July 5, 2015 Text: Ezekiel 2:1-5
Dear Friends in Christ,
Albert Einstein, the German-born mathematician, slowly watched his homeland give in to Adolf Hitler’s fascist dictatorship. Einstein wondered if anyone would stand to oppose Hitler. He said, “When Hitlerism came to Germany, I expected the universities to oppose it. Instead, they embraced it. I hoped for the press to denounce it, but instead they propagated its teachings. One by one the leaders and institutions that should have opposed Nazi philosophy bowed meekly to its authority. Only one institution met it with vigorous opposition, and that was the Christian church.” The commitment of at least a part of the church to stand against evil, regardless of the consequences, made a profound impression on Albert Einstein. He confessed, “That which I once despised, I now love with a passion I cannot describe.”
This is the July 4th weekend and like the German Christians of the past and Ezekiel in our text we are in the midst of a nation of rebels. We see all about us those that have rebelled against God’s Word. Can the church do any less today than those who stood on the Word of God in the midst of a rebellious nation? We know it, we see it, and we are living it . . .
“UP AGAINST IT”
In our text, the prophet Ezekiel was up against it as well. As opposed to a call coming from a church, Ezekiel receives his directly from God. “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” (v. 1) God never addresses Ezekiel by name; he calls him “son of man” as a reminder of his weakness. This prophet is going out in weakness but has the Lord behind him.
We too address our fellow countryman in our sinful weakness. We stand in shame before a holy God and wonder what He can do with us. Like Ezekiel he has plans for us and He stands behind us with his strength and wisdom. Look at what the Lord does for Ezekiel.
“And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.” (v. 2) He receives the supreme Helper, the Spirit of God. He also is given the Word of God. This supplies the power that he will need when he is up against it.
We have been given this same power. We have 66 different books of the Bible that provide our direction and give us strength. It sounds so simple but it is true, as Luther said, it is “a mighty shield and weapon” when we are up against it.
What is Ezekiel up against? Verses 3 and 4 provide the answer, “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are also impudent and stubborn: I send you to them.’” What do you think Ezekiel was thinking? “Alright, let’s go, this sounds like a fun challenge.” For Ezekiel this was an official assignment to a heathen nation.
When you look at our rebellious, impudent transgressors among us that put you up against it, what do you think? Are you ready to stand strong or do you want to wilt like a flower back into the ground? We too have no choice. We are Christians who stand on the Word of God and this is our official assignment.
The assignment for Ezekiel and for us is so, so simple. “You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’” (v. 4) The prophet speaks God’s Word regardless of cost or results. Ezekiel was accountable only for being faithful in speaking God’s Word, not for the results: “And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (v. 5) Most of you know how the story ends. Israel plugged its ears, continued in their stubbornness, and received the wrath of God. Ezekiel was not held responsible. Eventually many would accept the truth of God’s message that he was sent to proclaim.
That message is Jesus came and kept the Law perfectly. He didn’t rebel against the Father’s desire. His perfect obedience pays for mankind’s continual rebellion. His death is our life. He can and does take away all sins. Christ first spoke through the prophets like Ezekiel and now He speaks for Himself. He sends us His Spirit, which comforts us. Through the church’s ministry we are bold as we receive the gifts of God’s Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
Let’s be honest. Today we feel up against it. Supreme Court rulings, the overall nastiness and perversion of people, the universities, the press, and even the White House all buying in. We want to celebrate our country but it’s hard. I find it hard just to leave my house. I had another experience this week with the desecration of Jesus’ name in a public place – a local baseball game. I said what needed to be said and moved on. God will provide the result there.
We are given the command today: “say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.” That’s not your judgment, don’t let them play that card, it is God’s judgment through His inspired, inerrant Word and that will ever change.
The hymn composer Jan Bender once carried a painful melody in his memory for over thirty years. This memory was only overcome by the power of God’s Word.
Bender was a student of composer Hugo Distler. At age 34 Distler ended his life because he had been charged by the Nazis to write melody to celebrate the triumphs of the Third Reich. He did, but the tune was far from triumphant. Within its notes you can hear oppression and souls in distress.
Jan Bender did not forget them. He carried this around for thirty years. He then asked professor Martin Franzmann to put the music to words. He did and we just sang it, “Weary of All Trumpeting.” He taught us to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.
Franzmann’s words capture the painful truth of our sinful sad existence: the ways of this world kill spiritually and make us weary. The heathen of our nation are doing a lot of trumpeting and it will continue. But remember: Christ died so that all of His people, wherever and whenever they suffer, might never despair, but might hear above the banter of our noisy fallenness, that single strong triumphant trustworthy word: “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33) That powerful memory transforms our inner being when we are up against and brings life through Christ our Savior.