Ezekiel 33:21-33 contains a report of the fall of Jerusalem. On the night before the herald arrived with that world-shattering news Ezekiel received a word from the Lord telling of doom that is to come upon the Judeans who remained in the land, the non-deportees (see v. 24 “the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel”). This is to serve as a warning for Ezekiel’s community who delight in listening to Ezekiel but with no true effect upon their hearts (cf. the repeated pronouncement, “they hear your words but do not put them into practice” vv. 31, 32).
This passage has a profound echo in Jesus’ words to his own contemporaries in Matthew 7:26; Luke 6:49: “everyone who hears my words and does not do them”. Jesus’ word brings with it a somber warning for those of his listeners who have ears to hear the echo of Ezekiel. Just as Ezekiel’s warning against hearing-without-acting preceded the terrible announcement concerning the ominous fate of Jerusalem, so Jesus’ foreboding words should be heard as a warning not unlike that of Ezekiel: if the people don’t respond with their whole hearts then Jerusalem will destroyed, again.
Jesus came back to this motif again in Mark 13 (“not one stone will be left upon another” v. 2), Matthew 24, and also in Luke 19:41-48:
41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”
45 Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46 and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.
One curious feature of this passage is the final note that “all the people were spellbound by what they heard” (NRSV). Another translation has “all the people hung on his words” (NIV). This could also be seen as a faint echo of the contemporaries of Ezekiel who was told the following words: “Your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord’. My people come to you, as they usually do, to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice…to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well” (Eze 33:30-32). In other words, the people were mesmerized by the prophet. This was true of both Ezekiel and Jesus. But the dire predictions concerning the people and the beloved city of Jerusalem was also equally certain for both Ezekiel and Jesus:
Ezekiel 33:33 “When all this comes true—and it certainly will—then they will know that a prophet has been among them”
Matt 24:33-34 “When you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened”
The continuing relevance of Ezekiel’s message for Jesus’ contemporaries lay simply in this: if they did not turn from their zealous festering for violent revolt against Rome and heed his message (in other words, if they didn’t repent from their current aspirations and give allegiance instead to the ευγγελιον of Jesus) then the people of Jesus’ day would experience the same terrible fate as the people of Ezekiel’s day—a fallen city and all the horror that accompany it.