I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU... It’s certainly no coincidence that this statement of the Almighty, appointed on the 10th day of the fifth month on His calendar, the 31st day of July on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is His eternal Word for His people. “… On the tenth day of the fifth month of the seventh year… ‘This is what the Lord God says: Have you come to ask me what you should do? I, the Lord God, tell you that, as surely as I live, I will not listen to you.’ ” Ezekiel 20:1-3.
Notice that God does NOT say He doesn't hear the prayers of His people, illustrated here by the ancient Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. He says that He chooses NOT to listen.
About 2600 years ago,10,000 of God's Chosen people, exiled in Babylon and longing for home, quickly added up to a lot of self-centered prayers and needy people. The Prophet Ezekiel understood what it was like to be in the middle of all that. One of his often used phrases was “in the midst of". He used it 116 times.
So when the prideful Jewish leaders of Judah came to Ezekiel seeking God’s wisdom for their nation, Ezekiel wasn’t surprised by what happened next. God replied to their prayer petitions with an invaluable history lesson. He reminded them of their rebellion in Egypt, again in the wilderness, once again in the Promised Land, and in their present-day Babylon. Each and every time they doubted God and decided to wave other gods in His face, He convicted them of their sin by simply removing His protective hand of covering and allowing their enemies to teach them a lesson they would never forget.
Perhaps we need a history lesson, too. There are many striking similarities between America and Israel that are brought out in Ezekiel 20. Just like our country, God delivered Israel from another land where they were in bondage and led them to a new world, full of promise. “It was the most beautiful of all countries…I gave them my laws and told them my rules… They did not keep my commands—even though people who obey my laws live because of them. They treated my special days of rest as though they were not important.”
It is no coincidence that in Hebrew, the phrase “United States” means “lands of the covenant”. Indeed, the Puritans referred to their Plymouth Colony as “Little Israel”. We would do well to remember God’s response to ancient Israel who called on His name, built their government on His covenant, but then attempted to control their national destiny by placing their faith in other avenues for deliverance. “I promised to scatter them among the nations, to send them to many different countries…I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by." Ezekiel 20: 21, 23, 25.
God has plenty more to say in Ezekiel 20:30-31. “Since Israel did those things, speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: You people have made yourselves filthy by doing the things your ancestors did. You have acted like a prostitute…Do you really think that I should let you come to me and ask me for advice? I am the Lord God. By my life, I swear that I will not answer your questions or give you advice.’”
So, God expresses Himself very simply here. Listening to Him means He will listen to you. Not listening to Him means He may choose not to listen to you.
And He may decide to bring judgment on a nation to call attention to the fact that He is God. "'…I scattered you among many nations, but I will gather you together and make you my special people again. And all the nations will see it. Then you will know that I am the Lord...Family of Israel, you did many evil things, and you should be destroyed because of them. But to protect my good name, I will not give you the punishment you really deserve. Then you will know that I am the Lord.' This is what the Lord God said." Ezekiel 20: 41, 44.
Contrary to popular Christian thought, God's Word teaches many times that God may not listen to our unrepentant, self-centered prayers. “If I had known of any sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened to me.” Psalm 66:18. “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” John 9:31. In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven my forgive your transgressions.” 1 Peter 3:7 even tells us that lack of respect for a wife by her husband will hinder his prayers.
1 Timothy 2:5 tells us there is only one way to a relationship with God. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” And God DOES listen to the prayers of Jesus. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7.
We close today's lesson with a prayer voiced by Jesus himself on our behalf. We Christians desperately need Jesus interceding for us in a way that pleases the Almighty. Notice that Jesus does not ask His Father to save His city or His nation and the innocent, righteous people in it. He asks for the unity of ALL those who believe in Him, through the glory and love that His Father has given Him, and He now gives us.
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their (the disciples) message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." John 17:20-26