Have you ever been prey to a bait-and-switch? In reality, a bait-and-switch is not only fraudulent, it is illegal. But sometimes it can be hard to prove.
But if we are honest, most of us have been guilty of a bait-and-switch. For instance, have you ever told someone that something would taste good, but you knew it didn’t? BTW, that is most any vegetable for me.
Sometimes we mean well, but that doesn’t change the fact that a change was made and people feel defrauded. And we can all be guilty because we are sinners.
I wonder if Ezekiel felt the same. The book of Ezekiel begins with a vision of heaven which is mind-blowing. Then, in Chapter 2, Ezekiel is called to serve God as a prophet. What a great honor! What a great privilege. What a great responsibility!
As we go through this series over the next three months, we are going to look at two prophets – one you might not know much and the other which you might know a little. The two prophets are Ezekiel and Daniel, both of whom were men who found themselves in a foreign land without any assurance that they would ever see their homeland – or the temple again.
These two men may have had some glorious moments, but they also had trials because of the uncertainty of the times in which they lived. But even though they lived in uncertain times, they each knew that God was with them and directing their paths – and helping them lead the people of Israel as well.
So, why would I begin with the idea of a bait-and-switch? Am I implying that God did a bait-and-switch with Ezekiel (and maybe Daniel). Not at all. In fact, I would say it was the opposite. Let’s look at Ezekiel 2 to explore my reasons.
God Fills Us with His Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 2.1-2)
In Ezekiel 1, Ezekiel had a vision that brought him to his knees (v. 28). At this moment, he was told to stand to speak directly with God. As God was speaking to Ezekiel, the Holy Spirit entered him. We don’t hear a lot about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but He is present – and very much so at times.
Because Ezekiel was humbled at what he saw, he was given the opportunity for something much greater. Likewise, when we humble ourselves and submit to God, His Spirit enables us to do far more than what we can do on our own. Our worship becomes pure. Our service becomes empowered. Our love becomes genuine. Etc. In other words, when God fills us with His Spirit, He gives us what is needed to bring Him glory in ways we never could on our own. In other words, God enables us to live our lives as they were meant to be lived – with Him and for Him. But it requires humility which is ultimately a recognition that we are not as great as we think we are.
God Gives Us His Unique Perspective (Ezekiel 2.3-7)
In verse 3, the attention is turned to what people have done to God. We often think in terms of how people help or hurt us, but the bigger issue is – always is – how people respond to God.
God was calling Ezekiel to be his messenger to the people of Israel. God made it clear that the people would not likely listen (see 3.7), but Ezekiel’s purpose is to be God’s voice to the people whether they listen or not. God made sure Ezekiel knew He would face challenges. He would be scorned. He may be hurt. But his goal was to focus on God’s message, on God’s mission, not his own desires.
This idea is a perspective that we all need more of in our lives. We all need to consider what God would want more than what we might want (or think we need). And this idea is why the vision in Ezekiel 1 is not a bait-and-switch. Rather, God was giving Ezekiel a glimpse into the only unspoiled reality – a place where God is not only on His throne, but all creatures around Him recognize the sovereignty and the glory of God. In other words, God knew that Ezekiel’s mission would be hard. Ezekiel would soon learn how difficult his mission would be. The people were not going to listen, but Ezekiel needed to remain true to God. So, God gave Ezekiel this vision to keep Him going…to keep Him focused…to keep Him determined to serve God despite what was happening around him, and even to him.
The writer of Hebrews shares something similar in 12.2, where it says that Jesus, “endured the cross” for “the joy that was set before Him” (quoted words in a different order for grammar in this sentence). God let Ezekiel have a vision of what is happening on the other side of eternity; Jesus knew that scene intimately. Jesus endured it knowing that His mission required a sacrifice to allow us an opportunity to join Him. Ezekiel needed to have that glimpse to sustain himself when the challenges began to rise around him.
In other words, God gave Ezekiel a different perspective. God can do so for any of us if we will just look to Him. For me, that includes Kenya; it includes Honduras; and perhaps other places I may one day visit to remind me that America may be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but God’s people are everywhere and He wants us to connect with one another for His purposes.
And having God’s perspective, gives us far more to do or say and that leads us to…
God Gives Us a Vibrant Testimony (Ezekiel 2.8-10)
What do you think when you hear the term prophet? As I have shared before, the definition of the word really means someone who tells the truth. And, if you think about our world today, so many people believe that truth is relative. Again, go back to the previous point about perspective. If truth is relative then no one’s truth is right, but if truth has a foundation, then we must have a higher perspective. And for the Christian that perspective comes from the Bible.
Of course, Ezekiel was a prophet, but His message was clearly from God. In Ezekiel 2.8, Ezekiel was shown a scroll with a message that was filled with lamentation and mourning (v. 10). The scroll was a reminder to God’s people of what would happen if they continued to rebel against God. Their rebellion already had brought them to captivity, but more remained. And Ezekiel was told to eat the scroll (3.1-2). Ezekiel now had the words from God within him having eaten the scroll. Furthermore, as we see in Ezekiel 3.26, God made Ezekiel mute for a period of time making it so that Ezekiel could only speak what God wanted him to say with the very words God wanted him to speak.
The lesson for us is that Ezekiel was able to share the word of God, he was able to testify about God, because he consumed the word from God. We need to be a people who are consuming God’s Word as well. It may not require literally eating the pages of Scripture, but it does require engaging with each page so that we do not have to share what other people have said; rather, we can share from our own lives not only how God’s Word is working in us, but how God is working through us because of His Word.
I began with the idea of a bait-and-switch. Although the practice may be illegal, the idea is somewhat present with legal protection with a statement such as “Limited Quantity Available.” But God is not into false advertising. Serving God is not always pleasant in the moment, but having His Holy Spirit and having a greater (i.e., God-like) perspective, can help us endure the challenges we might face, and all of that will give us a grand testimony to share – just like what God did with and for Ezekiel.
God showed Ezekiel a great vision to prep Him for what is to come. We may not get the same vision in advance, but we can glean from what Ezekiel wrote, from what Paul mentioned, and what John recorded in Revelation, not to mention the words of Jesus about what He is building for us (John 14). that any short-term sacrifice is worth it.
Like Ezekiel, we have a message to share. Like Ezekiel, we will be sharing that message to a rebellious people. And like Ezekiel, God is calling for His people to go, to share that message, and to help others know Him. For as God called and sent Ezekiel in the Old Testament, Jesus has commanded His followers to go and make disciples today.
Like in Ezekiel’s day, some will refuse to hear God’s message, but that does not mean the messenger is not supposed to share (3.11). God gave Ezekiel some unique assignments to share what God wanted shared. Paul wrote that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10.17), but sometimes alternative ideas can create an opportunity for people to hear a message they will otherwise refuse, or maybe one they have forgotten.
For us, that alternative idea is as simple as a greeting card. For the past three weeks, we have signed cards for the residents and staff at the nursing homes in Rock Port and in Tarkio. Those will be delivered this week. Today, we will prepare cards to be sent to some people who are missing from the fellowship of this church. I know some of you prepare cards for many people each Christmas, and I encourage you to do that. But these cards will be from the church in general.
Note: The title, the main points, and some parts of the explanation are taken from Lifeway’s Explore the Bible, Ezekiel-Daniel, Winter 2022 Pastor Resources (relating the sermons to the SS lessons).