We’re going to be in a few different passages today, you can find their references in your bulletin, but our main passage and the starting point comes from Ezekiel 33:30-33.
As I was preparing for this series, I did decide to conclude it here in chapter 33, though there are 48 chapters. I want to encourage you: continue to read throughout this book on your own. Ask questions! There are a lot of weird visuals, visions that occur. Prophecies that have been fulfilled and are still to be fulfilled. Dig into them and ask God to uncover the truths and their specific application for your life today. That’s a good prayer anytime we open God’s word!
Today we end this series similarly to how we began it. With the word of the Lord coming to Ezekiel, the calling of Ezekiel. Today I want to look at the purpose of a prophet.
There are plenty of prophets in the bible, but do you ever wonder why we don’t have records of more Jonah-type stories? You know, the word of the Lord comes to the prophet and he or she is like “Nope. Not gonna do that.” My guess is that we only hear the stories from the obedient ones (including Jonah, eventually) because they were obedient to their calling. Sure, they have their reservations. Jeremiah told God “I’m too young!” As if God didn’t already know how young he was. It wasn’t a good enough excuse for God to rescind his calling on Jeremiah.
So what are the essential pieces to the purpose of a prophet?
- Awareness: Identifying the calling – I am a Messenger
- Action: Present the message – Here is the Message…
- Application: Message left to the hearer to receive – Help them know how to live it out (John the Baptist)
Awareness, Action and Application. There is one other important thing about being a prophet that they all needed to know. A quality they all had to possess to be successful. It shows up in our selection today, but we will look at that 1 Thing at the conclusion of today’s post. But first, let’s talk about awareness.
Awareness – I am a Messenger
Each prophet had to acknowledge their calling. Most usually God provided no way they could ignore this. At the start of this series, we looked at Ezekiel’s initial calling. He had to
“…speak [The Lord’s] words to [the people], whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”
God solidified this calling by having Ezekiel eat a scroll!
He did eat the scroll, taking God’s message deep inside himself, and it tasted sweet like honey.
When we bounce ahead to the gospels, we find the calling of John, the cousin of Jesus, (Luke 3:1-20)
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Luke 3:1-3 NIV
These men acknowledged their calls by…doing something! I know, real ground breaking stuff.
Ezekiel ate the scroll. John went into the countryside, proclaiming the word provided to him.
A little while further in the New Testament we see a similar situation. Paul and Barnabus were in a town, worshiping at the synagogue. They came in and they “sat down.” As you might remember, that term infers that a person of authority is teaching. The teacher sits down in Moses’ seat.
Now, they had their calling much earlier, but in the context of this story, the people invited them to speak. “The rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” – Acts 13:15b
They were looking to them for a message. Why? Because they were messengers.
Once the messenger acknowledges their call, they move quickly to the next step. They take action.
Action – Here is the Message
Of course, a messenger has to present a message or else they really aren’t a messenger. All the messengers noted in the post today had specific messages for specific original audiences.
Ezekiel was called to be a watchman for the people. He would give messages of warning that would, ideally prevent negative consequences… Or so we might think.
“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.”Ezekiel 33:7 ESV
During exile, this chapter shows evidence that the people were more entertained by Ezekiel’s words than convicted by them.
“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.’Ezekiel 33:30 NIV
I picture this similar to the attractive nature of big events. Everybody is telling their friends, “You’ve got to hear this guy, see him in action! it’s such a spectacle!” Now maybe no one talks like this any more about big event speakers, but many sure do about viral posts and videos online. A whole company, TikTok is making a name for themselves from one of their earliest viral videos: “mystery apartment girl.” The commercials are literally people retelling this popular video, engaging their audience and hopefully getting them to see the video for themselves. Of course using the advertiser’s app to do so.
So Ezekiel’s talks were like viral videos today. He could have been TikTok famous! But just like viral videos the audience only sees entertainment.
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.Ezekiel 33:31 ESV
John the Baptist saw a similar situation. He went out to the country to preach repentance and to baptize and some folks just came to see what all the commotion was about.
He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”Luke 3:7-9 NIV
With just a few words, John separates those truly seeking from those who came out to see the show, those who believe they are good enough.
