by Zac Poonen
In Ezekiel 3:1, the Lord told Ezekiel to eat the scroll He gave. The message which we give others must first be eaten and digested by us first. God’s Word was sweet as honey in his mouth. In the book of Revelation too, the Lord told John to first eat the scroll. Only then were Ezekiel and John permitted to prophesy. This is a fundamental principle in all ministry of the Word. The Word which God desires to speak to others through you He wants to speak to you first of all. God’s Word challenges preachers with questions such as: “You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal?” (Rom.2:21). When you speak evil about someone, you are stealing his reputation. Do you recognise that as stealing, or do you recognise only stealing money as stealing? “You who preach that others should not commit adultery do you commit adultery?” Do you lust with your eyes? We must eat the scroll ourselves first, if God is to anoint our ministry. Most preachers today are preaching without first eating the scroll themselves. That is why their ministry is so dead and boring. If you want an effective ministry, eat the scroll first. The word of God is like a two edged sword – the first edge must cut me, and only then can I use the other edge to cut others. If it doesn’t cut us first, we will be hard and unmerciful in our preaching to others.
So eat the scroll.
“The Spirit lifted me up and took me away and I went in bitterness and turmoil. The hand of the Lord upon me was strong” (Ezekiel 3:14). Sometimes when the Lord tells us to go somewhere, we may not be as excited in our feelings about going, as at other times. There may be feelings of turmoil in our hearts. But we still obey and go. Paul speaks in 2Corinthans 7:5 of “conflicts without and fears within” him. Paul had some fears. But he still went where he had to go. He didn’t go by his feelings. If we go by our feelings, we will never go where the Lord wants us to go. Some years ago, I was waiting in the railway station in Bangalore to take a train to go somewhere for ministry. My children were all small and some of them were sick and my wife had to look after them all by herself. I wondered whether to go home and to cancel my trip. The Lord spoke a word to me at that time that was like a fresh revelation. He gave me freedom to make my own choice but said, “Whatever you do, don’t take a decision on the basis of fear.” I learned a lesson that day. I didn’t go home. I took the train and went for my ministry. The Lord took care of my children and healed them. Many years ago I entered into a solemn covenant with the Lord. I told Him, “Lord You take care of my family and I will take care of yours.” Today I can say after more than 30 years, that whereas I have often failed in my part of the covenant, the Lord has been utterly faithful to do His part.
I am not asking any of you to make such a covenant or to do what I did that night at the railway station. There may be times when you should stay at home and help your wife. But, whatever decision you take, take it always in faith, and never out of fear. There may be times, when in faith you may have to say, “ I will trust God to take care of the ministry in that place. Right now it is more important to help my sick wife at home.” Then go home – and God will be with you. But there may also be times when the devil will try to frighten you and thus prevent you from fulfilling a ministry God has appointed for you. So don’t ever go by feelings. Remember that sometimes when the Spirit lifts us up and takes us away we may have to go with turmoil in our hearts. But we still go!
“So I got up and I saw the glory of the Lord just as I had seen it first. And I fell with face down in the dust.” ( Ezekiel 3:23) Here is another important principle of ministry: Put your face in the dust always. Sometimes it is good to do that actually – physically. Lie down on the floor in your room before God and say, “Lord, this is where I rightfully belong. This is what I am – a nobody in your eyes.” We who stand in front of others and preach are in great danger because so many people admire us and exalt us. More than anybody else, we are the ones who need to get alone before the Lord frequently and to lie down flat before Him and recognise that we are nothing in his eyes.
God can take away our breath in a moment. He can take away our anointing in a moment. I fear to lose the anointing more than anything else in my life. I would rather lose all my money and all my health than lose the anointing of God upon my life. It is easy to lose the anointing by being a little careless with money or with our tongue or in some other small matter. When Ezekiel’s face was in the dust, the Spirit came into him and set him on his feet. There – in the dust before God – is where the Spirit will fall upon us. Let Him then lift us up and exalt us. Never exalt yourself.
“He talked to me and said, ‘Go shut yourself in your house. There you will be bound with ropes so you cannot go among the people. I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so you won’t be
able to speak. Whenever I give you a message I’ll loosen your tongue and let you speak. And then tell them, ‘This is what the Lord says.’ Some will listen and some will ignore you. It doesn’t matter’ ” (Ezekiel 3:24-27). It’s wonderful to live like this before God! When God tells us not to go, we don’t go. When He tells us not to speak, we don’t speak. The Lord will tell you when to speak and when to keep quiet. Do you listen to the Holy Spirit, or do you listen to your reason? Reason may say that it is always right to speak. But he who listens to the Spirit knows that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. Sometimes we are called to keep quiet. Jesus never said a word to Herod. Learn to live by the promptings of the Spirit. This is what we can learn from Ezekiel. He was a man who lived constantly by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
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