Monday, August 2, 2010

A Prophet Among Them

We are a results obsessed culture.  How much money will it make?  How fast will it go?  How much change will it affect?  These are the questions we ask.  They're not bad questions.  They drive us toward success as it is typically defined.

The Church has taken much of this cultural obsession upon itself.  How many people can we get into church?  How efficient is this program?  How much of a difference are we making in our community?  Even in the Church these are not entirely bad questions.  There must be a place for evaluating our methods.  The problem comes when we equate success with the production of certain results instead of equating it with faithfulness.

Ezekiel 2 tells us of Ezekiel's prophetic call, his ordination to be the mouthpiece of God.  We might think that with a specific call from the mighty God of the universe there might come some guarantee of results; something along the lines of "as long as you proclaim the message I have given you everyone will listen to you."  Instead, v.4-5 read
"I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.'  As for them, whether they listen or not - for they are a rebellious people - they will know that a prophet has been among them."
God gives Ezekiel no guarantees.  The people might listen or they might not.  Making them listen is not up to Ezekiel.  Ezekiel's mission is not to manufacture results.  It is only to proclaim the message that he has been given regardless of what happens.  And God says that if Ezekiel will do that then regardless of whether or not the people respond they will at least know that God's prophet has been among them.

This is the mission of the Church - to be God's prophet among the peoples of the world.  We must live and speak in a way that proclaims the good news of Christ's victory regardless of whether or not there is anyone willing to listen.  This doesn't mean that the guy on the corner with a bull-horn is justified in his evangelistic approach.  After all, he may be speaking the right words but his method of proclamation is not a faithful representation of Christ.  It does mean that we continue (or begin) to do the right things, to live the life we are called to as a church even when  it doesn't cause our church to grow.  Ezekiel is told that even as he is surrounded by thistles and thorns and sits on scorpions he is to have no fear but is to continue to proclaim the message he has been given.

Of course, proclaiming the message faithfully presumes that we know the message.  As a part of Ezekiel's call, he is commanded to eat a scroll given to him by God (which we can safely assume contains the message which God is calling Ezekiel to proclaim).  Ezekiel must do more than simply read the scroll.  He must devour it, ingest it, internalize it.  God's message has to become a part of Ezekiel himself.

So how much time have you spent devouring the good news over the last week or so?  How much have you studied Scripture?  How much time have you spent listening to God?  Whether you do the traditional "read your Bible and pray every day" or you get more creative with spiritual disciplines doesn't really matter.  Are you devouring the word?  Are you so hungry for God that his message is inside you, that it has become a part of who you are?  Only when we commit ourselves to eating the book that God has given us will the people of the world know that there is a prophet among them.

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