A Positive Sign to Others


In the morning the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, did not the Israelites, that rebellious people, ask you, ‘What are you doing?’

“Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This prophecy concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the Israelites who are there.’ Say to them, ‘I am a sign to you.’” —Ezekiel 12:8-11

As IFCJ Canada marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of my father, Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, I offer you a selection of devotions on the spiritual importance of legacy and leadership in his honour.

What’s the best way to influence others? Of course, there are many answers to that question. It depends on who’s being influenced, who’s doing the influencing, and what the goal of the influence is.

In the Bible, we see various kinds of leadership. One of the main types of leaders we read about is the leadership of the prophets. The prophets in the Bible had an almost impossibly difficult job. Think about it. They were called by God to rebuke the people and bring them to repent. Have you ever tried that with a friend? To say that it usually backfires is an understatement.

The ability to give rebuke, and at the same time to know how best to inspire the people to improve their ways takes a truly special ability. And the stakes are usually quite high, because if the rebuke is not accepted in the way we hoped, it can lead to the sinner digging in, only making things worse.

A Positive Sign to Others

Ezekiel was one of the biblical prophets whose calling was to rebuke his fellow Jews and bring them back to God. The Book of Ezekiel is a long book—it warns of the destruction and exile that was the result of the sins of Israel. And it foretells the redemption to come in the future.

But to me, one of the most powerful statements in the Book of Ezekiel is a simple little statement that God told Ezekiel to tell the people when he was trying to get them to mend their ways. We read:

In the morning the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, did not the Israelites, that rebellious people, ask you, ‘What are you doing?’ Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This prophecy concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the Israelites who are there.’ Say to them, ‘I am a sign to you.’”

I am a sign to you.” In other words, God told Ezekiel that instead of just rebuking Israel, berating them into changing, he should tell them to observe how he, Ezekiel, behaved. Through his own actions, Ezekiel was to demonstrate how to live a life of service to God. He was to be “a sign.”

Ezekiel’s lesson is that the best way to inspire others to improve their ways is by being a positive sign to them and setting a positive example for them. Your turn: If you find yourself in the company of those behaving poorly, or if you see that another person could benefit from changing his or her ways, don’t judge. Instead, let’s ensure that we, ourselves, are behaving well and setting a good example.

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