When Silence is Rebellious


I have recently started reading the book of Ezekiel, and as I have meditated on Ezekiel chapters 1 and 2, I am struck by God’s revelation of his glory and majesty preceding his prophetic call for Ezekiel. The language is evocative, descriptive, and beautiful. As God reveals himself, he calls Ezekiel to speak to the people of Israel who, during that time, were living in a state of rebellion.

Usually when we think of God calling us to do something, we think we will accomplish something immediate, perhaps bring people to repentance, and affect instant and lasting change. In Ezekiel 2:5, God instructs Ezekiel to speak to the people of Israel, “And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.” We see here that regardless of an immediate change, God instructs us to act, and our success in God follows in our completion of our mandate, not simply in how well others receive our message. The important thing in Ezekiel 2 is that God’s message goes forth.

Then, in verse 6 we see that God tells Ezekiel, “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 be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” Generally, when we follow God and speak his message, we can expect some sort of backlash. In reconciliation, we see this constantly. As soon as we say something or take a stand, we are attacked and maligned for particular positions. Instead of approaching someone and dialoguing about theological or other differences, we often see that people turn to social media and generate interest and ‘likes’ with their attacks. When people speak against us, they seek to intimidate us, to instill fear in others for listening to the message. Yet in this passage, God calls Ezekiel to do something, regardless of what may be said against him, regardless of the cost. His role, as we see again in verse 7, is to speak, whether his words will fall on deaf ears, or listening ones. “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

We see time and time again that this failure to listen is associated with one’s rebellious state of heart. God also enjoins Ezekiel not to rebel, not to fall in the same trap of hardening his heart to God and God’s message. Should Ezekiel fail to listen to God’s call in this passage, he too would be rebellious, as we see in verse 8. “But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people…”

In reconciliation, we notice this pattern often. I share this not to judge those who speak against us, but to share our experience. In our part of the world, when we speak up for reconciliation, we are speaking against the situation that divides us, that separates us and that seeks to have us live in fear of one another. We believe and maintain that our fellowship is more important than different theological positions, differing political ideologies, and dissonant worldviews. We can find encouragement and warning in this passage from Ezekiel, to speak up regarding the vision God has placed upon our hearts, and to be attentive and obedient when God speaks to us.

By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D

Musalaha Director