What are we here for? What are we here to do?
We are here this morning to worship the Lord. We are here to glorify him. We are here to exalt him. We are also here to hear his word – to listen to his voice and then to obey what he commands. How can we do all this? We do this by and through the Holy Spirit – we can worship BECAUSE we are filled with His Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we can not have fellowship with God. Without the Holy Spirit the Church Service ceases to be a time of worship where we engage with God – instead it becomes a dry religious service.
As I have said before, without the Holy Spirit in us we are unable to do anything that is spiritual.
When God appears to Ezekiel, Ezekiel falls to the ground. The last verse of chp 1 says: As the appearance of the rainbow[aa]in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. He has no strength. The glory of God forces Ezekiel to his face. Then God speaks with Ezekiel. And how does Ezekiel speak with God – by being filled with the Spirit. The Spirit comes and sets Ezekiel on his feet and by the Spirit Ezekiel can speak with God. Ezekiel is called the Son of Man – a phrase mentioned 93 times in Ezekiel. It is also mentioned once in Daniel.
But also notice that in the NT Jesus takes the title Son of Man and applies it to himself. In fact Jesus’ favorite title was the Son of Man.
Why? Because it stresses Jesus’ true humanity as well as His dependence upon the Spirit of God. Jesus does not begin his ministry until the Spirit falls upon him at his baptism. Jesus is fully God AND fully man – and the title Son of MAn emphasizes Jesus’ humanity.
Hence when Ezekiel is called Son of Man it is to remind him that he was dependent on the spirits power which enabled him to receive the message of God and also the power to deliver it in the authority of the Lord. When we are filled with the Spirit the Lord speaks with us – he strengthens us and speaks with us. We come to worship tired and burdened by the world, but the aim of worship – of being together to worship God – is to be filled again with the spirit – strengthened – set on our feet again so that we might hear the Lord and be ready to go into the week and into the world to love and serve our God.
And what he asks of Ezekiel he asks of us – to go and speak to a rebellious people. Anyone who is not living under God’s lordship is in rebellion. Anyone who has ignored God is stubborn and imprudent. But God never leaves them to stew on their own – he sends his people to minister and proclaim the word of God. And Ezekiel was only able to go because he had the Spirit – and we are only able to go because we have the Holy Spirit.
God sends Ezekiel with the warning that it will not be easy. Proclaiming the truth of God to a world who is blinded to the things of God will be hard.
Jesus knew how that felt. Twice he is rejected from his home town. The first time in mentioned in luke 4:16-30 when Jesus announces the beginning of his ministry by reading Isaiah in the synagogue – the day of the Lord has arrived jesus says. But the people are angry and they run him out of town. Now he returns, probably a year later.
This time they do not run him out town – they simply do not take him seriously – they show him contempt.
Familiarity. They say Familiarity breeds contempt. Here was a person they saw growing up suddenly being hailed as a possible messiah. It’s hard for someone to see a peer, or a neighbor, or a colleague increase in authority and status. Remember that many of those in the town were related to Jesus. These were his people, his family – and they did not expect a ‘tekton’ – a workman to become an important rabbi, never mind a possible messiah. Jesus just seemed too ordinary for that. They took offense at him. They insult him by calling him the son of Mary instead the son of Joseph – maybe a reference to the question of his birth. They could not explain him so they rejected him.
And Mark tells us that Jesus did not do many miracles there. However we have a hint in Matthew’s account that he did some, but not many. It’s not that he couldn’t do any miracles – the issue was that if people did not believe he could miracles, they wouldn’t ask him to do any miracles! Miracles were like parables – they pointed to the truth of who Jesus was and what his mission on earth was and thus required faith for them to be effective – if they had already rejected him, then his miracles would not convince them, and Jesus did not do miracles like a magician.
Ministry is not easy to a world that does not believe.
Like Ezekiel, and in the footsteps of Jesus, we too are called to declare who Jesus is to the world – to a skeptical, unbelieving, hostile, ridiculing, angry, violent, secularist world.
And just as Jesus experienced and as God told Ezekiel, we will be rejected. We will not be taken seriously. We will be mocked.
But there is a remarkable verse in Ezekiel that we must hold onto and remember. In sending Ezekiel God says in v5 these words, And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there has been a prophet among them.
This is a huge verse for us. God is saying that the issue is not so much the result of our witness – that is not in our hands – but what IS in our hands is whether people see us AS authentic representatives of God – that when we witness – when we are with people – when we are around our work colleagues – or friends, or college or school – they will realize we are God’s people – that we are the real deal. God tells ezekiel that when he was done giving the message – whether they accepted it or not – they were to say to each other – Wow – whatever we think about Ezekiel’s message, one thing is for sure, he is a prophet – he is a man of God – he is the real deal.
The issue for some christians is that as long as we get the message out there, that’s all that matters – regardless of how we do it or what our own personal conduct is. So often I have experienced and heard that Christians were the most disliked people in the office or at school – not because of their message – but because of their attitude – they were unkind, arrogant, prideful, boastful, holier than thou – they cut corners – they were not diligent in their work and they lacked integrity. They did not live up to the title of Son of Man.
How we live – how we work – how we are with each other is the biggest witness we can give.
If there was anyone who might have been arrogant, or prideful, it was Paul. He says in 2Cor 12 that he knew someone – him – who went to the third heaven.
Now the third heaven is where the presence of God is. He went to a place which only Jesus and those who died in faith have gone. And Paul HEARD – notice it is HEARD, many things. What he heard we do not know but I think it was meant to strengthen him in the trials and sufferings to come.
But such was this experience – and it is so real and yet so spiritual, paul was unable to know whether it was a vision or whether he was physically taken – it doesn’t matter which – that there was danger that he might become prideful and he might go in his own strength and his own pride and so God allows a thorn in the flesh – a messenger from Satan to stop his pride. Paul asks God three times to remove it – but God’s words were that My grace Is Sufficent for you. What does this mean? It means that God’s provision for your every need, when you need it is ALL you need.
Paul was a man of immense natural ability – and yet God sends him in weakness so that through Paul’s weakness God is manifested.
Human weakness can be a profound blessing if it results in our depending more upon God and less on self!
We are called into this hostile world, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We will face hardship, ridicule, attack, anger – but God calls us to go without fear.
Notice what god tells Ezekiel: And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit upon scorpions; be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.
Fear is the anesthetic of the church – fear puts the church to sleep. We become concerned about how our friends, colleagues, family might see us when we tell them about Jesus – or even just by admitting we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is rejected and ridiculed by his own people – They do not take him seriously. Yet Jesus does not back down. He does not water down his message.
To go without fear does not mean we go in pride or arrogance. What It does mean is that we go in the power of the Spirit, not obsessed with results or numbers, but because we love God – we worship him and we long to see his kingdom come.
Rare is the person who can set out on a task knowing that people will hate them for doing it. But this is exactly what Ezekiel, and us, are called to do. Ezekiels faithfulness stands as a challenge to us!