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PREACHING TO A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, January 19, 2014

“And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).


Again and again in the Bible we see the astonishing patience of God toward rebellious mankind. Before the great Flood God saw the horrible wickedness of the human race. Yet God held back His judgment for 120 years – so Noah, “a preacher of righteousness,” could warn them (II Peter 2:5). Later God brought His people out of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders. But they repaid His kindness by murmuring and rebelling against Moses for 40 years. Again, when He sent His people into Babylonian captivity for their sin, God did not abandon them. He sent the prophet Ezekiel to preach to them, “Thus saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 2:4). Today we are very near the judgment of God at the end of this age. The nations of the world are in violent rebellion “against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:2, 3). But God still sends preachers to warn them to “flee from the wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7). Yes, even in these perilous times, at the end of this age, God still sends preachers to warn sinners of the coming judgment.

And so, the faithful preacher can learn many lessons from the prophet Ezekiel. I will give you some of them in this sermon.

I. First, the faithful preacher learns from the prophet that he is sent to speak to a rebellious people.

Our text says,

“Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day” (Ezekiel 2:3).

We should never think that the Jews in Babylonian captivity were the only rebellious nation. Surely we must not think that! The word translated “nation” in the text is not the Hebrew word generally used for God’s chosen people. The Hebrew word here is “goi.” It is the word the Jews used to describe the Gentiles, the pagans, and the heathen. It means that Israel was as bad as the heathen in Babylonia!

What a picture of mankind that is! We are a rebellious race! What race? The human race! God says that we are a rebellious people, “a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me” (Ezekiel 2:3). The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). The Bible says, “This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart” (Jeremiah 5:23). The whole human race has gone astray, rebelling and revolting against God! The Bible says, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:12). The Bible says, “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). Adam rebelled against God’s commandment. All mankind inherited rebellion against God by nature. We became “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). The Bible says,

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:9-18).

All of this comes down to us from Adam. We inherited rebellion against God from him in our very natures. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

This description of man in sin is the simple truth, the horrible truth. That is what sin has brought us to...May God convict us by the Holy Spirit if we have never been convicted before to see what we are by nature – the children of wrath, even as others (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Romans, Chapter 2:1-3:20, The Righteous Judgment of God, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005 reprint, p. 214).

That is God’s evaluation of man in sin. It is not a pretty picture, but it is an accurate one. I started out at 17 years old thinking that people would easily be saved. But I was wrong. My very first sermon was rejected, and I was told never to preach that way again. But the “youth leader” who told me that was a pervert, molesting children in the church. So God told me, “Don’t listen to him, Robert.” In the seminary the professor of preaching said, “You’re a good preacher, but you are getting a bad reputation as a troublemaker.” He said that because I answered professors who were attacking the Bible. Then I worked with another preacher reaching the Hippies near San Francisco. That preacher kept criticizing my sermons – so much that I finally resigned from that church and came home to Los Angeles. Afterwards I found out that this preacher was having sex with several girls in the church. Then I knew why he criticized my sermons. He didn’t like being convicted of sin.

Many preachers never get the message. They go right on wondering why people don’t listen to them. But the answer is right there, on the page of our Bibles. God sends us “to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against [Him]” (Ezekiel 2:3). And I agree with Dr. McGee’s comments on that verse.  He said,

      The hardest people to reach with the Gospel are the church members...Although they are in church, they are actually against God...They don’t want anyone coming in and telling them they are lost sinners...They are hard people to reach, and my heart goes out to my brethren who are in the ministry today – they are sitting on a hot seat. And I would counsel any young man who is considering the ministry to be sure about his call. Maybe he should sell insurance or something else rather than go into the ministry. To be in the ministry today is not easy if you are going to stand for the Word of God (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, volume III, p. 444; note on Ezekiel 2:3-4).

What did Dr. McGee describe? He described churches full of lost people. They had all made a “decision” – but “they are actually against God.” That’s the case in churches all over America!

