Christians often define success in terms of numbers: the number of people converted, churches planted, church members in attendance, money raised, etc. Would you answer a ministry posting like this one? “Wanted: Person to speak for the Lord. All content provided. Failure guaranteed—no one will respond.”
The job, of course, was “Old Testament prophet.” God sent Ezekiel to the Israelite exiles (v. 33). One would think that having already experienced God’s judgment—the Babylonian conquest—they would have been eager to listen and obey. Instead, they “listened” as if the prophet were an entertaining singer (v. 32), then went off and did as they pleased. Their mouths said the right words, but their hearts were in the wrong place (v. 31). They completely failed to put God’s words into practice (see days 9 and 10).
Why did they fail to do so? They didn’t take sin seriously. The “detestable things” they had done were the reason for Jerusalem’s fall and their exile (vv. 27–29). We can infer that they didn’t take sin seriously because they didn’t take the Law seriously. Moses had taught repeatedly that keeping God’s covenant would lead to blessing, and breaking it would lead to judgment (see, for example, Lev. 26:14–45). Because they didn’t take sin or the Law seriously, they ignored God’s prophet as well. It seems they were presuming on God’s mercy and hoped their punishment would be over soon. As a result, they hypocritically “listened” to Ezekiel while focusing not on sin and repentance but on “unjust gain” or on their own advantage (v. 31).
Though God knew the people wouldn’t respond rightly, Ezekiel’s ministry wasn’t a failure. God, whose standards are different from ours, counted him a success due to his faithful obedience.
>> How much of your self-worth do you get from your earthly success? It’s difficult for us to escape this emphasis in our culture. Remember, God sees things differently!
We are comforted, knowing our obedience matters more to You than our effectiveness. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).