(2020 07 Jul) A prophet is not without honor

Devotional thoughts for July 2020

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... where I discuss the thinking that led to this article.)

“Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them. You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel — not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you.” (Ezekiel 3:4–6, NIV)

Ezekiel and Jesus had a few things in common: primarily, they were both prophets... so they were sent from God to speak to people. But unlike Jonah, they were sent to their own people... and not to some “horrible” nation far away from theirs (Matthew 15:24).

Now, this may seem like a plum assignment — but it’s not! Being a prophet (... or a missionary, teacher, preacher, etc.) among your own people brings a unique problem: they are not going to listen to you! ... and we need to look no further than the Lord’s biological family for an example.

Jesus’ brother, James, lived his whole life without believing that Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until after Jesus rose and appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:7) that his belief-status changed. James eventually became the head of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13)… and the big lesson here is that there is hope for even our closest critics!

Now, God knew full well that Ezekiel too would be dismissed by his own people... but God didn’t change the job. If Ezekiel did not speak the words God gave him to speak, Israel’s blood would be on his hands… and it didn’t matter whether the people listened to him... or if they changed their evil ways. The prophet had to speak the words God gave him, and so do we.

We “prophets” of today have an advantage, though. We have God’s Word ... and not the relatively rare “words from God” given to people like Ezekiel. The Bible was a work-in-progress back then. In fact, Ezekiel was writing part of it! This means that we also have the advantage of hindsight: we can be Monday-morning-quarterbacks by reading the prophetic books.

We have other advantages, too; the most important is that hundreds of Bible translations are available to people all around the world. We also have centuries of scholarly reflection on Scripture... not to mention philosophy, the physical sciences and the human condition. Nevertheless, our job is the same: speak truth to a dying world that is not inclined to listen.

The rules for Ezekiel were simple: if the people listened, then good for them! But if they didn’t, their blood was on their own hands. This is our model, too. God’s desire is for everyone to be saved, and the world is our platform. The job is to get God’s message out... but people have free will; we can’t hold them at gunpoint! The onus is on them to listen and to respond.

Fortunately, we all have different ministries. We are not all prophets like Ezekiel. However, we all have the same jeopardy: if we do not do the job that God has given us, other people’s blood will be on our hands. Now, this sin cannot condemn us (Romans 8:1). But on some far-future day, we will have to account for every idle word, for everything we’ve done — and for everything we have not done. (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). So get out there and endure the shame.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: "20200629 The homie syndrome (A prophet is not without honor)").

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