The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
1 Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2 And as He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. 3 Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have revolted against Me to this very day. 4 So I am sending you to those who are impudent and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says:’ 5 As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. Ezekiel 2:1-5 (NASB)
After the death of King Solomon (around 930 B.C.) the kingdom of Israel split into a northern kingdom, which retained the name Israel and a southern kingdom named after the tribe of Judah. Both kingdoms were brought to an end by a foreign power at different times. After the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C, the Southern Kingdom continued for another 136 years.
By Ezekiel’s time, the Babylonians from Mesopotamia ruled over the Southern Kingdom. They had taken many of its people into exile. One of those captives was the prophet Ezekiel.
The Israelites were in exile in Babylonia and both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms had ended. The prophets Isaiah and Ezekeil were sent to make sure the people understood that these things had come to pass as a temporal judgment against both kingdoms. Only a remnant had remained faithful to the Lord God and the covenant. A large majority of people in both kingdoms were wicked. They did evil in God’s sight. They engaged in false worship and idolatry. They thought and lived in ways that were contrary to the will of God. They were unfaithful to the covenant God had given to them through Moses.
This morning Old Testament is God’s initial address to the Israelites primarily from the Southern Kingdom, though any Northern Kingdom descendant was probably guilty of the same.
In Ezekiel chapter one, the prophet describes his call into the office of prophet. It was an awesome scene. Ezekeil described four living beings, each having four faces, and four wings. He describes an great expanse and a figure with the appearance of a man. There was a radiance around Him like the appearance of the rainbow. “Such was the appearance,” he wrote “of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.”
Ezekeil was given to see a truly other world and the glory of the Lord God. It was a formidable sight. What does the Lord say when He speaks to Ezekiel? He says, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.”
The Lord God refers to Ezekiel as “Son of man.” He never addresses him by his name. By addressing Ezekeil by the title Son of man God stresses the distance between the almighty eternal God, Himself and weak mortal man. “Stand on your feet.” Think of this as God calling Ezekiel to attention– Ezekiel is to ready himself for what God is about to say and what he is being called to do. Ezekiel is being conscripted. But take notice, while the Lord God commands Ezekiel to stand on his own feet, Ezekiel doesn’t stand up on his own two feet. God speaks and takes matters into His own hands.
Ezekiel wrote, 2 “As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me.” The Holy Spirit set Ezekiel on his feet as the Lord God was speaking. Where the Word of God is, there also is the work and power of the Holy Spirit. They are never apart.
Once he was stood up by the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, Ezekiel was given his mission. “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have revolted against Me to this very day.”
Ezekiel was being sent to a people who had lived for generations in rebellion to God. He was being sent to a people who would be hostile to what Ezekiel was sent to tell them. The Lord God makes sure that newly conscripted prophet understood the task before him. 4 “So I am sending you to those who are impudent and obstinate children.” The children of God had become the exact opposite of what God had made them to be. They were not a humble and repentant people. They were not people of faith. They were impudent and obstinate. Ezekiel is likely not going to be welcomed with open ears and arms.
When I was in seminary the marketing department of the seminary produced a pastor recruiting video to encourage young men, pious family men with pious wives and pious children to come to the seminary to study for the ministry. One scene shows the dad driving across Indiana on their way to his first call with his children and wife singing “Jesus Loves Me.” One of my classmates was cast as the recruit, the woman singing “Jesus Loves Me” in the video wasn’t his real wife. His real wife didn’t look the way producers wanted so they found the seminarian a more stereotypical pastor’s wife to play the part.
The video painted a picture of a young family heading to out into a synod and congregation that would love them, honor them, and listen to him as he preached the Word of God to eager people waiting to hear. Obviously, a production of fiction. The arrival of a new and faithful pastor to a congregation that has spent decades wearing down the old guy can be a radical shift.
The children of God are suppose to be different in thought, word, and deed. The Israelites were suppose to be different in the decades leading up to and during the exile and we are suppose to be different today. We are suppose to know the difference between worshiping the true God of our salvation and man made idols of this age. But just try to tell the people of the West, the religious leaders of our own day, and the masses both inside and outside the church who bend their knees and train their tongues to obey every anti-Christian ideology that the media, activists, and politicians to repent, think, and act like Christians. Rather, than think and speak the words of God and engage in good theological reflection, they sound and act like the unbelieving world.
Ezekiel was called to preach God’s Word. Notice the results of his preaching isn’t to be a matter of concern for Ezekeil. He is just to do his job, be the prophet he was sent to be and leave the rest to the Lord God. The Lord God said to him, “and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says:’ 5 As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.’”
Ezekiel spoke God’s Law and showed them their transgressions. He called sinners, sinners. He told them that they were in exile because of their violations of God’s commandments and because of the continuing wickedness of their countrymen back in the Southern Kingdom. He also told them that that kingdom would end under the Babylonians.
Ezekiel was a true prophet. He was called by God to go to the obstinate children of God and speak the Law. He also was sent by the Lord God to preach the Gospel. Even though the Lord God was chastening them, they remained His children. Through Ezekiel, God reminded His children of His promise to send a Savior, the Messiah. This Messiah would be an Israelite. He would do what they had not and could not do. He’d live a perfect life in the covenant and would save His people from their sins. He would make atonement for the sins of the whole world.
The prophet Isaiah who came along before Ezekiel would be given to write, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all To fall on Him.”
God speaks to rebellious people of all times and places through his Word, the Scripture and preaching from the Scriptures. He speaks first to His created and adopted children of the true Christian church. He speaks as well to the unchurched through our confession of Christ, through what is normally called our witness to Christ and His Word.
Through Scripture and right speaking and preaching of it, God speaks His Law to a rebellious people. He also speaks the Gospel because all people by nature are rebels the Lord’s enemies, including you and me. Our old sinful natures remain old sinful natures. Every day we provide new evidence of our sinful natures with evil thoughts, bad words, wrong actions, or lack of proper action. “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)
The Gospel lesson teaches us that even the people in Jesus’s hometown were rebellious. They didn’t believe. They only saw Jesus the carpenter’s son and a “poser.” “They took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not dishonored except in his hometown and among his own relatives, and in his own household.’”
Shortly thereafter Jesus sends His disciples out two by two to preach the Law and Gospel, cast out demons, and heal the sick. He tells them to be content when they are welcomed into a house and to shake off the dust from their feet when they are not welcomed. They are to preach and let God provide for them and do the rest.
Scripture—Law and Gospel—is presented and proclaimed throughout the world by the Christian Church, which is used by God as His instrument for the preaching of His Word and the administration of the Sacraments.
In His grace, mercy, and love, God creates a new nature. He brings the Israelites to repentance and they reclaim Him as their God. Listen to what God said to His rebellious children in 36:22-26 “It is not for your sake, house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations . . . The nations will know that I am the Lord,” declares the Lord God, “when I show Myself holy among you in their sight. . . . I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Through the Law and Gospel, God caused rebellious Israelites to confess their sins and repent. He brought them back to faith in the one true God and in the Messiah. God ended their Babylonian exile and brought the purified remnant to Judah, where they settled and they and their descendants lived unto the day of the birth of Christ.
Paul wrote to Titus (2:11–14), “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
As God dealt with the Israelites in exile in Babylonia, so he has dealt with us. God spoke to us through His Word and changed us from a rebellious people into His faithful children who will live with him forever.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep our minds and hearts in Christ Jesus. Amen.