02.25.2018 Ezek 2:1-3:27 Called to Serve

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The Preacher’s Preparation
What does it mean to serve God? What drives us to serve God? What is our motivation?
It seems that there is a perception in the world (and maybe even in the church) that there is great glamour and glory in serving the one True God in far off exotic lands.
Missionaries get to go and serve the Lord in the sun and the sand. Pastor’s – preachers serve God as they work one day a week. Being a full time servant of God means having a title and some even believe that it demands respect. When you become a Christian – all your cares and worries pass away and you live a trouble less life of blessing and bliss!

What does God tell Ezekiel it means to serve God . . . Read 2:1-10.

Ezekiel’s call in the two chapters before us shatter all possible false conceptions concerning what it is to serve the living and the true God. What we have before us shakes our motivations and the reason why we serve God in the first place.
All this said, I do not deny that the one who seeks to serve God day by day, whether in full time service or just in everyday life, that there is no better life. It is, in fact, the best life as we live in Christ lives that are truly blessed.
But it’s far from an easy life. It is certainly not a comfortable life. So we must ask the questions: What drives us to serve God? What is it that motivates us to serve the true and the living God, to preach the Gospel, to come to worship and to fellowship and hopefully to contribute to the work of the body of Christ in throwing the Gospel light into a darkened world? What is our motivation? What is the reason that we serve God? Is it to be a winner of hundreds and thousands of souls? It is purely to have our name put down in the Christian history books as a great Bible teacher, as a passionate preacher, as a multitalented missionary?
Is it so we might be considered the best blogger or a terrific theologian? Are we called into God’s service to bless God’s people? Is to be appreciated by the sheep of God’s flock, to be loved by them because you feed them, tend them, look after them and care for them?
Whatever our service – our motives may be, if they are these things I have just mentioned they are questionable.
If our only motivation for service is to see souls saved. It is questionable. If my ministerial motivation is to be in the Lord’s work solely to bless God’s people and to feed the flock under my care, my motivation is questionable. These things are not questionable in a bad sense – only in a misguided and maybe even a naïve sense for often we have false expectations as we seek to serve God.
It is these false expectations that lead to frustration and disillusionment for so many in Christian service. How many of you here have been in the position where the cry of your heart is: ‘No one appreciates me! I feel like I’m taken for granted! People never say ‘Thank you’; people don’t realize in this church what I do in the background. They don’t see it, they don’t appreciate it!’ I think, if we truly stepped back and looked at our hearts concerning this question of what motivates us to serve God, we would find that even in our service for Him there is selfishness and sinfulness. We want something in return.

Ezekiel’s Call

I wonder if we had been called like Ezekiel was what our answer would be. If you look at chapter 2 and chapter 3 of this book, and imagine God calling you in this way, and then imagine you going before the church session or a committee of presbytery - would you admit to them that God had called you, but God had also told you that no-one would be converted through your ministry? That you were going to be a useless evangelist in terms of numbers and success? The question we need to ask, as we come to a passage that portrays for us the call of God in a man's, or for that matter in a woman's, life - we must ask: what is the realistic expectation of what it is to serve God?
What are we in the service of God for? How do we balance not expecting too much from ourselves with attempting great things for God, and expecting great things from God? Is there a place in between where we can be satisfied that God is using us, and we have a holy discontent and thirst after God and holiness, yet at the same time we're not a obsessed with what some call a 'Messiah complex'? In other words: we feel that we are God's chosen one, that we believe that 'God is going to use us to overthrow the world for Him'.

We need to ask two questions:

1) What are God’s Servants Called to Do?

2) What is the Goal of a Servant’s Service?

Our goals will be determined by what God has actually asked us to do! If we don't realize what He has asked us to do, our goals will be beyond what we can possibly reach! We need to realize what the truth is about service, and what the misconceptions are that make men and women become shattered and disillusioned in the service of God.
I believe, in this call of Ezekiel, we can learn a great deal about what it is for God to call you and I, as believers, into His work within the church of Jesus Christ.
I believe these two chapters teach that there is a balance concerning the results that we can expect. Just in case we sit on our laurels, and say: 'As long as we sow the seed, that's alright', He also brings in at the end of these chapters a great responsibility upon the prophet to proclaim God's message.

Called to Serve

The first thing that we find is Ezekiel's calling.
Look at -
Ezekiel 2:1 NASB95
Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!”
Ninety times or so in the book of Ezekiel you find this title 'Son of man'. The other prophetic book in the Old Testament you find it in is the book of Daniel, and the only other place in the Bible you find it is in the New Testament - and that where the Lord Jesus Christ calls Himself the 'Son of man', and then later in the epistles the apostles call Him the 'Son of man' too. It was the favorite title of the Lord Jesus Christ for Himself. Around 86 times He speaks of Himself as the 'Son of man'.

There are a few things that are common to each of three individuals.


They were rejected by their own people for preaching the message of God’s Kingdom.

The second thing is HUMILIATION.

Daniel was cast into the lion’s den. As we go through the rest of Ezekiel we are going to find that he is subject of great humiliation for obeying the word of God. Jesus, as the son of man, lived his entire live in a state of humiliation – being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross, in being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time (WCF SC Qu #27).
The term ‘son of man’ refers to humiliation, but it also refers to rejection. The one called to serve God is called to a live of humiliation and rejection before exaltation. God speaks to this prophet and priest, Ezekiel, of the cost that he will have to pay as the prophet of God. What is he being called to? He is being called to a life of humiliation. Anyone called to serve God is called to live this way.
In verses 3 and 4 the Holy Spirit outlines for him what that humiliation will be:
Ezekiel 2:3–4 NASB95
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 transgressed against Me to this very day. “I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’
'You are to be a prophet to a rebellious people. That word 'rebellious' occurs frequently throughout this book - Israel is called a rebellious nation. This is something unusual, because the word 'nation' - if you look at verse 3 and 4 - the word 'nation' is not the word that God usually uses for His chosen people. In fact it is the word that He often uses for the Gentiles, and the Israelites used for the Gentiles. In other words, the traditional language of election had been changed. God is no longer calling them 'My people', and if you go into chapter 3:11 - He describes them as 'the sons of your people, Ezekiel. They are your people'. No more does He call them: 'My people, Israel'.
This is something unusual, because the word 'nation' - if you look at verse 3 and 4 - the word 'nation' is not the word that God usually uses for His chosen people. In fact it is the word that He often uses for the Gentiles, and the Israelites used for the Gentiles. In other words, the traditional language of election had been changed. God is no longer calling them 'My people', and if you go into chapter 3:11 - He describes them as 'the sons of your people, Ezekiel. They are your people'. No more does He call them: 'My people, Israel'.
Look at 2:3, see here that He calls them there 'the sons of Israel'.
What He is pointing out to them is the hereditary nature of their rebellion: 'Your sons, and your son's sons, and your grandsons and your great grandsons - and as far as you can go back, Israel, the sons of Israel are a people of rebellion!’ You remember that Israel was Jacob - whose name was changed to 'Israel' and Jacob was that one who had the nature to wrestle with God, and God is saying: 'You're all like your father Jacob, you are wrestling with Me, you are rebelling against Me!'
Israel had sunk to a level of the heathen nations. When Israel sinks to the level of pagan heathenism, and the Gentile world, God calls them by the name that describes their way of life. They had sunk to an all-time low, and they were beginning to live just like the people that were all around them.
If you want to put it in our terms: the world was seen in the church, and the church had become like the world.
They were head strong children - it reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 11:16, 17 - ‘What shall I liken this generation to? They are like children playing in the marketplace, and calling unto their fellows' - they're like spoiled children! God labels them as a rebellious, impudent, hardhearted, obstinate and stubborn people (v. 4).
He tells Ezekiel: 'You see when you're going as a missionary to these people language won't be your problem because they speak the same language as you do'. As one author put it: 'Being a Wycliffe Bible translator would have been a straightforward assignment in comparison to what Ezekiel had been called to do'. Language would not be the problem, the problem that they would have, the barrier that the man of God would have is utter rebellion against God - they would not listen!
God says . . .
Ezekiel 3:7 NASB95
yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate.
God says in chapter 3:7:
He is telling Ezekiel, listen: 'This is why you're going to be humiliated, because My people are a rebellious people - they don't want Me as their God!'
'They're not going to listen to you, Ezekiel, but it's not you they're not listening to - it's Me! They don't want to hear Me! My people don't want to listen to My word'. He is telling Ezekiel, listen: 'This is why you're going to be humiliated, because My people are a rebellious people - they don't want Me as their God!'

