True Prophets Call Us to Repentance

by Daniel Ortner

Ezekiel’s Prophetic Call to Cry Repentance

Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Ezekiel feature Ezekiel’s prophetic call. Just like the prophet Isaiah and Ezekiel’s contemporaries Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel is called as part of a vision where he sees the throne of God and feels the overwhelming presence of God. From each of these calls we can learn something significant about the role of a Prophet. For instance, from Jeremiah we learned a few weeks ago how God knew Jeremiah before he was born and foreordained him to be a prophet. But from Ezekiel we learn about a prophet’s mission to people to repentance whether or not that message is popular.

And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.

And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.  (Ezekiel 2:3-8)

Ezekiel is required to speak God’s words and to cry repentance. Even if the people reject him and treat him with scorn, he must not forebear or cease. God knows that a prophet’s message will often not be popular or palatable. But a prophet’s mission is to call others to repentance “whether they will hear, or whether they will forebear.”  This is a very heavy calling in many respects. A Prophet must envision the tragic and bitter consequences of sin and feel that sorrow and pain down to his very core just as Ezekiel ingests the bitter scroll. A prophet may know that no one will listen or that he will be rejected or even killed. And yet a prophet must proceed. 

God warns Ezekiel that his cry to repentance will not be headed because the people are “impudent and hardhearted.” However, God also promises that Ezekiel will be strengthened him and that he will be like a diamond that is harder than flint or whatever other weapons that will be formed against him. (Ezekiel 3:7-9)

Watchmen on the Tower

God turns to the image of watchmen on the tower to explain the prophet’s role as a voice of warning. Later, the Lord returns to this imagery to also describe the responsibility of all of us who lead and serve in the kingdom  

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 3: 17-21).

The Lord makes clear that Ezekiel as a watchman bears a heavy responsibility to warn others. Indeed, if he fails to do so  he will be accountable for the sins of those that he could have warned. This warning emphasizes how those that God calls bear the responsibility to cry repentance to all whether they will listen or not.

Later on, the Lord returns to this image to describe the responsibility of the leaders of the people as well as of Ezekiel:

Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: 

If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.

But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.

So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 33: 2-9)

These verses show that just because we are not called to be a Prophet does not mean that we do not bear a responsibility to cry repentance. We each are required to warn our neighbors and to cry repentance with the voice of a trumpet. This is a sacred duty that we all share as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While we do not have the same stewardship as the Prophet, we nevertheless are called with the same calling to cry repentance to those in our sphere.

Unfortunately the leaders who were called to be watchmen in Ezekiel’s day were failing at their duty.

Treacherous Shepherds and the Good Shepherd 

Ezekiel again powerfully contrasts the false prophets, teachers, and leaders of his day whom he compared to false shepherds that neither feed nor protect the flock with good shepherd.

Ezekiel exposes all of the guile and false dealings of those who claim to be shepherds of the flock:

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 

Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. (Ezekiel 34:2-10)

These false leaders fail to nurture the flock. Instead, they exploit their flock and lead the flock towards destruction. They do not have concern for the well-being of their flock and will let the sheep be lost, scattered, and eaten. 

The Lord by contrast emphasizes his role as the Good Shepherd of his people:

For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. (Ezekiel 34:11-16)

He seeketh the lost and will never rest until each of his sheep are delivered. He feeds them the fat things and lets them lie down in safety and peace. What a stark contrast between these self-interested deceivers and the true shepherd.

We Can Repent 

As he was called to do, Ezekiel’s spoke with great sharpness about the need for his people to repent of idolatry and wickedness. However, his message was adamantly one of hope. He spoke equally fervently of the Lord’s willingness to forgive and his desire to see all of us repent and be forgiven:

 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? … Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. … But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. (Ezekiel 33: 11-12, 14-16, 19).

The guarantee from the Lord that when we repent none of our sins “shall be mentioned” is incredibly comforting. There is no sin too great, no person too far gone for the redeeming power of Jesus Christ 

We often see repentance as a burden or something to avoid as long as we possibly can. As President Nelson explained recently: “Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.” 

The Lord’s promise and invitation to Ezekiel should make us more willing to repent quickly and often and to turn to the Lord with confidence. If we turn to him, our sins will be mentioned no more and we shall live.  

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Daniel Ortner is a public interest lawyer who focuses on the First Amendment. He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an undergraduate from a Jewish background.


The post Come, Follow Me Week 43 – Ezekiel 1–3; 33–34; 36–37; 47 appeared first on FAIR.

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