“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezekiel 33:31–32).
The prophet Ezekiel wrote after the fall of Jerusalem, when the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon. The unthinkable happened and no longer could they worship in the temple or live in their familiar city. In their anguish they must have wondered if the Lord had abandoned them. But they also allowed their pain to seep into a growing distance from God. They became complacent and removed from the cares of the Lord.
The Lord tells Ezekiel that his prophecies are not penetrating the facades of his people; the words only waft above them as beautiful but meaningless music. For greedy hearts hide under their proclamations of love. Their spiritual state sounds similar to that of the church at Sardis, to whom Jesus wrote through the apostle John: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up!” (Revelation 3:1–2). Or indeed to the church at Laodicea, whom he called lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
Sloughing off the old self and living out of the new entails our whole lives. In the birthing process, the baby bird grows stronger and more sure of itself as it pecks through its shell. So too will our souls gain weight and wisdom as we dedicate our everything to the Lord – our thoughts, words, and actions. Whatever stage of life we’re in, whether we’re in the process of breaking through the shell or soaring through the air with fully developed wings, may we lean on God as our source of everlasting strength and hope.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, we struggle to stay awake. Stir us, we pray, that we might not become smug spiritually or unconcerned for the world around us.