A sermon based on Ezekiel 2:1-7
Sunday, July 9th, 2017 – Pentecost 5B
I think that this past week, I manned up a bit. I did a repair on the van—without asking Vermillion for help—all on my own! It wasn't a huge repair, but still… I manned up. This week, I operated a chainsaw for the first time. I oiled it. I fueled. I cut things. I admit that before I started, I was scared of a machine that could cut off my leg. But now I think it's kind of fun. I manned up. And going on a couple of hikes in bear country, I was packing heat. I carried my .44 Magnum in a holster on my shoulder… you know, just in case there was trouble and I needed to step in. As I spun the chamber of my loaded six-shooter, I thought, "Now this is a man's fidget spinner." And I manned up.
After recounting to my wife all these manly things I've done, I told here, "You know, I think I got a few more points on my man card this week, like at least 5." She agreed that I'd done some manly things, but added, "But since you're giving yourself 'man points,' I have to take some away. I'd give you maybe 2." I'll take it. I can use whatever I can get.
Actually, I recently finished reading a book called "Play the Man." The title is taken from 2 Samuel 10 (:12) where General Joab tells his troops, "Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of God." (ASV) In other words, he says, "Man up." But the book doesn't emphasize man skills like tying knots and small engine repairs. It highlights being the man in being first to apologize, to lead your family in the Word, to raise godly children. It's a call to "man up."
Today in our sermon text God calls Ezekiel to be his prophet. And in a sense, he calls him to man up. The job that God was giving him would be a tough one. He would preach to a rebellious, obstinate, stubborn people, who wouldn't want to hear what he had to say. They would mistreat Ezekiel, scratching him like thorns and stinging him like scorpions. So Ezekiel would have stand up and man up.
You and I too are called upon to stand up for what we believe in. We are called to stand up for Jesus. And it won't be easy. We will face opposition. So we too are called upon to "man up"—men, women, children alike.
Our text for consideration is from Ezekiel 2:1-7…
He said to me, "Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
3 He said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says.' 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.
This week we celebrated the Fourth of July. We celebrated the freedom that is ours thanks to the countless men and women who stood up for what they believed in. They "manned up" and fought for a cause bigger than themselves. And many gave their lives for it. Let's face it: It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when taking a stand is going to cost you.
You and I have been called to take a stand for our faith. We have been called by God to stand up for what we believe in and to boldly share that faith. But sometimes, standing up for Jesus will be met with opposition. And that should be no surprise to us. God's told us so.
He told Ezekiel his call wouldn't be easy: He said: "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn… In fact, at times it would be downright painful.
A few years ago I had to man up on a bear hunt. To get a good shot, and then to track the bear, I had to climb up the mountainside where the bear was. And it wasn't a nice grassy knoll. I had to scramble through thick brush full of Devil's Club. And I know now why they call it Devil's Club. The thorns clawed at me and cut my hands as I grabbed at any branches I could to stay on the mountain. Well, that's how God describes enemies of the Gospel: like Devil's Club: "briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions…"
So it takes courage. We need to man up! But too often we wimp out, don't we? "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." But too often when the going get's tough, we back down to avoid pain or discomfort. We hide our faith at work, so we don't become the object of ridicule. We keep our pet sins hidden in our closets, but not too far back so they're in easy reach. We fail Jesus because we, like the disciples, run away scared when following him might mean personal injury (or just inconvenience) or loss of property (as we give generously to his church and can afford fewer toys for ourselves). We fail Jesus. And for it we deserve to lose our freedoms. (And not just the national freedoms we just celebrated, but the spiritual freedoms we enjoy as well.) We deserve hell.
I don't think any of us would call Ezekiel a wimp for letting his knees buckle and turn to Jell-O when he saw a vision of God sitting on his throne with wheels covered in eyes, carried by four-faced, six-winged creatures that burned like fire. He saw "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord," and "when [he] saw it, [he] fell facedown…" (Ezekiel 1:28)
That's how we all ought to respond to our sin. You see God in his love sends others to confront us in our sin and call us out: pastors, husbands, wives, co-workers, even our kids. And that's not the time to "man up" in arrogant defiance or denial, but to humbly back down. To confess your sin and fall on your face.
And when we do, God sends someone to share the Gospel comfort we so desperately need. So after Ezekiel fell facedown, God told him "Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you." 2 As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me." And God's Word and God's Spirit stood Ezekiel up. And it enabled to take his stand.
And God's Word and his Spirit do the same for us. Though we deserve death… Though we deserve hell… Though we deserve an eternity apart from God and therefore have every reason to wimp out, fall facedown, and just cry in the dust… The Gospel picks us up. You are not going to hell. You will outlive death. You have a paradise of glory awaiting you.
And all of this is because of what God has revealed to you in his Word: that God became man in the person of Jesus, that he "manned up" and lived a perfect, sinless life in your place, and when it came time for him to die, he "manned up" even more taking the sin of the world on himself, becoming the perfect sacrifice to pay for it all.
So we have no more sin. And that means we have no more guilt. We have no more shame. We can stand before God himself on Judgment Day and make that bold, audacious claim: "You cannot damn me to hell because I am sinless. I am perfect. Your Son's blood shed for me makes it so!"
The Gospel makes us stand up. And the Gospel makes us man up. Since Jesus so willingly sacrificed himself for me to rescue me from the hell I deserve, the least I can do is make a bold stand for him. And we speak up and we share our faith, even if it means we face ridicule for it. We man up and stand up for Jesus! Confront your child or your spouse in their sin. Do it lovingly, remembering that you are a sinner too, equally worthy of hell, finding your peace in Jesus' forgiveness. But don't ignore the problem! Man up and confront it. Invite your friend to church and challenge the apathy he or she has toward religion. (Yes, you may invoke their ire and start a fight.) But man up and share your faith! Take that pet sin—that one you know you keep feeding—and take it out back and shoot it (figuratively speaking, of course… put down the gun). Man up and stop doing those things that you know lead you away from Jesus instead of toward him.
We live in tough times. Temptation surrounds us. Haters are going to hate, like thorns and like scorpions. And if they rebel against God, they're sure to rebel against us. So we who follow Jesus need to man up. And the freedom of knowing that we are perfect, sinless, saints, dearly loved by God and guaranteed recipients of his heaven, give us the courage to do it—to man up.
And when we do, others will see our courage. They'll see what we're willing to risk for the sake of the Gospel. They'll see what we're willing to give up for the sake of Jesus. Some will still mock us and do all they can to hurt us. But others will want to know what makes us so bold and courageous, what makes us so tough and even manly. And through our witness, and by the same Word and the same Spirit that brought Ezekiel to his feet and brought us to faith, some will come to believe.