16 July 2011

"They come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they will not obey them. For flattery is on their lips, but their heart is set on their gain. To them you are like a singer of love songs, one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When this comes - and come it will! - then they shall know that a prophet has been among them." (vv. 31-33)


How many people who sing Jerusalem at the Last Night of the Proms, or at the opening of every Women's' Institute meeting, realise how revolutionary the song is?

The "dark satanic mills" are not those in the grimy north of England (as it was then), but probably refer to the Albion Flour Mill in London, the first major factory built there. People rioted because they were afraid it would take away their jobs. The mill was burnt down. Albion Mill was near to where the poem's author, William Blake, lived. So he was reflecting on this Industrial Revolution.

This same song has often been used by political parties to stir their followers into action. Yet many people who hear it are just captivated and carried along by the music and never analyse the words.

And that is happening here too, in today's passage from Ezekiel.

Verses 21-29 are predicting violent death and destruction for Israel because of the immoral behaviour of the people. But when those people come to listen to God's message through Ezekiel they aren't listening to what he is saying. They have come to hear him speak, but do not take in his words. He is being admired for his presentation, but his message is being ignored.

In verse 22 it appears that Ezekiel may not have been able to speak to them in person for some time, so many of them would have come out of curiosity to hear what he sounded like once his voice had been restored. And the message of death is ignored while his voice is being admired.

So God gives a word of reassurance to Ezekiel and a warning to the people. When the predicted destruction does take place, then they will realise their mistake and will know that there was a prophet among them, but they took no notice of him. But it will be too late to take action on his words then.

Many people who went to hear Jesus had the same attitude. They heard his words, enjoyed his stories, but failed to understand his message.

To Ponder

Who are the prophets in our time?

Why do we often listen, but not hear what is being said?

Do beautiful words and music sometimes obscure the message and how do you think that you may have missed something in this way?

Bible notes author: Marjorie Dobson

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