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Prof highlights a difficult message to be shared with a difficult people

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–He seemed to have it all: education, training and a respected position awaiting him. Most importantly, his career would allow him to serve God in an exciting way. His future was bright. But as Ezekiel was about to see his dream of serving God in the temple realized, everything changed.

He found himself in captivity in Babylon. His hopes were dashed, his dreams shattered.

Ezekiel had given up, noted Scott Drumm in a chapel service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Ezekiel thought he couldn’t serve God any more because he was no longer at the temple. God, however, had other plans for Ezekiel.

Drumm, assistant professor of theological and historical studies at the Leavell College at NOBTS, noted in his message Feb. 1 that Ezekiel, like other Levites, trained from an early age until age 30 for service in the temple. As he neared his 30th birthday, however, the Babylonians conquered the Hebrew people and took many of their best and brightest to Babylon. Among these were Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Drawing from Ezekiel 1:28-2:7, Drumm showed how God took this difficult situation and used it and Ezekiel in a mighty way. He noted that God gave a man from a difficult situation a difficult message to take to a difficult people.

Ezekiel would get to fulfill his dream of serving God, but it would not be in the comfort of the temple, Drumm said. It would be a hard ministry: to go to a “rebellious people” who were obstinate and stubborn.

Drumm pointed out that the Hebrew text literally calls the people “hard of face” (hardheaded) and “hard of heart.” Time and time again the people of Israel had rebelled against God. From the earliest days of the exodus out of Egypt and the worship of the golden calf to Ezekiel’s day, the people had a tendency to stray. God had disciplined them and forgiven them many times; still, they often turned from God.

“Aren’t you glad God hasn’t called you to go to hardhearted people?” the smiling Drumm asked the crowd of current and future church leaders.

“Seventy percent of our churches are in plateau or decline, and one of the reasons is that they are full of rebellious people.”

Drumm then turned the spotlight on the ministerial students, asking if any in their number were hardhearted and rebellious.

“Did you come [to seminary] with conditions? Did you put restrictions on your service? Do we rebuff God’s discipline?” he asked.

“We are hardhearted,” he admitted.

Ezekiel was given a simple task from God: speak his words to the people. The task was simple, but not easy, Drumm noted, because God often gave Ezekiel difficult messages, ones the people did not want to hear. Since Ezekiel had to confront the sins of the people, the message from God was often negative.

Yet, in the end, Ezekiel was not asked to “produce results,” but to faithfully deliver the message, Drumm said. God was responsible for the outcome of the message.

Drumm turned the focus to the modern-day church. People in church today also need to hear a word from God, he said; ministers today must preach from the Bible, not from seminary class notes.

“Your messages need to be Bible-centered,” he said. “But more than that, this means preaching a specific word.”

Drumm acknowledged that it is difficult for ministers to prepare week-in and week-out to bring the specific message God has for a specific group of church people. Long hours with God are required to deliver the right biblical message to the people, he said.

“You have got to spend time with God on a daily basis … . [Y]our people will know when you have not,” Drumm said. “And just like Ezekiel, we have the comfort of knowing the results are not up to us.”

God not only sent Ezekiel to a “rebellious people” with a specific word, he told him to deliver the message without fear, Drumm continued. “Though thorns and briars are all around you,” God said not to fear the people or what they would say, Drumm read.

Drumm told of walking through the thorny Mesquite bushes of southern Texas during his childhood. One’s immediate reaction when walking among these bushes, he said, is to recoil in fear of the cuts and scratches. The fear causes a person to be timid and hesitant as he makes his way through the bushes.

In a similar way, the “thorns and briars” that God spoke of were the people who had killed many of the prophets before Ezekiel, Drumm explained. He had genuine reasons to be fearful, but God would not allow timidity. Ezekiel was to deliver the message without regard for his safety or his pride.

“We don’t have to fear physical abuse,” Drumm said. However, “Our temptation is to listen to what [the people] say, to begin to temper the message God has given us, and water it down … so that the people are happy.”

The mission for ministers today is simple, just as it was for Ezekiel, Drumm said. They are to go to “rebellious people,” give them a specific word from God and do so without fear — simple, yes; easy, never, Drumm said.

If ministers faithfully follow God in these things, they do not have to worry about numbers and results, Drumm said, noting that God is responsible for the results; ministers are responsible for faithful service to him.