Now I come to you, and I say that to you personally. You are rebellious against God. That is why you remain unsaved. You make all kinds of excuses, but your heart is in rebellion against God. You feel sorry for yourself, but your heart is totally rebellious against God. You have not mourned for your sin. You have not sorrowed over your rebellion. You go right on, with an impudent face, defying the living God! And I will tell you exactly where you are going to go. There is only one place where you could possibly go – and that is Hell! If you never come under conviction, and if you never sorrow over your sins, you will never feel any real need for Christ – and you will go on in your rebellion until God pulls the plug – and you go down the drain – into the fire that never shall be quenched!

II. Second, the faithful preacher learns from the prophet to continue preaching God’s Word.

God said to Ezekiel,

“They are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear...” (Ezekiel 2:4-5a).

God speaks to me in a wonderful way from the Bible. In Ezekiel’s day He spoke directly to him, by immediate revelation. Now God speaks to us through the written Word, the Bible – although I can think of two separate occasions when God very definitely spoke to me through dreams. I just read the testimony of a young Muslim who was converted to Christ through three dreams (Christianity Today, January/February 2014, pp. 95, 96). God often does that in Muslim lands, and other parts of the Third World. But almost always God speaks to us through the written Word – the Bible.

From the prophet, we learn to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” We say that on the authority of the Bible. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Timothy 3:16). God showed me that truth on the very day I was saved, September 28, 1961. I can honestly say that I have never doubted that God gave the very Hebrew and Greek words from that day to this! When I stand up to preach I can speak with a strong, dynamic voice because I am not preaching my own words. I am preaching the very words of God – “Thus saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 2:4).

I am not giving you a theory when I tell you that your sin will send you to Hell. I am telling you what the Word of God says. With full authority, and without the slightest doubt, I can say to you, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). I can’t be stopped from saying that by Fuller Seminary, Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, or the Pope in Rome. I have the Word of God in my hand. And like the prophet Ezekiel, God has called me to proclaim it to you – word for word! “Thus saith the Lord” – “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.”

You say, “I don’t believe that!” That doesn’t change me one bit! Like the prophet, I am called to preach that, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezekiel 2:5). In modern English – “whether they will hear or not.” I don’t sit down to prepare a sermon and think about what you want to hear! I never do that – and I never will! I ask God what you need to hear. Then I find the right passage in the Bible, and preach it to you. Take it or leave it! Whether they will hear or not! “Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” Amen! You are sinful. You are lost, bound, a slave to sin. You cannot get free! You are doomed to the lake of fire! I say that to you, whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not, whether you act on it or not, whether you praise me or curse me. Why? So “they shall know that there has been a prophet among them” – that’s why! God sent me to say those things so that you will be without excuse. My hands are clean. I have told you what God says. Take it or leave it. But in Hell you won’t be able to argue or complain. You will know that there has been a prophet among you – a man who told you the truth from the Word of God.

You have to be pretty tough to preach like that. No one likes to be found fault with. No one likes to be criticized and ridiculed. I must freely admit that I have often felt devastated by withering criticism. Sometimes I have felt like crawling away and hiding in a cave like Elijah. But “a still small voice” called to Elijah, and said, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:12, 13). Then I drag myself out, and start preaching again. And in those times God seems to say to me, as He did to Ezekiel,

“Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 3:8, 9).

Every true preacher has had to go through some of that toughening experience. If he doesn’t, and gives in, he becomes a false prophet.

III. Third, the faithful preacher learns from the prophet that, despite discouragements, some souls will be saved.

If we preach as we should we will meet with many discouragements in this evil time. God said to Ezekiel,

“And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:6-7).

Although he will live among briers and thorns and scorpions, nothing must move the true preacher from his holy task. Yes, proclaiming the Word of God is indeed a holy task. And there will be some whose hearts the Lord opens to hear what we preach and be saved (Acts 16:14, 15). God told Ezekiel that someone who heard him “shall surely live, because he is warned” (Ezekiel 3:21).

