Some good thoughts from Andy Sochor:
We do not typically think of the term “hard-headed” as being a compliment when it is used to describe someone. Yet the Bible teaches that it is an essential characteristic of one who would proclaim the word of God. When God commissioned Ezekiel to “go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them” (Ezekiel 3:4), appointing him as “a watchman to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:17), God gave the prophet a hard-headed demeanor so that he would be able to accomplish his task.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate.
“Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.”
Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God’” (Ezekiel 3:4-11).
The simple yet sad reality is that even today many people do not want to listen to the word of God. This is what Ezekiel was warned about – the people would not be willing to listen. When this is the response to teaching, the teacher must do one of three things:
- Change the message to one the people will listen to.
- Quit teaching altogether.
- Continue teaching as he has always done.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy clearly show us what option the faithful gospel preacher must choose.
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:2-5).
Timothy’s responsibility as a gospel preacher was to “preach the word.” What if people were not interested, but instead wanted to find preachers who would tell them what they wanted to hear? Was Timothy to compromise the message? No! He was to continue to “preach the word… in season and out of season… with great patience” (2 Timothy 4:2). Was Timothy to give up and quit teaching? No! He was to “endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, [and] fulfill [his] ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). His only right course of action was to continue preaching as he had always done, whether people listened or not.
This is where the hard-headed quality of Ezekiel becomes necessary. It can be discouraging when our efforts to preach the gospel are either ignored or rejected. But we must meet the stubborn rejection to the gospel with hard-headed perseverance.
If others reject our preaching of the word, remember that they are not rejecting us, but they are rejecting Christ (Luke 10:16). If people refuse to obey the gospel, remember that our first responsibility is to preach, not necessarily to baptize (1 Corinthians 1:17). If people reject the warnings from Scripture, at least by teaching, “you have delivered yourself” (Ezekiel 3:19).
God told Ezekiel to take “all My words” and speak them to the people, “whether they listen or not” (Ezekiel 3:10-11). In the same way, we must speak “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27), without addition, omission, or distortion (Galatians 1:6-9), whether people listen or not.
We need fewer preachers who are compromisers, cowards, and quitters, and more who will make their foreheads “harder than flint” (Ezekiel 3:9) and continue to preach the word, regardless of how it is received.