Implore Them to Stay

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 33:9-11
9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

Reflection: Implore Them to Stay
By Erin Newton

Charles Spurgeon spoke of the importance of evangelism through vivid imagery about a journey to the afterlife. The language paints a picture of friends clinging to their loved one’s ankles.

“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

By God’s calling, Ezekiel becomes a watchman. His job is to warn others of incoming danger, to alert his friends and family. To be a prophet was to be a watchman. Speak truth, warn others. The consequences of the audience’s response would fall upon themselves.

Today, evangelism often makes us think about global missions. Sometimes we think about memorizing gospel presentations or starting purposeful conversations with strangers. Christians are engaged in evangelism by living ordinary lives and glorifying God. Whether intentional or subconscious, warnings or murmurs of warnings are spoken each day.

I think we struggle with how intentional we ought to be. For many, there is an aversion to sharing the gospel because spiritual abuse has created skepticism and resentment. We sometimes don’t know what to say or what parts of faith are of primary importance. Far too often secondary and tertiary issues have dominated conversations about Christ. These erroneous hierarchical debates lead to nothing but more skepticism and resentment.

A decade ago, my husband and I decided we needed to engage more with others about our faith. It wasn’t some sort of pious endeavor; it was a small voice in my soul. I couldn’t shake this question, “Do you really believe what you say you believe?” Perhaps today, we might label that question as the stirring of deconstruction. For me, it was the unraveling of a stagnant faith that had been stuck in the monotonous drone of religion.

What did I believe? Did I truly believe that only those with faith in Christ will live eternally with Him? Yes. I still do.

God spoke to Ezekiel, giving him a job. Tell others what you know. God’s desire is that none should perish. None. No rejection of Him is lightly received. No rejection of Him is our guilt. We are asked, like Ezekiel, to go unto all the nations and proclaim the good news.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad: he has gone from his home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own work to do; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow of dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I am saying to you I say to all: Stay awake!” — Mark 13.33-37

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 33 (Listen 6:03)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen 3:22)

Read more about The Blandness of Hell
Those who go to Hell, do so on their own. God lays no hand upon them…

Read more about Be on Lookout
Some Christians with a vigilante spirit confuse the call to alertness with a call to arms or a declaration of war.

The Limits of Ministry

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 33.30-32
30 “As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. 

Reflection: The Limits of Ministry
By John Tillman

Ezekiel ministered during a drastic change in Jewish worship. Since the exodus, Jews had never been without the ministry of the priests at the tabernacle or the temple. With the sacrificial system dismantled, the gathering of God’s people to hear the teaching of priests and prophets like Ezekiel was all that was left of their worship practices.

Ezekiel was faithful but there are limits to what a minister of God can accomplish. Pastors can’t control whether people listen or have faith or obey.

There is a sense sometimes among ministers that failures of culture, failures of the body of Christ, and failures of communities are somehow all on them.

“If I just preached the gospel better…” 
“If I just sang about God’s grace more beautifully…” 
“If I just refuted arguments more compellingly…”

There is also, at times, dissatisfaction among congregants about the content and presentation during times of worship.

“If only they would preach less (or more) about politics…”
“If only they would sing this type of music…”
“If only they would change this element…”

God holds prophets and preachers accountable for telling the truth but not for the outcome. Multiple times in scripture prophets were told ahead of time to speak the truth even though people would not listen. God requires watchmen on the wall to faithfully call out warning but holds people responsible for their response. Only if watchmen fail to tell the truth do they have blood on their hands.

Ministry leaders bear great responsibility and many fail in varying degrees as did Israel’s priests and prophets, (we will discuss this tomorrow) but hard-hearted listeners are still blameworthy. Even listening to Ezekiel, one of the greatest prophets of his day or any day, these exiled Jewish leaders remained greedy for gain rather than being repentant.

Ministry leaders are a force for good in the world when they raise their voices to call for change. But no matter how beautiful their voices are, if the body of Christ does not have ears to hear and hearts to respond, judgment will be the result.

We cannot allow pastors and worship leaders to become merely singers of love songs with beautiful voices and instrumentalists with beautiful artistry. We must have more than words of love in our mouths. We must have beautiful feet that carry the gospel. We must take actions that put God’s word into practice.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully. — Psalm 145.19

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 33  (Listen – 6:03) 
Psalm 81-82 (Listen – 2:36)

Read more about Denying our Exile
Much of Ezekiel’s ministry was attempting to convince the already exiled, that there was not going to be a miraculous return to Israel’s glory days.

Read more about Treasuring Our Temples
The worship they thought God prized had become annoying noise, because there was no justice established when they stopped singing about justice.