Hearing But Not Obeying
But as for you, son of man, your people (who are talking about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses) say to one another, ‘Come hear the word that comes from the Lord.’ They come to you in crowds, and they sit in front of you as my people. They hear your words, but do not obey them. For they talk lustfully, and their heart is set on their own advantage. Realize that to them you are like a sensual song, a beautiful voice and skilled musician. They hear your words, but they do not obey them, (Ezekiel 33:30-32).
The above text from the thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel evokes several images for us and it reminds us of what can and unfortunately, does happen too often even in today’s world when people go to the house of the Lord for worship. This particular passage is concerning the Jewish exiles during the time of the Babylonian Kingdom led by Nebuchadnezzar. The people had been taken from their Promised Land because of their failure to obey the Lord. It really was that painfully simple, yet in spite of this, the people complained and questioned, asking “why?” often. It failed to sink in that their rebelliousness was the direct cause of the forfeiture of the Land, at least temporarily.
Often God would remove the people of one generation from the Land because they had been found unworthy due to their hard-hearted natures. Eventually, another generation of people would come of age and begin crying out to the Lord regarding their situation or captivity. The Lord would have pity on this new generation and bring about a release and guide them back to the Land. This was a cycle that was often repeated throughout the Old Testament and one that exists in part today for Israel.
Though Jews are back in the Land today (and still many continue to stream back to Israel), they do not seek the Lord, though many orthodox Jews would argue that they in fact, have been and are seeking Him. However, because they are still blind to the fact that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah (and Savior), they are still in rebellion with God. They’re looking in the wrong places.
As we read in other parts of Ezekiel, during the end times, God will bring the Jews back to the Land even though they have no understanding that He is doing that (Ezekiel 37:12). This is all in preparation for the final remnant of Israel to truly and finally possess all the Land originally given to them via Abraham; something they have never done. This will occur during the coming Millennial Kingdom over which Jesus Himself reigns, following the seven-year period known as the Tribulation.
But in the above text, we learn that these Jews, though in captivity, could not see the complete spiritual disconnect within them where God was concerned. God is speaking in Ezekiel 33:30-32 to the prophet Ezekiel (referring to Ezekiel as the “son of man”). Notice God says “your people” in reference to the Jews. While some commentators turn this into God ultimately referring to the Church, that interpretation does tremendous damage to the text and is wholly inaccurate. All of Ezekiel, like most of Daniel, refers to the nation of Israel, not the Church. God spells this out quite clearly. Those who prefer Replacement Theology see this as ultimately referring to the Church. It is not so, however.
But the truth of the passage – the fact that these Jews enjoyed crowding around the prophet Ezekiel to hear what he had to say – reminds us of how people within Christendom often do the same thing. That is the only connection and it is an application of the text that speaks to all people who go to a place of worship to be entertained and to feel good about having gone to church for worship in the first place. That’s their goal; to feel good.
But notice what God says here. He points out that people talk with one another and say essentially, “Hey, let’s go hear what the pastor is teaching from God’s Word!” These people come expectantly to church, gladly sing songs of praise, maybe even shed a tear or two during worship because of the emotion that wells up within them. They then turn their attention to the preacher as he teaches from God’s Word. Notice the text again, “Realize that to them you are like a sensual song, a beautiful voice and skilled musician.” God sees the heart. He sees past the outward trappings (the tears, the smiling faces), to the truth within a person. That’s what counts and that’s where truth resides.
God is telling Ezekiel that when he (the prophet) speaks to the people on God’s behalf, they sit at attention. They hear what Ezekiel says and they agree with his words. They may even talk among themselves excitedly as people do who listen to a beautifully sung song or music played by skilled musicians. If you’ve ever had the chance to listen to a symphony or hear a vocalist do tremendous justice to a song, you know the feeling. It hits you in your emotions and it often thrills you. People can be brought to tears over the beauty of such things. Yet, God is emphatic here that though the people are excited to the point where their emotions are impacted, ultimately what they hear and what they feel has no lasting impact. It does not change how they live before the Lord.
There are many Christians who go to church, who “enjoy” the worship, who believe they gain much from biblical preaching. Yet, look at their lives when not in church and what do we see? We see people who are hypocritical. We see people who as James says are torn between worshiping God and following their lustful desires (James 1:21-25). I have to admit that I see myself fail too often and it is troubling. Yet, when I’m in church, I appreciate the hymns, the special music, and the preaching. I take notes, both physical and mental. I think about my life and the impact it has on others and I wonder if the impact is for His glory or mine? Too often it seems, rather than bringing glory to Him, I dishonor His Name.
This ought not to be. I am saved. It is something that cannot be taken from me or lost. I go to church. I participate in the singing. I listen wholeheartedly to the preaching. I think that I am being impacted. Yet, when I am away from church, the old self rears its ugly head. I don’t intend for this to happen, but it does.
What God is speaking about here in Ezekiel though, are those people who have actually no intention of allowing the worship, the preaching or anything else actually change them. They go into a worship service with that attitude and because of it, they are merely superficially impacted, while they are there. For them, it’s simply another social event. They are not interested in being changed by the truth they hear, whether in song or spoken word. These people go to church and simply put on the face they believe they should have on. The gathering of others and the enjoyment that comes from seeing friends helps bring that “joy” to the surface so it certainly can seem real. They are friendly to a fault, seemingly overjoyed to be in “church,” and spend a good amount of time chatting with people, laughing with them as though they haven’t seen them in months, and they pay careful (outward) attention to the singing and the sermon. Unfortunately, they have no intention of being changed by it because they listen only with their ears, not with their will and heart. They desire no change therefore there is no change.
They leave that worship service and immediately shed their “Sunday” clothes and demeanor. Immediately, they are transported back into their miserable state of existence where the smallest annoyances create monumental problems for them. They pick at others, they find fault, they spend an inordinate time focusing on the problems they see in others because they dare not stop to look at their own faults and foibles. If they did, they would be even more miserable, so they avoid that like the plague.
The Jews of Ezekiel’s day were just like many in churches today. At least some of those Jews were Jews in name only. Oh sure, they were “born” Jewish, but like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who thought they were above all other people and automatically connected with God solely because Abraham was their father, Romans 9 – 11 talks about people who are Jewish by birth but not circumcised in heart or will. They draw near to God with words only but the intentions of their hearts are far from Him. He ignores such people.
Is this you? Is this me? I’ve already stated that I see the ways I fall down during the week. Whether I’m driving or standing in a line at a store, my impatience can get the best of me. Yet, the truth of Scripture tells me that in all things – all things – I should be like Him. In order for that to happen, I have to be committed to Him and submitted to Him on a daily, often moment-by-moment basis. Yes, it’s difficult and to have any success, we must be fully dependent upon Him and His power that will work through those who submit to His authority.
I know of no other way to live Christianity, do you? We can be people who come together on Sunday and “put on” a show of faith for that specific event, then cast it off as soon as we leave the service or we can be people who struggle with ourselves and overcome by the power of His strength working in and through us. Clearly, the former is exceedingly easy, while the latter is very difficult.
As for me, I do not want it to be said that I hear the preacher’s words but do not obey them. How about you? It is a work in progress and as long as we are alive in this realm, it will always be something we need to work toward achieving. That work, by the way, does not save us. We work to submit ourselves to Him because we are saved and we do so to honor His mighty Name.
Let us be a people who hear and obey.
Entry filed under: christianity, Cultural Marxism, Emotional virtue, eternity, Life in America, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Pretribulational Rapture, rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, second coming. Tags: ezekiel 33:30-32, hearing and obeying.