Whether They Listen Or Not

“I am sending you to them who are a stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ As for them, whether they listen or not, tor they are a rebellious house, they will know that a prophet has been among them…But you shall speak My words to them, whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.” Ezekiel 2:4-7

Babylon

Ever get the feeling that no one is paying attention to you? You’re talking, but nobody seems to be listening. It can be frustrating, especially if the people you’re talking to are supposed to be listening. Parents get that feeling once in a while. OK, maybe more than once in a while. But that doesn’t stop them from talking, trying, hoping to get through to the people in the world they are most responsible for, their children.

Many of the prophets of the Old Testament felt the same way, like they were talking to children who just could not be bothered to listen. Ezekiel was specifically told by God that the people might very well not listen to what he had to say. But that he was keep saying it, “whether they listen or not.”

In Ezekiel’s place I think I may have been tempted to think, “What is the point? If they’re not going to listen, why waste my breath?” The point, however, in Ezekiel’s case was not whether the people listened or not. For Ezekiel the point was that he be obedient to God. And the point for the people God had called him to speak was that “they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

Ezekiel started his career as a priest, serving in the temple in Jerusalem. He was among the captives taken away to Babylon, where he continued his work as a prophet. His life, and that of the other prophets in the Old Testament, fascinates me. One the one hand they had a very special relationship with God. Many heard His voice audibly, some had vivid dreams and visions. None of them had it easy. Yet they persevered.

Hebrews chapter 11 tells us that, “they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword,” and the list of ill treatment goes on until the writer of Hebrews says, “And all of these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

These few verses from the book that bears his name give just a glimpse of what was to come for Ezekiel, and what God would ultimately accomplish through the prophet’s life and obedience. And it’s that obedience that, if we practice it, can lead to our fulfillment and joy as we allow God to work not only in our lives but in the lives of others around us, whether they listen or not.

Jerry Williams