Chapter 33:30-33 (ESV) - “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Question to consider: Why were the exiles suddenly interested in hearing what the Lord had to say through Ezekiel?
After the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, Ezekiel was faced with two groups of people: those in yesterday’s passage who lived among the ruins of Judah and still believed that God would let them possess the land, and those in today’s passage who lived among the exiles and were suddenly interested in hearing what the Lord had to say through Ezekiel.
However, their interest was not because they were cut to the heart by their sin and desired to repent in sackcloth and ashes. Their interest was to hear Ezekiel perform the oracles of God for their entertainment. Here was a man who predicted the death of his wife and the fall of the city. What other word could he give them, and how could they use it for their personal gain? The scene reminds me of the greater Son of man, Jesus, in front of king Herod after Pilate tried to avoid being judge over him, “When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.” (Luke 23:8)
Jesus remained silent in front of Herod, for He knew that Herod had no intention of listening to what He had to say any more than the people who came to Ezekiel had any intention of acting upon his warnings to repent of their idolatry and turn back to God.
I can’t help but draw a modern application from this. Many churches today look more like entertainment venues that try to create individual worship experiences. People are caught up in the light show, the music, and the talent of the musicians and vocal performers. They talk about how passionate the preacher is and how the worship service must be from the Holy Spirit because it moved them to tears. They may even be energized by the pastor’s ability to provide fresh insight about a familiar Bible story.
However, the reason we call the gathering on Sunday morning a service is because it is where the Lord serves us through His means of grace: word and sacrament. We confess our sins and receive forgiveness which brings us to the place where we are ready to learn and receive the word of God. This word shows us our sin and provides the hope of Christ who cleanses us from it and clothes us in His righteousness. We are then renewed through the body and blood of our Lord as we gather together around His table as the people of God. This gathering is for our edification and not our entertainment, and I would argue that the neglecting of it weakens our faith.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for providing us the means to gather as Your people and receive the life that You have given us through Your Son. Stir up in us a love for Your word and for our brothers and sisters in Christ and let Your grace and mercy overflow from us into the world. Amen.