I preached my heart out on the street in downtown Los Angeles in the early 1960s. People screamed at me, threw things at me, and called me a crazy. But an elderly man dressed in a black suit and tie heard me preach for several days, and invited me to have dinner in his lovely apartment. His wife was there. She was the principal of one of our high schools. This fine old couple gave me a wonderful dinner, while the old man told his wife what he had heard me preach on the street. They brought out their photo albums and showed me photographs of his father, who had been an old-fashioned Presbyterian pastor. At the close of the evening the old man told me that both he and his wife had been talking about my sermons on the street. He said that they had invited me to their home because they both wanted to be saved – and they wanted me to lead them to Christ! I was only about 22 years old. I had never led an older person to trust Jesus. We all got down on our knees, and I led them to Jesus. When we got up they had tears streaming down their faces. They were members of Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Blvd., but they had never been saved. An experience like that makes all the ridicule and abuse of a lost world seem like nothing – for the joy of seeing someone come to the Saviour! God gave me those two souls, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Black. It made all the preaching I did on the streets of Los Angeles seem like the most wonderful thing that a young man could do with his life!

Then I went to the liberal Baptist seminary, north of San Francisco. The three years I spent there were truly horrible. I literally hated being there, hearing them tear the Bible apart day after day. I stood up for the Word of God, and they treated me like I was mentally disturbed. It got so bad in the last year that I thought I wouldn’t graduate. But I did. Later, looking back on that evil time, I realized that two men got saved by my witness. One was a Korean man, and the other was a man from the deep south, who had been a Baptist all his life without being saved. Both of them came to me with tears streaming down their cheeks, thanking me for standing true to the Gospel and telling them their need for salvation. Their names were Gil and Moon. I will never forget them! Their salvation made all the heartache of that liberal seminary worthwhile!

When I was there, in Marin County, I would lead a few car loads of young people across the Golden Gate Bridge into the city of San Francisco every Friday night. I would preach on the street while they passed out tracts and spoke to the people. One night they brought a boy over to me. He told me he was on drugs, heroin, several hundred dollars every day. He had to hustle and steal to support his drug habit. He said, “Preacher, please help me. I want to go straight.” I took him home in my car. I probably would be afraid to do it now, but I put him in the kitchen of my apartment. He screamed and kicked and threw up all over the floor for several days as he was coming down off the drugs. Finally he was quiet. He came into our church. When I left San Francisco I lost contact with him. Twenty-five years went by. One night the phone rang in my office here at church. It was him! I asked him where he was. He told me he was married and lived in Florida. He had two children and he taught Sunday School at his church. I came home from church that night walking in the clouds! Oh, what a joy the preacher feels when someone lives “because he is warned” by the man of God (Ezekiel 3:21).

What about you? I have given you my story as a preacher. These two chapters from Ezekiel have meant a lot to me for the past fifty years, since the first time I heard Dr. J. Vernon McGee teach this passage of Scripture on the radio. These verses have always been in the back of my mind across all these decades of preaching the Gospel – of telling sinners that Jesus died on the Cross to pay for their sins; of telling them how He rose from the dead, is now alive in Heaven; of calling on them to repent of their sin and trust the Saviour. Will you trust Jesus tonight? If you will it will make me so happy – and it will make you happy too – for all time and for all eternity!

If you would like to speak with us about being saved by Jesus, please leave your chair and walk to the back of this auditorium now. Mr. John Samuel Cagan will take you to another room where we can pray and talk. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will come to Jesus tonight. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Ezekiel 2:3-7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Oh Heavy Hearted” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

PREACHING TO A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).

(II Peter 2:5; Psalm 2:2, 3; Matthew 3:7)

I.   First, the faithful preacher learns from the prophet that he is sent to
speak to a rebellious people, Ezekiel 2:3; Isaiah 53:6;
Jeremiah 5:23; Romans 3:12; 5:19; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 3:9-18.

II.  Second, the faithful preacher learns from the prophet to continue
preaching God’s Word; Ezekiel 2:4-5a; II Timothy 3:16;
Matthew 25:46; I Kings 19:12, 13; Ezekiel 3:8, 9.

III. Third, the faithful preacher learns from the prophet that, despite
discouragements, some souls will be saved, Ezekiel 2:6-7;
Acts 16:14, 15; Ezekiel 3:21.