Scripture is our only infallible source of information about God’s perspectives concerning people who engage in worship and the actual nature of that worship. In Ezekiel 33, He reveals to us vital principles about how He should be worshiped through His assessment of the presence and nature of the sensuality among those who worshipped Him at that time.
Among the Jews who were exiled in Babylon, there were those whose worship was not what it appeared to be (33:30-33):
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.
31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
33 And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
God made known to Ezekiel that his fellow Jews were maligning him even while they were exhorting one another to come hear his ministry of the Word of the Lord that he was proclaiming (Ezekiel 33:30).
These seeming worshipers were intermingled with true worshipers and mimicked the worship of the latter. They came as the others did and sat before him as the rest of God’s people did (Ezekiel 33:31).
They listened intently to Ezekiel’s proclamation of God’s words (Ezekiel 33:31a-c), but the true nature of their supposed worship of God was revealed by their failure to heed God’s words (Ezekiel 33:31d). God exposed them as hypocritical worshipers who did not do what He said because although they professed great love for Him, they were actually motivated by their lustful hearts and their pursuit of personal gain (Ezekiel 33:31e-f).
God then called Ezekiel to perceive what was taking place in the hearts and minds of such people: “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” (33:32). The Hebrew word rendered as “very lovely” (that modifies the word song) uses a word (‘Əgavah) that is used in a negative sense in Scripture for “sensual desire” that is “condemned” (Holladay, 264).
Ezekiel thus was to them like a song characterized by sensuality that was ministered by a person having a beautiful voice and playing a stringed instrument skillfully (33:32a-b). Implicit thus in this statement is these people’s appetite for sensual songs and God’s condemnation of that fleshly proclivity.
This statement revealed the essential problematic sensuality of these supposed worshipers of God. Because of that sensuality, God’s words did not profit them in bringing about obedience to Him in their lives, just as hearing a sensual love song sung by one with a pleasant voice accompanied well on an instrument does not.
Through this comparison, God was not condemning those who have lovely voices or can play stringed instruments with great skill–He is the One who gifts people with these priceless gifts. His statement indicts the people who were hearing Ezekiel’s ministry of the Word with the same fleshly orientation of heart as they would hear sensual songs.
Unquestionably, Ezekiel was not preaching a sensual message to them; he apparently then had an appealing, pleasant speaking voice, good vocal production, and great skillfulness in his speaking for God. These sensuality-oriented worshipers were drawn to these elements of his ministry, but they did not have a heart for hearing from God to do what He was saying through Ezekiel.
This account warns us that we must come to hear the ministry of God’s Word with a true and sincere heart to obey Him. To have such a heart to hear from God, we through the Spirit must mortify all manifestations of the sensuality that our flesh is irredeemably bent toward. Otherwise, even hearing a true prophet of God preach His words in His house will not profit us, and our worship will be spoiled by the same sensuality for which God rebuked those among His people who came with that ungodly orientation to hear Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry.
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