Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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As a Lovely Song

By Dennis Pollock


In chapter 33 of the Book of Ezekiel, God is speaking to His servant. He seems to want Ezekiel to know that although there is a good response to his prophesying and preaching, he should not be fooled into thinking that real repentance is going on. The LORD tells Ezekiel:


"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.’ " (Ezekiel 33:30)


This sounds encouraging! People are eager to come to Ezekiel and hear the latest word from the LORD. Not only is the prophet getting good attendance at his prophetic home meetings, but people are also going all over town, inviting others to come. The meetings are growing, and the people are speaking very positively about the prophet and his ministry. What pastor would not be happy with this situation? Most would surely feel that this kind of response to their preaching is a sure indication that God is at work and is using them to bring about spiritual awakening and positive change in the people's lives and the community at large. Ezekiel had become a sort of rock star in town. He could never put out enough chairs to hold the crowds that would come and sit before him to hear the word of the LORD. It must have been a great source of satisfaction for him.


I have ministered in many different situations, both as a pastor and an evangelist. And I think every person who preaches or speaks publicly looks at their hearer's faces to see how they are receiving his or her message. If I see people yawning, that is not a good sign. If numerous people in my audience are seated with their arms folded across their chests, that is likewise a problem. This may indicate that they are judging my preaching unfavorably. And the worst thing any preacher can see is people who have totally given up on the sermon. Their eyes are closed, and they are sound asleep!


Enthusiastic Listeners


On the other hand, when I see my hearers watching me eagerly and nodding their heads, I feel pretty good about it. They are getting what I am saying. And when they are raising their hands and shouting "halleluiah" I know they are with me. And these people who gathered to hear Ezekiel seemed to be in this category. They were enthusiastic; they were approving of the message, and they were going home and inviting friends and neighbors to come back with them for the next meeting.


But God is not finished. He has indeed noticed that people are running all over town inviting their friends to the prophecy meetings, but He has noticed something else as well. He tells Ezekiel:


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. (Ezekiel 33:31)


God is not Impressed


Oh, oh! God does not seem very impressed with all this religious activity, or even the fact that people are rushing to hear His servant speak in His name. God tells Ezekiel that these super-religious folks show love for His word with their mouths, and are eager to hear the prophet speak, but they do not follow his admonitions, and instead "pursue their own gain." There is no repentance going on! These people who make up Ezekiel's congregation are religious enough; that is not the problem. But their religion never affects their habits, morals, or lifestyles. They have somehow missed the idea of being "doers of the word," and are hearers only.


God appears to be warning Ezekiel not to be fooled by appearances. It looked like there was a real revival going on. People were all gathering at his house to hear him preach. Ezekiel must have been a spell-binding preacher, highly articulate and interesting to listen to. Going to an Ezekiel meeting was entertaining. He could grab and hold your attention throughout his sermons. And by the next day, these people would come back with a friend or two, just to hear him speak. And no doubt Ezekiel was encouraged by this. He probably thought to himself: "This is going great! I am really making a difference. God is doing a mighty work of revival through my preaching." And this word from the Lord is God's way of telling him, "Don't get too excited, Ezekiel. Yes, they love to hear you preach, but their hearts are not changing. They leave your meetings just as carnal, just as greedy, just as selfish as they were when they came. Hearts are not being broken; real repentance is not happening."


God now tells Ezekiel how the situation really is, saying:


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 33:32)


God is saying that Ezekiel is to these people like a musician with a beautiful voice. We might compare him to one of our modern pop singers, who sings and plays the guitar. He is nice-looking, has an amazing voice, and plays the guitar masterfully. He sings so well that you hardly notice the lyrics; they are secondary. It really does not matter what the song is about. The heart-melting voice and beautiful guitar playing are enough, and people find incredible pleasure just to be immersed in such sweet music.


Meaningless Lyrics


Many songs have achieved tremendous success, with lyrics that meant almost nothing. In the 1940's the song "Mairzy Doats" was a huge hit, with lyrics like "Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?"


In the 1960's the Beatles produced a song, titled "I am the Walrus," with lyrics that included: “I am the egg man / They are the egg men / I am the walrus / Goo goo g’joob.”


These songs became hits, not because they had anything to say, but because the melodies were catchy, and the voices were pretty. And most people can appreciate great-sounding music, even when the lyrics mean absolutely nothing. This was how the exiled Jews felt about Ezekiel's prophetic preaching in Babylon. They didn't care a hoot about what he had to say, but boy, he sure said it well.


In the early days before the U.S. achieved independence from England, the British evangelist George Whitefield made several evangelistic campaigns through what would become America. Benjamin Franklin, one of our country's founding fathers and a died-in-the-wool deist, used to love to hear Whitefield preach. Whitefield was probably the greatest orator in the world and was a spell-binding preacher. Ben Franklin, heathen that he was, could not resist the temptation to go out and hear the great evangelist, but there is no evidence that he ever gave his life to the Christ that Whitefield preached. It was simply a good afternoon's entertainment for Franklin.


Just Like a Musician


God essentially tells Ezekiel, "You're nothing more than pretty music to them. They are not willing to change; there is no repentance. Don't be fooled by their rapt attention when you speak."


Could this be a problem for people of our generation? Of course, it is. There are, and will always be, people who simply love outstanding speakers. Tell some funny stories, share some fascinating illustrations, be dramatic at times, funny at other times, and for good measure share a sad story that will make them cry, and they will give you their attention, and they'll be back next week to hear some more. But like Ezekiel's congregation so long ago, these people have no interest in actually doing the will of God. They may indicate that they want to go to heaven by raising a hand at the end of a service or signing a card to be a church member, but they have never had the slightest intention of following God's moral laws. "Just entertain me for forty-five minutes and let me live as I please."


No Need to Actually Change


Some Christians today feel that since salvation is through faith in Jesus, we do not need to concern ourselves with actually doing the will of God. No need to repent, change, or behave morally. We are justified by faith and that is enough.


Genuine faith in Jesus truly is enough, but real faith, living faith, will always be accompanied by a passionate desire to please God and do His will. Jesus declared: "If you love Me, keep My commandments," (John 14:15) and again He says, "Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Paul writes, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2).


May we never find ourselves like Ezekiel's congregation, hearing but never repenting. Let us serve Jesus joyfully, trusting in Him and eager to do what He commands and follow Him wherever He leads.




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