A title like “The Watchman” sounds rather ominous in today’s world. There are confirmed and unconfirmed reports of government programs peering into emails and phone records. Let me tell you up front this post has nothing to do with such programs.
If you are looking for something witty or edgy in this post let me save you some time, stop reading now. This is addressed to all who have called upon the name of Jesus Christ and made him Lord. If you owe Jesus everything, read on.
The first three chapters of Ezekiel cover the call and commission of Ezekiel to preach to the people of Israel. This calling will also contain one doozy of an object lesson along with the most sobering of warnings for not delivering God’s words. It is important to note that the huge responsibility was placed on the delivering of the message, not in the accepting of it.
What qualified Ezekiel to be a watchman? He was commanded by God to warn Israel of God’s anger for their rebellion. As much as a human possibly can Ezekiel understood the stakes.
So where am I headed with this? For all my life I have heard this book used to warn preachers to preach the whole council of God. You will get no argument from me on that interpretation, but is there more to it? I think there is; Ezekiel was commanded to speak God’s words to those around him. As Christians have we not been given that same mandate? Do we not also possess some sense of the consequences if those around us who do not accept Jesus as Lord? The Great Commission isn’t only for preachers. We certainly have a mandate to go and tell; we understand the stakes so we are, in my estimation, also responsible to give warning.
As we evaluate the responsibility of the watchman we should also consider “Am I a watchman?”
Scroll for Dinner
We know that the ancient writings were on scrolls so when the “hand”, 2:9, delivered the scroll it was spread out before Ezekiel. Notice that the writing was on both sides: this is new, usually the writing was only on one side. The content of the scroll was God’s message to Israel.
Ezekiel was commanded to eat the scroll and in 3:3 it was said to taste sweet like honey. There is another instance of this in Revelations chapter 10 where John was instructed to eat the book. Again, as with Ezekiel, it tasted sweet like honey but became bitter in the belly. There is no mention in Ezekiel about the bitterness in his belly unless you think 3:14 refers to it.
The symbolism is easy enough; take My words into your soul, into your very being, and deliver them to Israel. The sweetness, I assume, would be the purity of God’s word. There is no bitterness unless we are rebellious to God’s word.
God is saying I want My words to permeate every fiber of your being. There is to be nothing more important than delivering My words to them.
With any endeavor we generally have some type of way to measure success. At first glance success is not obtainable. In chapter 3:7 it clearly says that the people of Israel will not listen. A quick reaction to this verse causes us to think “Great, I am doomed to fail before I even start”. After careful consideration that statement is not true at all. Let’s review: 2:3 I want you to speak My words to Israel, 2:6 don’t be afraid, 2:8 don’t you rebel like they did, 3:1 I have given you My words, 3:8 I have given you strength and 3:10 practice what you preach.
If Ezekiel faithfully delivers God’s words to the people, if he relies on God to strengthen him, if he does not fear what man will do and if he practices what he preaches then God considers him a success. Obedience to God is how we measure success!
When God concluded the call and commission He set Ezekiel in his mission field: then He gave Ezekiel a harsh warning; if you do not warn them their blood will be on your hands. If you warn them you have done your part. Ezekiel was not commanded to win them; he was commanded to warn them. Verses 17-21 refer to warning the lost as well as the Christian who has slipped into rebellion.
When I was researching the Hebrew word for “require” I found a parallel passage that gives the sense of responsibility meant here. It is found in Gen 43:9 (Joseph was sold into slavery but after many years of adversity he is now 2nd in command in Egypt. Jacob’s sons had already been in Egypt once where they were warned, by Joseph, not to return unless they bring Benjamin with them. After their food runs out Jacob tells his sons to go back to Egypt and buy food. Judah tells his father we cannot go back without Benjamin. He goes on to say that he would assume responsibility for Benjamin’s life. If he does not return you can hold me accountable.)
What does it mean when God says “his blood will I require at thine hand”? I am about to give a short answer but it wasn’t a short deliberation.
Clearly the wicked who do not turn away from their wickedness will perish with or without warning, but what is the fate of those who do not warn them? It is like being an accessory to murder; under our law that is a punishable offense, but isn’t it worse than that? The watchman who does not warn the wicked becomes an accessory to the eternal damnation of a soul. Is someone burning in hell, right now, because of me?
In the Great Commission we are commanded to reach out to all the world not only to be saved but also to train new converts how to please God. Why do most Christians ignore this mandate from God? The average church that actually has a witnessing program see 3-5% of their church members actively go and tell people about Jesus.
When I was preparing this post I started to list some reasons but they all boil down to one fact, we will do what we want to do and we will put off or ignore what we don’t want to do. Do we seriously think Ezekiel wanted to go warn Israel of pending destruction because of their sin? So why did he go? That’s easy, God told him to do it. God told us to go, but, for the most part, we are not doing it. Why are we ignoring God’s mandate to warn the lost and / or rebellious Christians?
Ezekiel faced the same human nature obstacles we face: God told him not to fear; isn’t that one of the big reasons why people don’t go? Still other will say “I don’t know what to say to them”. I have observed that church members have plenty to say about many topics. God gave Ezekiel the words to say, He will do the same for us. God helped Ezekiel understand the gravity of the situation by saying their blood will be on your hands if you don’t warn them.
Recently I listened as an evangelist recounted an object lesson he had used at his home church. He burned pictures of loved ones headed for hell hoping the visual would help his congregation understand the stakes of rejecting God’s word. During this process he set on fire a picture of his own nephew. His sister, the boy’s mother, ran to that altar pouring her heart out to God to save her son. In that moment she understood the gravity of the situation. She saw her son burning in the Lake of Fire. I believe now we have arrived at the real answer to why 95% of people who attend church do not go out and tell people about Jesus; we do not see the people in our community, our friends and our family burning in the Lake of Fire. May God open our eyes to the reality of Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
Are you a watchman? Every person who God has saved from eternal damnation has a responsibility, an obligation, to give a lost and dying world hope.