Sunday Morning my preaching colleague, Benjamin Lee, presented a lesson from Ezekiel 33 entitled “How Will You Respond?” It was a very practical lesson that spoke to our response toward God’s Word.
Ezekiel was a prophet and priest during Judah’s dark days as its people were being carried away into Babylonian captivity and just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. He was sent to a “rebellious nation” that had transgressed the Word of God (Ezek. 2:5)
30 As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’
31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.
32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.
33 And when this comes to pass — surely it will come — then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekial 33:30-33).
Ben observed that ancient Judah not only came to hear the prophet but invited others to hear. They listened. They thought his message was like a “very lovely song.” The NIV renders this “like one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice.” And the NASU translates the expression “like a sensual song.
Regardless of the English rendering, the message is clear. These people did not take the Word of God seriously. They didn’t listen with the intent to change and correct the error of their way. As one commentator expressed it, “They saw Ezekiel as an entertainer who sang love songs, not as an exhorter who sought to convey God’s love to them.”
Ben’s application was pertinent and personal. How do you respond to God’s Word? How do you listen to a sermon? What do you get from a Bible class teacher?
It’s possible to “enjoy” a sermon just like attending a secular production. To compliment the “performers.” But leave with no intention of effecting any change. Like the people in Ezekiel’s day, we may hear the Word, but fail to do it.
As I have reflected on Ben’s lesson, I wonder why? Why do people attend church services, listen to sermons, speak well of them, but walk away and do nothing to put them into practice?
The people in Ezekiel’s day were described as rebellious, stubborn idol worshipers. In a word, their heart was not right before God. Could that be the heart of the problem today? The heart.
Ezekiel addresses the issue of the heart 34 times in his book. At one point the prophet reprimanded them with these words. “How degenerate is your heart!” says the Lord God, “seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot” (Ezek 16:30). More than once he said their problem of idolatry was an issue of the heart.
When the heart is filled with carnal desires, worldly ambitions, and secular attractions, there is little room for the Word to take root. While we do not worship idols crafted from wood or stone, we may still be guilty of idolatry. Our careers, sports, hobbies and material possessions can become our idols.
It is possible to attend church out of tradition, thinking that our mere presence satisfies God’s requirement. Listening to the Word with that attitude will not touch the heart. We leave, shaking the preacher’s hand and saying, “Good sermon.” But with little thought on how to implement it in our daily lives.
On occasion when I have told a story to illustrate a point, someone will comment on how much they liked the story. But I often wonder, did they get the point? Did it hit home? Were they like the people of Judah merely enjoying the preaching like a lovely song?
What kind of hearer are you? How do you respond to God’s Word? What impact will it have it your life?
Your answers to these questions will reveal a great deal about the state of your heart.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman