The prophet Ezekiel’s call to ministry to his own people, the house of Israel, is detailed in part in the third chapter of Ezekiel; it reads in part: “And he said to me, "Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says,' whether they listen or fail to listen." Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound--May the glory of the Lord be praised in his dwelling place! -- the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days--overwhelmed.” (Ezekiel 3:10-15)
Ezekiel is exiled in Babylon and the Lord calls him to minister to his people. The Lord tells Ezekiel something he already knows, the people won’t listen; they are hardened and obstinate. “But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate.” (Ezekiel 3:7). The Lord encouraged the prophet to preach the truth whether they are willing to listen or not. (Ezekiel 3:11: Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says,' whether they listen or fail to listen."
As I read it, Ezekiel didn’t look forward to his task of taking this message to these hard-headed people. The Lord takes Ezekiel to the people. Ezekiel goes in “bitterness and anger of my spirit with the strong hand of the Lord upon me.” He went sulking and whining.
The Lord takes Ezekiel to the exiles living by the Kebar River and in Ezekiel 3:15: “I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days--overwhelmed.” If any of us today sat by our own Kebar for seven days overwhelmed, how would the church react?
This week in Southern California many people are experiencing their own personal Kebar experience. They are overwhelmed.
In West Central Minnesota, farmers are fighting mud and excess moisture to bring in the crop; they are discouraged; some may be overwhelmed.
From what I hear, the church in Southern California has responded in many great ways. I streamed San Diego radio all day yesterday on my computer at work trying to find out what was happening. What I heard on Public Radio about the church’s response was exemplary.
Our family in San Diego is fine (in fact, they returned to their home this a.m.) They are believers but I am sure at times this all becomes overwhelming. But what if they didn’t know Christ? What would be their hope? To be without hope would surely be overwhelming.
We, like Ezekiel, are called to “share” the message of Christ in word and deed. Whether people accept it or reject it is not our issue. We must tell them what the Sovereign Lord told us: “Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says,' whether they listen or fail to listen."
Are you at your personal “Kebar experience”? Do you know someone who is? What should we do? The world sends Prozac—we should demonstrate Christ crucified! In the midst of despair, we must demonstrate the reality of Christ. In Matthew 24:6 it says: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” In the midst of these “temporary trials”, we as believers must keep our head. The Lord is still on the throne.
When it is all done, we may need to go to our Kebar River, sit down and cry, be overwhelmed for awhile and let it all soak in; then we must get up and get back into action. Remember, no matter how dark it becomes, the battle belongs to the Lord.
Are we as the church ready for a widespread catastrophe? Would we minister or would we hide out behind our church walls justifying our own indifference? Remember, we are called to minister to a hard-headed world. We may not see any positive response; the results are up to the Lord. We are called to be faithful ministers of God’s goodness and grace found only in Jesus Christ. We should not expect the praise of men. Let’s go to work!