The Measure of Success in God’s Kingdom...

Now if success is measured on how responsive the congregation is, we would have to say that Ezekiel would go down as one of the greatest failures in all of history. But, you see, his success was measured by another standard – look at 2:5 - this is the standard by which he would know that he had succeeded:
'They will know that a prophet has been among them'.
In other words, when everything falls on this nation that Ezekiel prophesies to, when it all comes upon them they will remember one solitary, simple, significant thing: that this man called Ezekiel who warned them and called them to repent spoke the True Word of God.
As I studied this it struck me that the hardest people to get to repent are not the unrepentant sinners, but God’s own people.
Ezekiel 3:6 NASB95
nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you;
In fact, look at 3:6 “If I had sent you to the Gentiles, they would have repented right away. But I’m not sending you to the Gentiles.’ In remember Jesus said to his own people, “If I had done these mighty works in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes – even Sodom would have repented, but My people are a rebellious people, My people are stiff-necked, they are hard hearted.”
In fact, look at 3:6 “If I had sent you to the Gentiles, they would have repented right away. But I’m not sending you to the Gentiles.’
In remember Jesus said to his own people, “If I had done these mighty works in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes – even Sodom would have repented, but My people are a rebellious people, My people are stiff-necked, they are hard hearted.”
In light of this we have to ask ourselves a question:
as we seek to preach the Gospel to a world around that is dying, how do we measure success? Is it numbers? Is it conversions? Is it baptisms? Is it facilities? Is it how many visitors we have each week? Is it the amount of tithes and offerings we have each week? Is it the talent that we have in the pews? Do we hold to the philosophy behind the church growth movement in America that bigger is better.
Now please don't misunderstand me: we ought to strive to be as fruitful as possible, and we ought not to be content when our lives are at a standstill.
We ought to have a continual disposition of holy discontent!
What comes to me from these passages of Scripture is the sobering reality that this poor man Ezekiel's success and faithfulness could not be measured by numbers. His primary goal was not souls! He was told: 'You're going to go out, and they're not going to listen to anything that you say - but listen, My Ezekiel, you have a great high calling because I want your ministry to be for one goal, and that is My eternal glory!
Ezekiel, your preaching, your discipleship, everything that you do will bring glory to Me. It may not bring any souls into the church, but it will bring eternal glory to My name'.
As John Calvin, the reformer, said: '
When God wishes to move us to obey Him, He does not always promise us a happy outcome to our labor - but sometimes He wants to test our obedience to the point that He will have us be content with His command, even if people ridicule our efforts'.
Now what I don't want you to do is apply reverse psychology to this, and maintain that if you're bearing no fruit that must mean that you're very faithful (if our numbers are small then we must be doing something right!) - That’s not what the book of Ezekiel is saying. If we are not bearing fruit we need to ask questions of ourselves. But the point of this teaching within the book of Ezekiel is that we must give 100% to all that God calls us to – preaching, teaching, discipleship, evangelism, but at the end of the day God is the one who opens men's and women's hearts!
We must give God His sovereignty!
It may take a greater call to go and see nothing, than to see mighty things - and I believe that's why Ezekiel had to have a vision of God so high and lifted up, because he was going to go into a ministry that was not going to be fruitful tangibly and visibly.
William Greenhill (a member of the Westminster Assembly 1591-1671), the puritan, comments upon this saying:
'Sometimes God gives large encouragement, large promises, hope, success, providing for our infirmities - at other times a bare commission, a command, must suffice to do that which would make one's heart ache. It is His prerogative to send whom He will, and upon what service He will'.
The 20th Century Navy slogan was to be:
'Join the Navy and see the world' -
and in verse 6 of this chapter you see this:
'Join the prophets, be cast among prickles and thorn bushes, sit on the scorpion'.
He was called to absolute humiliation, rejection and broken-heartedness. He was called to see very little tangible fruit, yet the amazing thing is: this prophet Ezekiel was by nature just like all the rebellious people surrounding him – but by God’s grace and Spirit.
When he sees the vision of God, he meets God face-to-face; he falls down - a picture of his humble submission. Then, when he's commanded to rise to his feet, chapter 2 and verse 1, he rises to his feet we see that the only reason this man is able to receive the word of God, stand up on his feet before God, humble himself before God, is because he has been overwhelmed with the Spirit of God.

Where does the strength to serve come from?

