God is personal but never private. — Jim Wallis (God’s Politics)
Who are you intimidated by? Be honest. Who has the power to give you that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach? It could be adults or adolescents, girls or guys, heroes or the homeless, movie stars or strangers. Everyone is intimidated by someone. Can you imagine having witnessed the same stormy vision Ezekiel saw, only to have God lift you onto your feet and say, “Go to [your intimidator] and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God has to say to you…'”
God’s commission to Ezekiel reminds me of what he said to Jonah:
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2 NRSV)
Jonah, as you probably remember, fled the other way. How will Ezekiel respond to this similar calling?
God warned Ezekiel up front that his people are rebellious, just like their ancestors. “Impudent and stubborn” (2:4, NRSV) are the words God used to describe the Israelites in the refugee camp. You get the distinct impression that God is removing any excuse from Ezekiel’s lips. I imagine the conversation would have played out like this:
- God: Ezekiel, go to your wicked people and tell them everything I say to you.
- Ezekiel: But Lord, they are stubborn and will not listen to me. What’s more, they will probably stone me as a false prophet! We have lost our land and our loved ones—what we need now is comfort!
- God: It doesn’t matter how they respond to you. I know they’re stubborn. What matters is that you are faithful to speak for me.
Ezekiel was handed the ultimate subpoena, and he had to deliver it regardless of his welcome. God does, however, offer him some words of encouragement (2:6):
- Don’t be afraid of them
- Don’t be afraid of their words
- Don’t be afraid of their looks
Now we begin to understand the significance of God’s awful appearance in chapter 1. If God spoke to him in a dream or in the stillness of his heart, he would have reason to fear the people. However, now that he has faced the awesome majesty of the Lord GOD (without dying), and has had God’s Spirit enter his body and lift him to his feet—what’s left for him to fear?
The application of this passage to our lives is simple yet profound (the sublime usually is quite simple). God has told us to make disciples of everyone everywhere. As Christians we are subjects of the ultimate King, and have been charged by our liege to share the good news of His Kingdom with people who don’t know about it yet.
This commission will take many different forms—sharing over coffee, preaching over a pulpit, even lobbying in government. The commonality is that our faith can never be simply a private matter. God speaks to us, as he did to Ezekiel, individually; but the message he gives us must never be kept private.
Do you feel comfortable telling your friends about God’s kingdom? Does your comfort really matter? Are you afraid that people may not respond to God’s offer? The response is never our responsibility. It may be time to ask God to give us a vision of himself that will empower us to say “thus says the Lord GOD” to others without fear.
. . .
Awesome God, we confess that we’re often afraid of what other people think of us and our love for you. Give us a vision of your glory that will drive out all fear of others, and replace it with a pure fear of God. In Jesus name, Amen.