Some passages of the Bible are difficult because of the hard work it takes to understand them. And then, there are passages that are difficult because it’s very evident what they mean.
As I begin this new series of blog posts the message will be difficult because of the subject. It’s one that, quite frankly, I would prefer not to teach because it hits my calling in life. The topic is one I believe the Holy Spirit would have us consider as a body of believers. I ask that we open ourselves up to what God will pour into our hearts. His instruction from this difficult passage may bring comfort sometimes, in others a reaffirmation of our calling, and for still others a not so gentle rebuke.
In the thirty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. It’s there that we read these words, spoken by God to the prophet Ezekiel:
Again, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
“So, you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul (Ezekiel 33:1-9).
God was speaking to Ezekiel about his role as a shepherd to His people. Ezekiel was a priest during the time when the Jewish people were removed by God from their homeland because of their sinfulness and idolatry and were taken captive into the land of the Babylonians. God had called him to a prophetic ministry in Babylon, and to the captive people of Judah during the dark time of their exile from their homeland. And God uses the figure of a “watchman” to describe Ezekiel’s role.
The Danger of Ignoring the Warning Signs
Henry Nelson, of Wilmington, Delaware, was a veteran of World War II. He had served as an instructor in the Army Chemical Warfare Department. Yet he ignored a warning by the superintendent of the Riverside Housing Development that the apartment he lived in was being fumigated with hydrogen-cyanide gas. He tore down the barricade at the door and went in after two blankets.
The neighbors saw him remove the sign and barricade and go in, and they called the Development office. But when employees arrived it was too late. Nelson lay sprawled on the living room floor with the two blankets in his arms. Despite both written and verbal warnings, and despite his training in the Army, he had gone to his death.— G. Franklin Allee
The watchman is a military image. It was the task of the watchman to position himself high on the city wall or on a tower, watch carefully, see if an enemy approached the land, and take up his trumpet and blow the warning to his people. His service to his people was a matter of life-and-death importance. If a watchman should fail to see the enemy approaching, or if he should for whatever reason, fail to blow the warning signal, some of his people would perish.
The Call to Be Trustworthy
“Then I will establish for myself a trustworthy priest who will act in accordance with my thoughts and desires. I will build a trustworthy household for him, and he will serve before my anointed one forever.” 1 Samuel 2:35
Due to the nature of the work of a shepherd, a key quality is trustworthiness. God sought that in Samuel, it is a quality Paul list for Timothy.
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” 1 Timothy 3
The watchman had to be a trustworthy man. He had to be faithful and alert to his task. A man who understood the significance of his purpose, and who gave himself fully to it. It may have been an unpopular message he had to give at times. No one likes to have sin confronted but being faithful to our calling means speaking truth even when it is not politically correct. A watchman is committed to sound the alarm when it was needed no matter what the cost. God calls Ezekiel to a most sobering and serious task. Like, Ezekiel, it is a task that every future watchman will be held responsible to by God to the highest possible degree. Which is why no one should take on this calling lightly. God appoints pastors to be a spiritual “watchman” to his people. We are called to “blow” a warning that the people may not want to hear.
Next Week post: Are you faithfully fulfilling the task of a watchman?
Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times(p. 1361). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
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