Have you ever been accused of being someone who spoils all of the fun? You know, that one person who doesn’t want to go with the flow when things start getting out of hand? The person who says, hey, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this? Or that guy who points out that what you are doing could lead to trouble? You know the person I am thinking of. Have you ever been that person? It kind of reminds me of the crazy sidewalk prophet with the wild eyes and long beard, standing in the middle of a crowded street of a major city holding his prophetic sign that says, “Repent, judgment is coming.” And everyone that walks by him is thinking, that guy needs to get a life instead of trying to wreck mine. I wonder if it was that way for Noah in the Old Testament before the flood. It says that the wickedness of man was so great that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts were evil continually, but Noah was a preacher of righteousness. I’ll bet they called him a fun-hater too. Until it started raining, of course.
If you haven’t ever found yourself being accused of this, really, it isn’t difficult. All you have to do is actually believe that there is a right and wrong, that God is the One who determines what right and wrong is, and that He is going to someday soon separate those who practice right from those who practice wrong with a great and terrible day of judgment. After that, go and tell people what you believe. Voila! Instant crazy, fun-hating, sidewalk prophet, fanatic. Pretty simple.
While most of us in the church may not look the part of a sidewalk prophet (although beards are in style), my hope is that we fit the description of the faithful servant of God who fills the role of a prophet in the sense that we are faithfully warning the world around us of the wrath of God upon the ungodly along with the glorious alternative of hope which comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Although this type of person may be shunned by society as an extremist, society actually owes this person a debt of gratitude as their message is ultimately a form of God’s grace. This grace is the attempt of God to guide the world away from an eternal torment received as the reward for choosing to rebel against Him. Unfortunately though, this message is often rejected as being hateful. Interesting isn’t it? A message of hope and salvation being called “hateful.”
As uncomfortable and discouraging as it can be proclaiming truth to people who don’t want to hear it or who reinterpret it as unloving, there is a passage in the Old Testament that helps to keep the seriousness of our role in perspective.
In the days of ancient Israel, cities often had fortified walls around them to help protect their citizens. Whether it was attack from hostile nations, wild animals, or even contrary weather, a strong wall could provide the protection that was needed for a civilization to flourish. For further security, watch towers were built into the walls around the city. In these watch towers, individuals were appointed to keep watch for any threat that might come against them. These men were known as watchmen, and it was their responsibility to warn the people of danger, often by blowing a loud trumpet.
Now, using this as an illustration of spiritual truth, God speaks to us in Ezekiel.
“And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, “If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.”‘” Ezekiel 33:1-5 (NASB95)
So in this passage the Lord begins to speak to Ezekiel an illustration involving a watchman. He tells him that if a sword comes upon the land, meaning war, the people of the land will appoint someone to be their watchman. When this watchman sees the enemy army approaching with their sword, his responsibility is to blow a trumpet to warn the people about the threat. Then, hypothetically, if a person hears the warning from the trumpet but decides to ignore it and he is killed, God says his blood is on his own head. He had been given fair warning to deliver himself from the danger but chose not to. Therefore, he becomes responsible for the circumstances of his death. It is his own fault. They had been clearly warned by the faithful watchman about the danger. In the next verse, we get a similar scenario but with a slight twist.
“‘”But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.'”” Ezekiel 33:6 (NASB95)
In this scenario, the Lord speaks to Ezekiel about an unfaithful watchman who, although he sees the enemy coming, fails to warn the people about the danger. Because of his failure, God says that if even one person is taken by the sword from among them, that person’s blood will be on the head of the watchman. He failed in his duty to the city to protect them, therefore, even though that person died in his or her iniquity, the watchman is guilty for neglecting his post. Next comes the application of the illustration.
I Have Appointed You as a Watchman…
“‘Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, “O wicked man, you will 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 from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.'” Ezekiel 33:7-9 (NASB95)
The Lord applies the illustration of the watchman to the ministry of Ezekiel, calling him the watchman of Israel. He is charged with the responsibility of a prophet to not only faithfully speak God’s word but also to warn others of God’s wrath and judgment that is coming upon the wicked. If he fails to fulfill his role and the wicked are not warned, they will die in their sins and the prophet will be guilty of neglecting his duty. But, on the other hand, if he is faithful in declaring the warning, he has delivered his own life even if the people warned do not repent. This is a very heavy calling from the Lord as well as a very sobering challenge in our current spiritual climate.
Our Duty as Watchmen
Churches are meant to fulfill this role of a watchman who heralds the coming of the Lord in all of His power and glory. As such, it is the duty of the church to share with everyone about the grace and mercy of God who takes away the sin of the world. We are called to be the salt of the earth, through whom the Spirit provides the flavor and the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not that light, as John puts it, but we testify of the light which enlightens all men. In all of this, we have a great privilege!
But I often wonder how well we are doing. It happens all too often that we see the watchman fail to sound the trumpet. Ordained ministers affirming sins, such as homosexuality, instead of warning of its consequences. Bible teachers who teach everything but the bible. Congregations that seem to be more interested in property and popularity than reaching the lost. Are we truly being the faithful watchmen that God has called His children to be?
The stakes are high…people are perishing…we must not fail them.
My Personal Experience
I remember years ago when I was a new Christian, these verses hit home for me in a devastating way and still speak loud and clear to me today.
We were working at a house, installing drywall in the basement. Upon meeting with the homeowners, I remember feeling a very strong urge to share with them about the Lord. Several times. But I didn’t. I was a new believer, and I was busy telling all kinds of people about my new found faith, but for some reason, it felt really awkward. I just couldn’t seem to find the courage or the right opportunity to share with them. We finished the project and moved on to other things, never giving them a second thought. Later that summer, I was watching the news and a report came on about a woman who had went to work on a busy morning, forgetting to drop her newborn infant off at the babysitters before heading into work. Instead, her forgotten child was accidentally left in the backseat of her car in its car seat all day in the hot summer heat. After work at the end of the day, the woman returned to her car to find that her infant had died from the heat. It was so terrible and tragic.
As I watched this story on the news, I remember feeling such an incredible weight of despair as I recognized this woman as the owner of the house we had worked on. The same woman whom the Lord had prompted me to witness to, but I hadn’t. I found myself not only mourning for their devastating loss, but also mourning because I had failed to tell them about Jesus. The Lord had prompted me several times, but I had disobeyed. Now, I don’t know whether or not my obedience would have prevented that over-worked mother from forgetting to drop off her child at daycare. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything on that end. But I often wonder if I would have told them about the Lord whether or not they would have believed and having believed would have been able to find comfort in the face of tragedy.
I will never forget that lesson as the Lord brought these verses from Ezekiel to mind after that incident. I would like to say that I have always gotten it right since then, and that I have faithfully, perfectly obeyed God each and every time I felt Him nudge me to share the gospel with someone, but that is not the case. I become too distracted or too concerned about being ridiculed or laughed at or looked down on. But what it has taught me is that if I am going to be a faithful watchman in this wicked world, I need God’s Spirit to lead me and guide me every step of the way. Along with that, I need examples from His word, such as this one to bring everything back into perspective when I forget my place. Our perspective needs to be eternal. Our approach needs to be loving. Our message needs to be bold. Our method must be Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered. Our response to God’s call needs to be obedient.
The world is waiting.
God is coming.
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” – Jesus Christ