Jumping back to the book of the Acts of the Apostles:
Paul and Barnabas brought a message of encouragement, as they were asked. As Paul speaks, he…
- Recaps the history of the People of Israel, all the way back to pre-captivity Egypt
- Traveling in the desert
- Destroying the 7 nations in Canaan and taking over the promised land
- Prophet/Preist Samuel
- The people’s demand for a king, which God answered first with Saul…and then David.
He goes on for quite a bit longer but his point is to connect King David to his descendant, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was not only King, but Savior…Messiah.
Paul finishes with the following statements, bringing David back into the minds of his audience:
36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.Acts 13:36-39 NIV
Soon after he finished, people were begging them to come back next Sabbath! In fact it became such a nice hot ticket that the scripture says “the whole city” came to listen. Everybody! Wow. What would it be like to have to hold a worship service in a big open space because ALL Viroqua showed up? There’s not one Church in our town that could hold it!
You would think this is where we end. What a wonderful opportunity for Paul and Barnabas! But there is something that they couldn’t control: the people’s response. They can give them directions, like all speakers but the audience has to actually apply it to their lives. We’ve had awareness, action and now application.
Application – guidance to live out the message
John the Baptist is one of the best examples of all of these. He brings his message and the people respond, asking for ways to live it out.
““What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”” Luke 3:10-14 NIV
He presents them with practical applications of the message he brings as the messenger.
Before we set to the second sabbath service with Paul and Barnabas, what was the response from the people besides an invitation to come back?
“When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.”Acts 13:43 NIV
Many followed Paul and Barnabas. Awesome! You would think the second sabbath service would produce EVEN MORE followers…Well it did produce something. Their great success produced jealousy.
“When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.”Acts 13:45 NIV
This was actually a blessing in disguise. It was a catalyst for a bigger application of the message. The Good New preached now to the Gentiles.
“We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.Acts 13:46b-48
We got a second sermon and a commissioning service all in one!
But our friend Ezekiel did not have the greatest time guiding others in applying the messages to their lives. Ezekiel 33:32-33 concludes with the Lord saying this to Ezekiel:
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.
33 “When all this comes true—and it surely will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”Ezekiel 33:32-33 NIV
It’s kind of a bit of “too little, too late” situation. “Oh that weird crazy person? Ezekiel? Yeah he actually was a prophet. I wished I’d figured that out sooner.”
What are the essential pieces to the purpose of a prophet?
Awareness of their calling as messenger, take action to present the message God gives them, and guide the audience to apply the message to their lives.
But what’s this +1 thing you were talking about?
Conclusion “1 Thing”
The 1 thing that is essential to being a prophet: Faithfulness. Ezekiel Had to present message after message. Doom and Gloom. John preached “Y’all are sinful, bad people. You need to die to yourself, be washed clean!” Paul, “Jesus is king and savior!”
They were faithful to God and his call on their lives. He put his word in their mouth, they were faithful to speak it. They were to be faithful to the Call to be Messengers. But you know what wasn’t their job? The people’s response.
Jonah’s job wasn’t to walk the people of Nineveh through a 10 step repentance program. He was just to bring the message. Paul knew he and his posse had to go to the Jews first, though the good news was for the whole world. When they were rejected, they shook the dust from their feet and moved on to the Gentiles.
John called to anyone who came, but he called out the two-faced fakes who didn’t desire real change…just came to see the show.
The audience’s acceptance or application is never a messenger’s responsibility.
Thought, sometimes we make it that way, don’t we? If my son, my daughter, my neighbor, doesn’t go to church or accept Christ…I’ve done something wrong. I’ve failed.
Even if you don’t feel you are a prophet, a message bringing, chances are you have at some point been concerned with failing other’s. I’m here to tell you today…to tell myself. That’s not your job.
Your job. My job. The prophet’s job. FAITHFULNESS.
Acknowledge what God has called you to. Jump into action and share whatever message God puts on your heart, help people to apply it…but through it all…all that matters is if you are faithful to God. Not whether the crowd stays awake through the closing prayer, not if they clicked off this recording half-way through when listening online.
My job. Your job is faithfulness.