Listen or Not?

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Image by Travis Isaacs via Flickr

“You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they “are rebellious.” —Ezekiel 2:7

Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” –Ezekiel 3:11

“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 them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious house.” –Ezekiel 3:27

The Lord gives clear instructions to Ezekiel to prophecy whether or not the people listen. This is challenging for me. I believe that the work of speaking God‘s word is one in which it matters to be both faithful, relevant and delivered in a way that it will be received. God’s guidance for Ezekiel seems to disregard how it will be received. It seems that these verses emphasize faithfulness over relevance. But then, maybe faithfulness is truly the most relevant. What are your thoughts, feelings or opinions?

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3 thoughts on “Listen or Not?

  1. Andrew,

    Thanks for posting this – that is so interesting! I agree with you 100% in thinking that speaking is meant to be listened to. Why else would there be countless books and classes on preaching/ speaking? Rom. 10:17 even says faith comes from hearing. That’s also why (in my opinion) the best preachers are usually the ones who work the hardest at it and prepare the most.

    But on the other hand, those scripture passages are both humbling and encouraging to me. Some day, I hope to be in some role where I am either teaching, speaking, writing, or sharing information with people in some way. I feel like it’s really easy to get carried away in our preparation and say “I have to make this the best ever, or else no one will hear the truth, be persuaded, etc. These verses, though, quickly correct any lofty mindset that puts our skill above God’s sovereignty. God alone saves. We are instruments used by God, but we are not the musician.

    God flat out says that not everyone will listen, even when Ezekiel is prophesying the words of God! To me, that removes any sense of pride in one’s ability to speak, and it centers our dependence on God.

    Let me know if you think I’ve totally misinterpreted the passage – these are just the first thoughts I had.

    Thanks, Andrew.
    Matt

    • Matt – I think you are right on here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that this encourages a sense of humility and encourages dependence on God. I appreciate your ability to look at several sides of these verse.

  2. These verses are helpful reminders that we cannot make people respond to God. The feeling that I get is that what they speak of is truth. God’s words are not always what people want to hear. Some will hear but not ‘listen’ i.e. obey. Some will disregard i.e. not listen. If we only preach what people like, we are not doing any favors. This is a concern at times because I have a few that feel that sermons should make them “feel good.” Whereas, paradoxically, the Good News does not always give us warm fuzzies.

    An important distinction I see though is the difference between prophet and preacher. Preaching involves an interpretation of God’s word to people in a worship context – that is the part where we are trying to teach, to communicate, to focus on delivery, interest, connection. It is where a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

    Often God’s prophet was not meant to add or to subtract, to interpret, or to translate o it was simply to be a messenger. It was clear that these are God’s words, not mine. Those moments can come in conversation, in meetings, in public, in political situations, etc.

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