I have often wondered, as I’ve read through the books of the prophets in the Bible, how the prophets didn’t just give up. I mean, being a lone voice in a sea of opposing voices probably gets a bit discouraging. It would also be intimidating to know you have two choices: 1.) share the message God gave you and face torture or death when the king hears it, or 2.) don’t share it, and answer to God… pretty scary. And knowing the message can cost you dearly, but NO ONE is listening to what you are saying when you KNOW it’s the truth, has got to be the definition of frustration. Being a prophet is not an enviable job.
We can all relate to the frustration of trying to get someone to see the truth of something and they won’t listen. We see someone we love heading down a colossally wrong path and we try and try to warn the. Perhaps we beg, bribe, coax, argue, and sometimes even yell. But in the end our warnings go unheeded and we must watch as a loved one suffers the consequences of their choices.
Today my chronological reading of the Bible has me starting the book of Ezekiel. This prophet has some pretty amazing, awe-inspiring visions of God and heaven. Just reading the first chapter caused me to pause and reflect on what it must have been like for the prophet to try and put something so indescribable into words. In the midst of his vision, God gives him an important task: the task of taking a difficult message to God’s people. God warns Ezekiel in verse 7 of chapter 3, that the people aren’t going to listen to him any more than they listen to God, “for the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn.” As somber as this moment is, what God says in the next verse made me laugh out loud. I am reading in the New Living Translation. In other translations, verse 8 has God saying “I will make you as stubborn as they are.” But in the New Living Translation, God says, “But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. 9 I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock!” That just struck me as funny. God has his man for the job. “Yes, Ezekiel, these people are stubborn, but I have already made you stubborn and hard-headed enough to take them on.” Why would God say “made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock”? Because God knew Ezekiel was going to be butting heads with some stubborn folk.
My Mema has a saying for when her children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren are on one of those paths that lead to negative consequences, but will not heed the warnings of their loved ones: “Everyone has to butt with their own head.” I love it! Sometimes our stubbornness is God-given and for our benefit. Sometimes our stubbornness creates our misery. I’ve come to believe that stubbornness is like any other attribute: submitted to and used of God, it’s a gift. Used of our own free will and accord, with no yielding to God, it’s a curse. The question become: “To what purpose am I being stubborn?” The answer may give you a headache.