In the first few chapters of the book of Ezekiel, the prophet records what it was like for him to be called by God to serve as a prophet. Ezekiel’s situation was a little different than ours (he was an Old Testament prophet, living before the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, who had God’s direct words to speak and write), and yet, there are some real parallels and things to learn for anyone who wants to serve God and speak for him in our generation. I ran across a helpful summary of these lessons in Daniel Block’s commentary on Ezekiel. This is a little long, but I encourage you to grab your bible and read Ezekiel 1:1-3:15, and then contemplate Block’s observations. Here they are:
If the account of Ezekiel’s inaugural vision provides the reader with important lessons about God, the commission narrative offers vital information on the relationship between God and those whom he calls into his service.
First, whoever would serve as a messenger of God must recognize that the calling comes from God alone. Neither the needs of the field, nor oratorical gifts, nor any other external qualifications authorize one to enter divine service. Moreover, the God who appoints his servants also defines the task, chooses the fields of service, provides the message, and assumes responsibility for the outcome. The less evident the fruit for one’s ministry, the more critical is a clear sense of calling.
Second, whoever would serve as God’s messenger must first have a clear vision of the one who sends him or her. Although Yahweh prepared Ezekiel for his ministry by hardening him commensurate with the hardness of his audience, the primary preparation occurred in chapter 1. Unless the servant of God enters divine service with a sense of awe at the privilege of representing the glorious King of heaven and earth, and unless one is convinced of God’s sovereignty over all the earth and over all of human history, the ministry may be a burden. Without a firm conviction of God’s call the ministry may be one’s undoing – especially when the opposition is strong and fruit is absent.
Third, whoever would serve as God’s messenger must be empowered by the Spirit of God. Ezekiel was “the prophet of the Spirit.” Animated and energized by the infusion of God’s Holy Spirit, he serves as a model to all who would stand in the Lord’s presence and all who would enter his service.
Fourth, whoever would serve as the messenger of God must be inspired by the message of God. To be sure, the personalities of God’s agents color the manner in which the calling is fulfilled. This was certainly the case with Ezekiel. But the prophet is primarily accountable to God and the divine word. Twice Ezekiel’s word is labeled “Thus has the Lord Yahweh declared” (2:4; 3:11); three times the prophet is charged to speak “my words” (2:7; 3:4, 10); three times he is told to ingest the divine message, which he is to proclaim (2:8; 3:10). Merely hearing the message is obviously not enough: it must be digested, internalized, incorporated, embodied, and lived. The medium becomes the message. Furthermore, the message of God’s spokespersons derives not from private reasoning or logic, or from mystical reflection, but from revelation. Even so, prophetic “inspiration” does not cancel out or overwhelm natural abilities and qualities – it uplifts and quickens them.
Fifth, whoever would serve as the messenger of God will be divinely equipped commensurate with the calling. God is aware of the challenges his agents face. When he assigns a task, he assumes responsibility for preparing them for that work. Indeed, God’s call to service is not made on the basis of gifts, but vice versa; gifts are given on the basis of the assignment.
Sixth, whoever would serve as the messenger of God must recognize that the calling is not to success but to faithfulness. Every aspect of vocational service remains under the sovereign control of God, especially the results. Accordingly, apparent effectiveness is no proof of calling, nor even a sure criterion by which to measure faithfulness. The messenger embarks on his or her mission as an emissary of the divine King. That privilege alone should provide sufficient motivation for unconditional service.
Some food for thought. In what ways might God be calling you to serve him this year? …with your life? How do these biblical principles apply to your situation?