The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. The text is Ezekiel 33:7-9, a short section but proves to be a very pivotal part of Ezekiel. It is helpful to first go back to Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 is the “call” or “sending” of Ezekiel as a prophet to the people of Israel, specifically to those who are in exile in Babylon. There are three (perhaps four) exiles of the Southern Kingdom to Babylon. When Ezekiel begins his prophetic ministry, the city of Jerusalem is still standing—but not for much longer.

Looking at chapter 3 the similarities to our text are striking. Ezekiel is called to be a watchman/guard (3:17) and he is told he will deliver his soul by doing his job (3:21), etc. Then in verse 26, God makes Ezekiel mute. He can only speak when God opens his mouth. This continues until we come to chapter 33. In our text, Ezekiel is once again told he has been made a watchman/guard (vs. 7) and the LORD tells him to warn the people, and if he does not their blood will be on his hands. But if he does, even if they do not listen, he will have delivered his soul. As we continue through chapter 33, we come to verses 21-22. A fugitive from Jerusalem comes to Ezekiel to tell him the Holy City has fallen. The night before, the LORD has opened his mouth so he can speak once again.

A fugitive from Jerusalem comes to Ezekiel to tell him the Holy City has fallen. The night before, the LORD has opened his mouth so he can speak once again.

Chapter 33 is pivotal in another way as well. Previously, Ezekiel has been carrying prophecies by way of symbolic actions, except when the LORD opens his mouth. Horrace Hummel calls this “street theater.” Now, in chapter 33 and following, Ezekiel becomes very apocalyptic in his words. This is why Ezekiel is called the Father of Apocalyptic Literature.

33:7 צֹפֶה (tzo-Peh) “watchman; guard; scout”

וְהִזְהַרְתָּ (ve-hiz-har-Ta) root: זהר (zaw-har) Hiphil: “to caution; to give warning” This verb appears in all three verse of the pericope and in each case, in the Hiphil form. This generally conveys a causative action. While one may not necessarily translate this “cause to give warning” it is important to remember the causative nature and acknowledge the causing agent.

33:8 בְּאָמְרִי. (be-a-me-Ri) root: אמר (aw-mar) Qal: “to speak” With preposition “when I speak”

לְהַזְהִיר (le-haz-Hir) root: זהר (zaw-har) Hiphil, infinitive: “to warn about; to warn”

מִיָּדְךָ אֲבַקֵּשׁ (mi-ya-da-Cha a-vak-Kesh) “from your hand I will require”

33:9 כִּי-הִזְהַרְתָּ (ki hiz-Har-ta) root: זהר (zaw-har) Hiphil with attached yKi “if you warn”

הִצַּלְתָּ (hitz-Tzal-ta) root: נצל (naw-tsal) Hiphil: “to save; to rescue; to deliver”

Keeping in mind the causative nature of the Hiphil, we can read the text something like this: “I have called you to be a watchman and this is what that means (this is your identity). I will cause you to carry out this work of warning, but if you do not do it (if you fight against Me) then the blood of these people (and yours) will be on your hands. But, if you do what I am calling you to do (and causing you to do/giving you the ability to do) then you will have delivered your soul regardless of the reaction of the people (You have not rejected or fought against the LORD and His salvation).

We can do nothing good. We can do nothing to deliver ourselves unless the LORD God causes/enables us to do it. Lutheran Theology! While we are given laws, statutes, commands, and callings from God, it is God who causes/enables us to carry them out by virtue of having caused us to be His child. We can reject, ignore, walk away, forsake our deliverance—thus our blood and the blood of those who may have been brought in if we had been faithful would be on our hands.

We can do nothing to deliver ourselves unless the LORD God causes/enables us to do it.

SERMON SAMPLE
TEXT: Ezekiel 33:7-9
TITLE: Ezekiel? NOT ME!

Introduction: Our text for today is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel… What do you know about this Ezekiel? Yes, he is called by God to be His prophet, but what else do you know? Did you know Ezekiel had already been taken into exile to the land of Babylon before He received his call from God? Did you know God told him he would be speaking His words to a people who were notorious for being hard-headed and strong-willed? Did you know God tells Ezekiel to speak His truth to people who will rebel and not listen no matter what he says or does? Did you know God calls upon Ezekiel to speak His words and then makes him mute so he can speak only when God tells him? Did you know God has Ezekiel do all manner of strange and weird things, like lie on his side for 390 days and then roll over on his other side for 40 days, like shave his beard and head, and cook his food over cow dung? Did you know all that?

My first thought is, “Who wants to be Ezekiel?” Any volunteers? Being a prophet of the LORD most high does not always come with a great job description! It can be embarrassing, disgusting, and most certainly dangerous. All the strange assignments, all the frustrating and fruitless preaching, all the dangerous rebellion all around… Who wants to be Ezekiel? I am fairly certain even Ezekiel does not want to be Ezekiel!

My second thought is, “I am Ezekiel!”

  1. Who is Ezekiel?
    1. 1st thought: Who wants to be Ezekiel?
      1. All he puts up with
      2. All his assignments
      3. Ezekiel does not want to be Ezekiel!
    2. 2nd thought: I am Ezekiel.
    3. 3rd thought: You are Ezekiel.
  2. It is Terrifying to be “Ezekiel”.
    1. Ezekiel and us: We are unqualified—we are sinners.
      1. We are worse than those we are sent to…
      2. We are, and we fear to be failures.
    2. The world is a frightening landscape.
      1. Who will listen?
      2. Who will NOT see us for what we are?
  3. It is the LORD who Qualifies and Sends
    1. Ezekiel and us: God calls, qualifies, and sends.
      1. The LORD God causes us to be about the work of the Kingdom.
      2. This is our God-given identity.
    2. The LORD God causes us to be called out of the darkness of sin and death into the marvelous light of Christ.
    3. The LORD God qualifies us through Christ Jesus on the cross and continues to renew, restore, and redeem us through Word and Sacrament.
    4. The LORD God sends us out to be His lights in this world—to preach, teach, reach.
      1. Never alone
      2. Not without preparation
      3. Puts His Word in our mouths.

Conclusion: There is a sign in my office that reads: God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Ezekiel—Pastors—ALL OF US.

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Ezekiel 33:7-9.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Ezekiel 33:7-9.