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- CW 981 In This Place Your Word Is Planted
- CW 870 O Church, Arise
- CW 901 O Christians, Haste
- CW 902 Spread Abroad, O Mighty Word
Message: Christ Provides Ministers To Proclaim His Word
Pastor Jake Schram
In May of 2014 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took to Twitter for a special event called #askthecommish. He was going to take time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions of National Football League fans. He was ecstatic; he was pumped to be a part of this groundbreaking occasion meant to give ordinary people an inside view of the workings behind the NFL. …It did not go well. Apparently, when you give people the opportunity to ask any question, people will actually ask any question. Some were a little mean, some were funny, and most of the questions had nothing to do with football at all.
Here are several that stood out to me:
- Is a hot dog a sandwich?
- Do you try not to think about the blood on your hands or do you just stuff money into the hole where your soul used to be?
- On a scale of 1 to infinity, how much do you enjoy the fact that working class fans have been priced out of attending games?
- 2 Qs: Ever had insensitive, potentially career-ending remarks secretly recorded? 2. If no, would you, please?
- Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
And here’s my favorite.
- If you were stranded on a deserted island, with only one book to keep you company, wouldn’t that be better for everyone?
Near the end of the event someone asked him, “Can I be commish for a day?” Goodell responded with, “From seeing some of these #AskCommish tweets, you sure you want to?” [i]
That was just a small sampling of all the shenanigans that went on that day. For some reason Goodell didn’t hold the same event the following year (sarcasm). He tried something and it failed miserably.
As much as I would like to say that I cannot, I relate to Goodell’s failed attempt a lot more than I’d like to admit. I think many Christians can. Today, we will see Ezekiel in a similar spot. His ministry isn’t always going to go that well. And yet Christ still turns Ezekiel into a minister to proclaim his Word. Today, we ask Jesus to do the same for us.
Before our text for today, the prophet Ezekiel is receiving visions from God. As a thirty-year-old man, Ezekiel is given a special peek into something similar to God’s glory. And just that small peek is enough for Ezekiel to fall face down in fear, reverence, and a whole bunch of other emotions. God has a message for Ezekiel. First, he tenderly raises Ezekiel to his feet. Then he tells Ezekiel how he will need to speak words to his people. But not just any words. The words that God will give him. God tells Ezekiel to open his mouth and eat what he gives him.
Here’s where our text jumps in. Ezekiel is speaking of what he saw at this point. “Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” Hold on a second. Words of lament and mourning and woe? That can’t be good. “God, are you sure you want me to eat this?” Chapter 3, verse 1. “And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” God reveals the point of his words. You see, these words are part of God’s Word. God wants Ezekiel to digest these words, to make them his own, to be part of his very being. And once the prophet has made it his own, as much a part of him as his own body if not more so, then he could go and speak God’s same Word to Israel. He was going to preach the words of lament and mourning and woe.
Why those words? At the time, Israel was rejecting God. They figured God didn’t matter and his rules were just interfering with the way they wanted to live. They believed everything was going to be ok anyways because they were special. They felt they could keep spitting in God’s face and his promises and expect everything to be fantastic. In their mind, they were untouchable because they had been God’s chosen people. Unfortunately, at this time they needed some tough love. They needed the truth that if they kept on a path away from God, it was not going to end well. Ezekiel was to eat and then preach the words of lament and mourning and woe to tell them these things. We will talk more about the preaching part later. But at least now you know the basics of what is going so we can continue talking about the eating of God’s Word. Ezekiel understands what he must do. So he opens his mouth, and God gives him the scroll to eat.
At this point, in verse 3, God once again says, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” Maybe God is just repeating his instructions again to Ezekiel because they are so important, but I cannot help but wonder if perhaps Ezekiel, with the scroll hovering next to his lips, is hesitating just a little bit. Does he really want to digest these words?
I can relate. When you read through God’s Word, cover to cover, there will be things that are uplifting and wonderful. Things you agree with wholeheartedly. There will also be things that puzzle you, that you struggle with, and maybe things you don’t agree with at all. At least at first. There are going to be words in the Bible you don’t want to eat. Maybe it’s the concept of forgiveness. “Forgive him? Are you kidding me? You saw what he did to me.” Maybe it’s concern over the concept of life. “What do you mean abortion is wrong? Doesn’t God want to give people the choice?” Or maybe, God’s words will even contradict today’s popular opinion on marriage. Just like in the garden of Eden, the Devil will try to get you to question God. Did God really say that? Can you really trust him if he did?
Have you ever eaten a food that you thought was going to be disgusting, yet was delicious? As a kid I was convinced I didn’t like orange juice. Weird, huh? Something about it just made me think I’d never like it. Maybe it was the smell. Maybe it was the taste. Maybe it was the fact it wasn’t usually produced in a soda can. I don’t know. But whatever it was I was convinced I didn’t like it very much. But I grew to love it. The more I tasted it, the more things I found I liked about it. The silly arguments I had against it melted away. And now I find myself getting a glass of OJ when I need a pick me up for a long day.
