Well, Shut My Mouth!
“I’ll make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so you won’t be able to talk and tell the people what they’re doing wrong, even though they are a bunch of rebels. But then when the time is ripe, I’ll free your tongue and you’ll say, ‘This is what GOD, the Master, says: …’From then on it’s up to them. They can listen or not listen, whichever they like. They are a bunch of rebels!” – Ezekiel 3:26-27 MSG
Ezekiel was God’s spokesman, His prophet. That means he had the distinct privilege and responsibility of delivering God’s message to His people. And Ezekiel had been warned that the message God had to give him was far from good news, and the reception he was going to get from the people was going to be far from enthusiastic. But he had a job to do. Ezekiel went from meeting with God and seeing His glory back to the people of Judah living in exile by the River Kebar. He was thrust back into the reality of their rebellion. He was reminded of the difficulty of his job. And then God did an interesting thing. He told Ezekiel to go home and close the door behind him. He was commanded to lock himself away. The text even says that he was going to bound with ropes in his own home. It isn’t clear whether God was going to bind him, the people would bind him in an attempt to shut him up, or if God is speaking metaphorically. In other words, God could have been saying that Ezekiel is going to be “bound up” in his own home as if he was tied up with ropes, until… God gave him something to say. Regardless of whether we are dealing with real or metaphorical ropes here, Ezekiel was going to be under house arrest by God, unable to speak and prevented from doing his job until God had something for him to say.
I think this was a protection for Ezekiel. We’re told in verse 14, that when Ezekiel was forced to leave the presence of God and return to his people, he went “in bitterness and turmoil.” He say among the people for seven days, overwhelmed by what he saw and the message he had to give. Ezekiel was angry about the sins of the people. He shared God’s anger over their sin. And if God had not prevented him from speaking, Ezekiel would probably have had plenty to say to them and about them, without any help from God. He would have been more than happy to give the people a piece of his mind, read them the riot act, and chew them out for their sinful lifestyles and rebellion against God. After all, he was God’s spokesman. But God was not going to allow Ezekiel to say anything at all until He had something for Ezekiel to say. Ezekiel was going to have to shut up until God spoke up. Any words that came out of his mouth were going to have to be God’s and not his own. What if we approached our relationships with others the same way? What if we decided to keep our mouths shut until we knew we had heard from God? Too often, we decide that we have something that others need to hear and the content of our message isn’t from God, it’s from us. We attribute it to God, but we never heard it from Him. We give God credit for a message that we came up with. But God wants us to speak at His command, not on His behalf. In other words, as His messengers, we don’t get to make up the message, we simply get to carry it. But too often, we end up giving our version of His message. We give it our slant. We put our words in God’s mouth. God knew Ezekiel was going to be prone to the same problem, so He did him a favor and made him mute – until God had something for him to say. For some of us, that might be the best thing that ever happened to us. But in the meantime, let’s see if we can’t learn to speak less and listen more. So that when we do speak, we are confident that what we say is from Him and not us.
Father, most of us don’t struggle with having anything to say, but too often what we have to say is not from You. Help us to learn how to listen for a word from You. May we learn to shut up and open up our ears to hear what You have to say to us and those around us. There are far too many voices speaking on Your behalf who haven’t heard from You. Don’t let us me be one of them. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men