Ez 2:2: 'The spirit entered into me when he spoke to me, and set me upon my feet, and I heard him who spoke to me'.
The Spirit not only raises him to his feet, but the Spirit enables him to hear the word of God. God not only hands into his hand the scroll of His word, but in Ch 3:2 God is the one who causes Ezekiel to actually eat and to swallow the scroll.
The whole picture is just a living out of the name 'Ezekiel'. Do you remember what the name 'Ezekiel' means? - 'God gives strength.’ Ezekiel was reminded that but by God’s grace he could (would) be ‘rebellious like that rebellious people’ (v. 8), and when his vision is over, and when Ezekiel's call is over, the Spirit lifts him and He sets him among the exiles back beside the river Chebar in the concentration camp.
He sits there, it says, for a week absolutely motionless and stunned - and what is the point of all this? What are we to take out of this?
This is the message: without God's power Ezekiel, literally, can do nothing. Do you see that? What a lesson! Is that not what the Lord Jesus said to His disciples? Apart from Me, you can do nothing!' ()
But we live in a different world don’t we? The role of the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed from then till now, but the fullness of his presence has. In the Old Testament the Spirit came to specific people to accomplish specific tasks, and He would rest upon a person and then go away from him for a period of time and come back upon them again. You remember David prayed: 'Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me'.
Yet throughout the Old Testament, and especially Joel chapter 2, there was a hope, an expectation, anticipation that one day the Holy Spirit would be poured out universally over all peoples and individuals. So we live in that day. The Spirit at the day of Pentecost was poured out upon His church, and has been poured upon all of God's people and equips all of them - what for? Why do we have the Spirit of God?
(NASB95) 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
We have been given the Spirit of God that we might proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us – that we might go out as prophets, priests, and kings and to preach the word of God through our words and our lives - as one author says: 'This is now the age not only of the priesthood of all believers, but of the prophethood of all believers'. We are called to proclaim the word of God!
Isn’t this the theme of Acts? - The coming of the Spirit being given to the believers and what for? To witness to Judaea, to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world. Was that not why the Lord told them before He left: 'Don't you lift a finger because you can do nothing without the Spirit of God, but wait here in Jerusalem until the promise of My Father comes, and then you shall be given power from on high!'.
Even on that day linguistics was not a problem, because the gift of languages was there at Pentecost. The problem today is still not linguistics, but the problem today is the same problem Ezekiel was faced with in his day, and that is: a rebellious, stiff-necked people that will not hear the word of God - people who are dead in their trespasses and in their sins and some even those in the church.
What people need today is not language that they can understand, but what we need in our world is new life from the hand of God! We need men and women who are touched and born-again and transformed by the Spirit to fulfill the purposes of God!
This is so relevant to the church today, because there's a great debate going on about what is the secret to evangelism, what we can do to bring more people to Christ and into his church. Maybe we should make our worship more ‘seeker friendly’ Maybe we should become better communicators? Is it to think of new methods and gimmicks to make sinners more comfortable in the church?
If Ezekiel were asked this question what would he have said? “Absolutely not!.” The Apostle Paul would have said, “Me Genoito!” (May it never be!) If Ezekiel was with us he would say: 'What you need is to fall on your face before God, and be equipped of the Holy Spirit to do what is a supernatural task of God' – beyond your ability and know that you may be rejected and humiliated. People will turn a deaf ear to you and will not respond, but your task is not to win souls or to have a mega church – your task is to bring glory to me your God through the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of my son, your Savior Jesus Christ.
This is your call and this is your purpose.
(See quote from John Calvin – Ezekiel p. 112)
“God sometimes so wishes his servants to acquiesce in his government, that they should labour even without any hope of fruit: . . . For as often as we are called upon by God before we apply ourselves to our work, these thoughts come into the mind: “What will be the result of this?” and “What shall I obtain by my labour?” And, then, when the event does not turn out according to our wish, we despond in our minds: but this is wresting from God a part of his government. For although our labour should be in vain, yet it is sufficiently pleasing to God himself; therefore let us learn to leave the event in the hand of God when he enjoins anything upon us; and although the whole world should deride us, and despair itself should render us inactive, yet let us be of good cheer and strive to the utmost, because it ought to suffice us that our obedience is pleasing to God.” (Calvin’ Commentaries – Ezekiel Lect. VI, p. 112)
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