Being naturally sinful, of course we are not going to naturally agree with everything that God says to us in his Word. Greedily, we are going to put up arguments to protect the sinful lifestyles we enjoy so much. We are naturally going to try and ignore the parts that show us our sins. We don’t want to hear our faults or words of lament or mourning or woe. We want instant gratification. We want to be told we are perfect again and again. But often what we originally want isn’t what we need or satisfying in the end.
Look what happens when Ezekiel eats the scroll. And notice he doesn’t just take a small bite of God’s Word or quickly spit it out. He doesn’t pick and choose. He knows it’s good and he eats it all. And even the words of lament, mourning, and woe aren’t disgusting. Instead, all of it, as verse 3 puts it, tasted as sweet as honey in his mouth.
God’s words bring a satisfaction unheard of elsewhere in our world. While things like drugs and pornography, which feel good at first, leave you empty and unsatisfied over time, God’s Word fills us the more we partake of it. Even the tough words to hear are full of righteousness. And all of God’s Word tastes sweeter when you see God’s love through them. When you see how you’ve been turned from sinner to saint through Jesus’ actions. Even the words you didn’t originally like will become more satisfying to you in Christ.
Like a delicious meal, savor God’s Word. Devour it in your studies again and again. Take joy in even the justice of our God. Because then you can revel in the richness of his mercy and gobble up the gospel message of a Savior. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Eat and be satisfied.
In our text, after Ezekiel eats God’s delicious Word, God says to him, “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak my words to them.” That makes sense. After all, God had told him he was going to do that earlier. Then God has some good news for Ezekiel. “You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel” That’s great news. Ezekiel isn’t going to have to learn a new language. He’ll speak to his own people as easily as you and I can communicate with one another. Then God breaks the bad news to Ezekiel, “Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate.” Oh. That’s a bit depressing. No one will listen to Ezekiel…at least for this part of his ministry. After Israel falls, he’ll get to preach some good news and the remnant will listen, but we are not there yet. For this part of Ezekiel’s ministry, no one is going to listen to him.
Let me tell you, it is infuriating to speak and have nobody listen. To try your absolute hardest and for it not to be worth a lick of good. To sacrifice for someone constantly only to have them not remember and take advantage of you one more time. You might as well be talking to a wall. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve all been there before as you were trying to tell you kids something important, but it didn’t work. Or your spouse wasn’t listening. Or your parents wouldn’t believe you and your words fell on deaf ears. It’s hard to do the right thing and not be instantly rewarded with success. It’s even harder when you aren’t rewarded with success at all. We can be discouraged and maybe grow lax in our faith and our faithfulness.
For encouragement, I want to point you to the last several verses in our text. God doesn’t leave you in these times. Through the Word that you feast on each week, he makes you strong. Just as people who don’t listen can be hard-hearted or so hard-headed they won’t let the Word through their thick skull, God promises he can make your faith even harder. Through his Word he can give you a diamond hard faith so that you can stand strong against adversity. Because God is with you, you neither have to be afraid nor terrified.
We often get upset when people don’t listen to us or when people don’t flock into our churches at the slightest mention of Jesus from our lips. Now, it’s good to always double check what we are doing and how we can improve. But God offers another encouragement that is perhaps the most important as we share the Word of Jesus: God does not always call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful. He calls us to share the Word.
I would like to tell you one last story. It’s about the first time I ever wrote a sermon and preached it all by myself. I poured my heart into that sermon. I spent hours upon hours, days upon days, trying to make it just right. And I faithfully focused it all on God’s Word. After the sermon, I asked a lady how it went. She said, “It’s ok, you’ll do better next time.” Over the years I’ve received similar comments. I’ve also received some extremely generous comments. But I try not to beat myself up for the bad ones or get too big headed over the good ones because I know God smiled over all of the sermons I was faithful in preaching his Word.
I hope you know God rejoices when you preach his Word, regardless of whether it succeeds or fails. So please don’t let the fear of failure or the trepidation at how loved ones will react stop you. God just wants you to try. And often, through his Word, he brings about hearts. He brings forth people who love him and are saved. What a privilege it is to know you get to be a part of that.
God wants you to faithfully proclaim his Word, to minister to others. And it’s really a simple equation. First, make sure to fill up on God’s Word. Enjoy the fullness of that delectable meal and take heart of all the words God speaks to you. Then, faithfully share them. You may be the most eloquent speaker in the world or you might not be able to string a sentence together without stumbling over the words. Or maybe God speaks through you with actions. Regardless, God tells us to say to others, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen. And this will be how God continues to minister his Word. Through you. Amen.
[i] Questions found on Dailysnark and buzzfeed