When I talk to my husband after a particularly long and taxing day I want him to sympathize with me. I want him to acknowledge how hard-working he knows me to be and to give me a hug, showing me that he appreciates all of my efforts. I then imagine that this would refresh my heart and enable me to make it another day. However, more often than not, when I complain to my husband one of two things typically happens. Number one, he says “Oh…” I’m not joking. Yesterday, after a long day, I called him (he’s out of town) and told him how exhausted I was and his response was, “Huh…” So I dropped the subject immediately before I got irritated. Or number two, and what happens more commonly, is that he will proceed to tell me something I could have done differently that would have made everything better. Usually, it’s something he had previously mentioned that I chose to ignore. Part of me knows he’s right, but a bigger part of me is irritated that he can’t just feel sorry for me and make me feel better.
In the book of Ezekiel, God talks through the prophet Ezekiel to warn the Israelites that judgment is coming soon. He warns them about what needs to be done differently and what will happen to them if they don’t listen. In those days there was no Bible, and God only talked through prophets. So, when He had something to say everyone would gather around the prophet to hear the word of the Lord. Unfortunately, the people stopped caring about the message. Read what God says to the prophet Ezekiel about the Israelites:
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.’ 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. 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. | Ezekiel 33:30-32
The people encouraged one another to listen to what God had to say through Ezekiel, and they sat before him. They heard his words and acknowledged what was said, but they didn’t really care. God says their hearts pursue their own gain. He goes on to say that they enjoy hearing Ezekiel speak because it’s like a lovely song. Twice God says they didn’t do what they have heard.
Fast forward a couple thousand years and not much has changed. Too many of God’s people are going to church today to hear a pleasant voice and a lovely song. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with a preacher that has a gift for preaching. However, there is something wrong with a person who is more interested in how something is being said rather than what is being said. There is something wrong with someone who goes to church only to feel good. The Bible says that the word of God is penetrating and that it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It also says that the word of God is for correcting and teaching and to equip God’s people to do His good works. Author Max Lucado has said, “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way.” If you are hearing God’s word but it never reveals sin in your heart or you attend church week after week but you aren’t any different than the rest of the world other than where you spend your Sunday mornings, then something is wrong.
And when this comes to pass – surely it will come – then they will know that a prophet has been among them. | Ezekiel 33:14
God ends his warning in this chapter by saying some day they will understand that Ezekiel was a prophet. This is significant because in those days true prophets spoke only what God commanded. While the people thought they were just enjoying a good message together, what they were really doing was minimizing God’s specific instructions and warnings to them. God is always intentional. When His word is spoken in your presence it is because He has something specific to tell you. Are you going to listen to His truth and apply it, or will you only listen to what makes you feel good?