‘But you shall speak my words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.
There is a distressing theme in the Old Testament of the people of God not listening to the prophets. It would be our hope that the people of God, the people to whom God revealed himself, would respond with proper devotion. But in Ezekiel here, along with Isaiah in his call in Isaiah 6 and Jeremiah’s call in Jer. 1, God lets the prophets know that the people of God won’t respond as the people of God ought to. In fact at times, God says that the people will actually reject his message. Even though God gives Ezekiel his very words, he should expect the people to respond with hard hearts.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising to us if we consider the nature of man. We need to remember who man is, and this knowledge must be informed by the garden. What happened to humanity in the garden? Man died in the garden. Paul acknowledges this in Ephesians 2: ‘But you were dead in your trespasses and sins.’ You and I before Christ were dead. Paul indicates that the death of man in the garden fills our whole being: both body and soul, physical and spiritual. So when the prophets receive their call and are told that they are to preach to hardened hearts, we shouldn’t be surprised. The message is that God hasn’t made them alive, or in Ezekiel’s imagery, God hasn’t given them hearts of flesh. Even those of the people of God from Israel in the Old Testament, the faithful ones are only faithful by God’s grace. It is only because God was rich in mercy that there were faithful Israelites. The prophets of Israel longed for the day when there would be restoration. In other words, they longed for a day when there would be reconciliation between God and man. God showed them a day when the hearts of stone would be transformed into hearts of flesh.
This was all accomplished through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. In him, God made us alive. This is the message of Paul in the book of Ephesians. Chapter 1 is all about our position in Christ. We are in Christ, we are adopted as sons, we, the church, are the body of Christ. All of these things illustrate the same truth: the transformation of deadness into life. We who were once dead are now alive in Christ Jesus and so we respond with gratitude and joy. We have a new identity of life in the Son of God. Our dead-ness has passed away and we have been raised to new life now. The Old Testament remnant lived by faith awaiting this day, and we experience it although we still anticipate the day when all things will be made right and death will be completely vanquished.
This is our hope in this world: because our lives are now defined by Jesus Christ, we have been raised to new life, and we will be resurrected in the end. This is the message of hope that we long for others in the world to hear that they might experience true life in Christ, that they may be raised from their deadness.