Sometimes people ask pastors, “How did you get into the ministry?”
The answer to the question is always different. Each pastor’s calling is different.
Ezekiel was God’s pastor to God’s people in 600 B.C. He tells us in the words before
us this morning how it was for him…how he became a pastor.
(By the way, the word pastor means shepherd. Psalm 23 talks about the Lord being
our Shepherd. David, who was a shepherd in his early days, wrote about the Good
Shepherd. But Ezekiel the pastor also knew about shepherds and sheep. He wrote
chapter 34 which is dedicated to talking about pastoring and pasturing and shepherds
Let us today consider…..
EZEKIEL’S SENDING (his calling)…
1. A Spiritual Standing
2. A Stubborn Staying
3. A Sovereign Saving
1. A Spiritual Standing
There was something about Ezekiel getting to be a pastor that had to do with his
standing. You could understand that in different ways…standing with God, standing
with men, standing in the community, standing in the congregation. But you can also
just know it had something to do with just plain standing.
“He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As
he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking
There are times when God wants us on our knees. There are times when God wants us
on our faces. There are times when God wants us on our feet. For Ezekiel the pastor,
this was the time when God wanted him on his feet. To stand in the presence of God
is a privilege. That is not something that we would likely do. It is a fearful
thing to stand in the presence of God, the book of Hebrews tells us. God is righteous
and powerful. God is out of our class. The normal posture for people in the presence
of God is prone…on their faces. And surely for us humans who know our share of
bad and wrong and imperfect and blemished and blotted…it would be a fearful thing
to be able to stand in God’s presence. How could we possibly do that? How could
we do that and keep our feet under us?
It is God who makes this possible for pastor and parishioner alike. He uses his
Spirit to lift us to our feet and to make us stand. The only way that is going to
happen is if that Spirit of God takes our sins away and makes us righteous like God.
And that is what that Spirit does. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you
were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I Corinthians 6:11 There it is! And now, because of that working of God’s Spirit…faultless
to stand before the throne!
The Angel Gabriel at the time of Jesus’ birth spoke to a hesitant and unbelieving
old man named Zecharias who had just doubted whether he would be the father of the
Forerunner, John the Baptizer. And this is what the angel said, “I am Gabriel. I
stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you
this good news.” Gabriel stands in the presence of God. You and I will too. The
very words spoken by the angel at Christmas time are the words that are spoken to
Ezekiel in this reading. But best of all, these are the words that God’s Spirit
also speaks to us. “Stand up. Stand fast! Just stand here before your Father and
your God. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil
comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything,
to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)
2. A Stubborn Staying
But in Ezekiel’s sending there was also the word “stubborn” that got into the conversation.
“Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has
rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this
very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn.”
There is resistance. There is rebellion. There is reaction…and it isn’t good. Moishe
Rosen who leads up the Jews for Jesus organization said, “Before there is a response
to the “offensive” Jesus, there is a reaction.” It has always been so. Our natures
have declared war on God and his Son. It is only through the clarion call of God
through his Word and his Cross that we can lay down our weapons and take up his.
This is when we “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes,
we may be able to stand our ground.”
Stubbornness is a matter of the heart. The Apostle Paul was stubborn before God
broke through his resistance. Jesus had to say on that day, “Saul, Saul, it is hard
for you to kick against the goads.” Thomas was stubborn in his unbelief too. Even
though the rest of Jesus’ disciples had seen him after Easter, Thomas had not and
would not believe. He was dug in. He said, “I will not believe unless I put my
hand into the scars.” That is what unbelief says, “I won’t do it. I won’t believe
you. I won’t accept it. I won’t have it.” Stubborn!
And God has our number on this. He knew where he was sending his pastor Ezekiel.
He was sending him to “stubborn people.” These are people who have their hearts
in their own grasp. That is literally what it means to be stubborn here in the Hebrew
language. That is why King David wanted to say, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.” He had been stubbornly holding out too. He
wasn’t repenting. He wasn’t tearing his heart and not his garment. He wasn’t coming
quickly to the state of being broken and contrite before the Lord. Remember what
it is that pleases God: “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
To which we can all pray: And Lord, please keep me from stubbornness. Keep me from
bowing my back and clenching my jaw. Keep me from saying, “I will not.” If my stubbornness
to you and your promises and your Son are like flint, then be harder than flint and
overcome my stubbornness.
3. A Sovereign Saving
The sending of Ezekiel wasn’t just about telling stubborn people that they were stubborn.
It wasn’t just a preaching of God’s judgment. It was also a preaching of his mercy
and his saving. It was to remind the people that he was and is Sovereign. It was
to remind the people that he was and is the Sovereign one who saves them and us and
all people who believe him.
Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or
fail to listen---for they are a rebellious house---they will know that a prophet
has been among them.
This sending of Ezekiel takes place through the Sovereign Lord. That is a special
way of addressing our God when we want to emphasize his power and rule. This is
the Boss talking! Ezekiel found this very comforting when he had to deal with his
“out of control” people. He could say, “I am speaking on behalf of the Boss of heaven
and earth. You may listen or fail to listen, but know one thing, the Boss has spoken…the
Sovereign Lord, has spoken.”
When we hear the words, “Whether they listen or fail to listen…” we can think something
negative. But it is also possible to hear something positive. Some do listen! Some
recognize the prophet. Some hear Jesus in the words. God works through his prophets.
Still. He comes in the Lord’s Supper and Baptism and the Word. All three of these
things are administered by “prophets.” All the prophets who are true prophets had
their sending too. They were called by the same God to go to people who would listen
to them and listen to the Sovereign Lord himself.
Listen to what this Sovereign Lord would say through this same Prophet Ezekiel in
another sermon. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will
cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a
new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh…I will be your God. 36:25ff. And hear this same Sovereign
Lord preached in Easter description by Ezekiel, “This is what the Sovereign Lord
says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them…Then
you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you
up from them.” Ezekiel 37:13
The Sovereign Lord has spoken. We have heard. We believe. We know that his prophet
Ezekiel has been among us today.
And we are saved! Amen.