Confession Time: There are times when I wonder is it even worth it to preach? Not because I don’t believe in what I’m doing, or I’ve lost faith in the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to impact the lives of others, but because it seems that no one is listening. There are times when it seems that the rebellious are going to continue to be rebellious no matter what message we present, so why even bother?
Confession Time: I don’t think I’m alone in this frustration. There are times when all of us wonder why do we even try to present the Good News to a world that seems to care so little for the ways of God. There are times when we openly remark, some people are always going to be evil, and the road to destruction is broad and many find it, so why even try? Perhaps, it would be better to simply encourage the faithful to stay true, and allow the everyone else to fend for themselves.
It’s in the midst of these thoughts that I found myself recently in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a prophet in exile. He receives his call to ministry while with the exiles by the Chebar canal in Babylon. He’s given the difficult task of preaching to a group that has been sent into exile specifically because they haven’t listened to the prophets who have come before and have continued in their rebellious ways. If anyone has a difficult crowd to speak with, it’s Ezekiel. The situation is so dire that in the early chapters of the book Ezekiel recounts a vision he received of God leaving the Temple, and later abandoning the entire area because of the sins of the people. Ezekiel’s point seems clear: the situation is so evil, God is leaving the people alone and they will be destroyed by their own sins.
Near the beginning of chapter 12, God even recognizes the difficulty of the task God has given Ezekiel to perform. Ezekiel is asked to present a visual sermon by packing up a bag and sneaking through the wall while in plain sight as a sign that Judah is being exiled. While giving the instructions, God makes this interesting statement concerning the reaction to Ezekiel’s sermon. “Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 12:3) It’s an interesting statement that is both hopeful and pessimistic. The hope is that Ezekiel’s message will somehow impact the exiles even when other messages have failed, and the change in heart will lead to repentance. While there is hope, God also recognizes the reality that these are a rebellious people and chances are, they will not repent. However, even faced with this reality, that most likely the people will remain in their sins, Ezekiel is still commanded to preach, and he fulfills the calling. Ezekiel is commanded to present the message whether the people respond positively or not. The message isn’t reserved for receptive audiences. The calling is to preach. Hopefully, the people will respond in repentance. But even if they don’t, Ezekiel will still preach.
God, and Ezekiel, provide a timely reminder, not only for those of us in ministry, but for all of God’s people. We have been called to join God in God’s mission to the world. We have been tasked with sharing the gospel; that is at times both freeing and convicting. We have been called to preach the Word, sometimes in formal settings, but most often in the many multitude of ways we live life. The hope is obviously that our preaching will make a difference. The hope is that those who have wandered away from God will be cut to the heart, and like those on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 will declare, “what must we do to be saved?” The hope is that our preaching is used by God to change the world. Yet, we don’t preach for a response. We preach to be faithful. We preach because we have been saved, and we want to share that news with others. We preach because God has called us to share a message with the world. Hopefully, the world will repent, however, they may not. Still, no matter the response, our calling is to preach.
Thus, even when I confess that I wonder at times if it’s even worth it, if it’s making any type of difference, I’m reminded (challenged) that I’ve been called to preach, and I will be faithful to the calling, no matter what. We have been given a message to share, it’s a message of Good News. Our task is not to convert the masses. Our task is to preach and share the Good News, no matter the outcome.