“So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain” (Ezekiel 33:31). These are the words that Jehovah spoke to Ezekiel and that also were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). The problem of hearing and not doing evidently has existed since long before the time of Jesus. At the time of Ezekiel God was very disappointed that His people should take the time to go and listen to the preaching of the truth, but then fail to do it. They were long on talk because as God said; “with their mouth they show much love”.
The people under consideration at that time were Ezekiel the priest, Jehoiachin the king, and thousands of the children of Israel that had been taken captive. “And He said to me; ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me…’” (Ezekiel 2:3). The problem with the children of Israel was that they listened to and were influenced by the other nations and their human and false philosophies. They were the nations that had their lives and faith rooted in false deities and immorality. From the moment that the children of Israel asked for a king (1 Samuel 8) in order to be like the nations around them they began to be influenced to become more and more like the world in their thinking and they suffered the consequences for doing so. This is the same problem that can be seen in and with the Lord’s church in many places today. There is the overwhelming desire to be like the world and often all in the name of reaching the world with the gospel. The Lord’s church must be careful not to fall into the same trap as Israel when they came to the point of rebelling against God under the guise of being independent thinkers. Thinking and analyzing what the Bible says is scriptural (Acts 17:11), but merely imitating the philosophies of the world never works.
The final result was that the children of Israel went through the act of hearing the prophets and priests like Ezekiel, but they failed to obey the word of the Lord. James wrote concerning this same problem with the brethren of the first century; “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Being a doer of the word is not merely arriving to the church building one, two, or three times a week, but it is living for and serving Christ daily. Being a doer of the word is reaching out beyond that is our personal comfort zone to serve God. It is serving God in ways that do not come natural. James also wrote; “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). This is a religion that acts and does not just talk or speak words of “love” as God said to Ezekiel “with their mouth they show much love”.
The church should not be viewed in just the context of meeting together three times a week, of what only takes place at the church building, or merely being able to identify with the world that we live in. Our being a part of the church means that it must live for Christ in our families, when we go to school and work, and as we are active in various ways in the community. The success of specific activities such as Gospel Meetings, Vacation Bible Schools, or special evangelistic events depends upon members of the Lord’s church being doers of the word daily. God was not blessing the children of Israel during the time of Ezekiel because they were more interested in imitating the world than following the will of God. The message was; “But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it” (Ezekiel 33:19). May the children of God in this present century learn from the mistakes of the children of Israel.