“I’m cool if I’m faithful but ain’t famous”
--Christian rap artist, Trip Lee in “Still Unashamed”

In approaching Ezekiel 40-48, the vast array of interpretive options and disagreement among even conservative scholars can be bewildering. What should be universally accepted, however, is that Ezekiel was in fact instructed to faithfully share a vision of a new temple with his fellow Judean exiles in Babylon. 1 Equally beyond dispute should be the simple observation that Ezekiel did just that—he faithfully proclaimed the prophetic word.

And yet—ironically—despite the faithfulness of his ministry there is nothing within the book itself that suggests that he actually lives to see the fruit of his labors. 2 He lived, labored, and suffered terrible loss in the process (most notably his wife in Ezekiel 24). And yet, as Daniel Block submits, it seems that the Jewish exiles must have listened and taken heed of the message they received through Ezekiel given that—when Cyrus issued the call many years later in 539 B.C. for exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple—40,000 signed up and set out for Jerusalem—forty thousand thoroughly secularized Jews. 3 Block ponders, “Where did they come from?” The answer: from the faithful preaching of Ezekiel. The lesson for us? “God calls....not to success but to service and faithfulness.” 4

In considering our current cultural environment, Ezekiel’s faithfulness is a valuable touchstone for evaluating our proclamation of the gospel and the future it promises—both to each other (cf. Paul in Romans 1) and to those who do not currently share our faith. From Ezekiel, we learn that present faithfulness does not always mean that we will live to see the fruit of our labors. Nor does it guarantee success according to worldly metrics—e.g. numerical or financial growth. Following Ezekiel’s example, we learn to resist this seductive logic. We learn to faithfully paint day-in and day-out a prophetic picture—before beleaguered fellow believers and cold skeptics alike—not just of a so-called preferred future but of one as sure and certain as what we find in Ezekiel 47-48 (cf. Rev 20-21). We learn to remind ourselves and those around us of what God will surely do in future days. All hope is not lost. Indeed, dry and dead bones will again live (Ezekiel 37). We can and must continue to choose prophetic proclamation and present faithfulness over momentary fame.

  1. e.g. Ezekiel 43, 47 ↩︎
  2. Daniel Block, Hearing God’s Voice in a Foreign Land: An Invitation to the Book of Ezekiel, 7’19’’ ↩︎
  3. Block, 7’39’’ ↩︎
  4. Block, 9’06’’ ↩︎

by Craig Lester

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