, Ezekiel himself had just finished seeing a rather perplexing image of angels and wheels. I guess an image like that would probably be assumed to be supernatural in origin, so maybe Ezekiel was not overly surprised when God began speaking to him. This was essentially his commissioning as a missionary.
Eze 2:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.
Eze 2:4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 2:5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
Eze 2:6 And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
Eze 2:7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
I am not a career missionary by any means although I greatly admire those who are. I imagine that this must be one of the more encouraging passages for people who are going into this line of work. However, even those of us who are on the home front can learn a lot from this commissioning.
First, it affirms that our job is to preach the gospel. Not everyone is going to listen, and that is to be expected. However, we are not to be afraid of them or whatever we go through. How often are we afraid of talking about Jesus for fear of the consequences? I know I have been there, and I think if we are all honest, we have probably had a time where it was not easy to share our faith. Maybe we didn’t want to get laughed at. Maybe we simply didn’t know what to say. However, this passage affirms that these barriers are only artificial. Our job is to persevere through them through the power of God to speak the truth.
I want to draw out that point regarding the fact that not everyone will listen. It is a difficult thing to face, but it is experientially true. As Christians, we have taken a position based on evidence (which can take different forms for different people) and have made a decision to live this life in pursuit of God. However, there are people who obviously do not come to the same conclusions. Perhaps they value different evidence or have other reasons, but as is clear through the history of the world, not everyone is a Christian, and not everyone will be.
That can be the frustrating point. Christianity makes claims about belief and nonbelief, and the answer to that question has eternal consequences from the Christian worldview. If people are not listening, it is clearly a different sort of situation that you refusing to acknowledge that the Philadelphia Phillies are most obviously the best baseball team. It is a much more serious matter, and the belief is incredibly important. It can be discouraging and upsetting when people do not listen.
It is important to remember that our mission is to preach the gospel. It is not necessary that we have a certain hit ratio on successful conversions. It is not at all like that. Our job is to preach, and the individual needs to respond. Just like salvation is not transferable, the decision is also not something that we can do for someone else. Even though it might be discouraging when people don’t listen, we need to do all that we can for our part of the bargain. That is what God commanded Ezekiel to do.