Ezekiel was still having his vision of the Lord. God spoke to him and told him to eat a scroll, to fill his belly with it. He was to eat it first before he went to the exiles to speak God’s words to them. The Lord wanted him satisfied with His word, His will, and Him. He didn’t send Ezekiel out to speak to people without equipping him for it. He doesn’t send people out if He isn’t going to give them what they need for the job. God sent Ezekiel to Israel and although Ezekiel didn’t know what he should say yet, God told him that He would give him the words.
And Ezekiel was not being given an easy job. He was going to his own people. People that assumed he was just like them. People who knew he shared the same culture they did. He had been through all the things they had been through, he was exiled the same as they were. They expected him to be like them. People who expect someone to be sympathetic to their vices, don’t take kindly when their expectations are not met. Verses 4-7 record the Lord’s words to Ezekiel.
“And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. 7 But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.”
It is easier to go to the stranger, to go to a foreign country, to go to people who do not know you or what to expect from you and speak the word of God. People who share your culture make suppositions about who you are. Even Jesus had a more difficult time in His hometown than He did in the rest of His travels. When He spoke in Nazareth the reaction was intense. Luke 4:28-30 records it,
“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.”
It is easier to speak to strangers. Their reactions do not affect your entire life. But talking to the people you know is not the same thing. How they respond to you and against you can make your life miserable. But God sent Ezekiel to his own people. He sends most of us to our own people.
We are a testimony to Christ where we live, not only when we go on a missions trip, but every day, all day. And there is a reason for it. It is harder for people to hear from people like themselves. When they hear and understand the truth from someone just as ordinary as they are, it has to be real for them to believe it and change their life with it.
The person saved by hearing the word of a street evangelist has an awesome experience that probably doesn’t lead them straight into the community of God. When God uses the people around us and in our lives to lead us to Christ, it creates a faith community. It gives us the ‘one anothers’ to love immediately.
If we are the same kind of person they are and they see the awesome things God has done to make us different, then God is that much more real to them. If we were raised in similar manners, if we have the same cultural drives, we speak the same language from the same perspective.
Verses 8-11 describe it like this,
“Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9 Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” 10 Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. 11 And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.”
Israel was a stubborn, hard headed nation. Because Ezekiel was also an Israelite, he was like them. God said He had made Ezekiel’s forehead like emery and harder than flint. Emery is a very hard substance used as an abrasive to smooth and polish other hard surfaces. Like an emery board files a rough nail and makes it smooth, so emery takes out the roughness of substances like flint. Ezekiel was the right person to go to Israel because God had equipped him for the job.
Likewise, He has made you, prepared you and armed you for the ministry He has for you. He has placed the people in your life that need to see who God is. He has given you at least one Spiritual gift. He has given you brothers and sisters. He has given you the word. He has given you Himself. He has given you a relationship with the Father. He has given you the salvation of Jesus Christ. And He has given you the transformative power, teaching, guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Your mission field is around you.