I grew up in a small church that accepted a very literal application of the Bible. During my small group studies some more recent time ago among friends I mentioned a belief I had somehow acknowledged that God holds us each accountable for the salvation of those we encounter. Discussion ensued and I began to question the truth of this belief – perhaps it would be better defined as an “idea” (see “Dogma“, a 1999 Kevin Smith movie). The idea became a part of my “filed” consciousness.
I then became acquainted with Ezekiel through my daily Bible reading. Ezekiel is chosen to be the Watchman for Israel and I realized his story is where the seed of my idea had originated; the truth was more beautiful and rich than I had ever understood.
Read with me here:
Ezekiel 33 New International Version (NIV)
Renewal of Ezekiel’s Call as Watchman
33 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5 Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’
The Watchman has the same responsibility we are given later – the great commission. He has to tell people the good news. They can still be saved! They have only to repent of their sins. If they don’t, Ezekiel doesn’t suffer. He must only warn them.
7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
And we are reminded again that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Remember he now invites all Gentiles to be joined with the Holy People of Israel. Each one of us is beloved by Him.
10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
I like the stories of fishing for men. I can picture sitting in a boat tossing out the bait of the gospel. If the fish bite I have a moment of great satisfaction. I’ve done my part.
But I want to be the Watchman. I’m standing vigil over the hearts of the people I love (which, per the instructions of my Father, is everyone) and watching for the danger that approaches us. When I sense it is near, I blow my trumpet and shout. I will not see them die because I was not carefully watching. I know I cannot make them heed my warning – but as my teacher Spurgeon has famously said: “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
So equip me Lord with the trumpet to blow and the words to shout that my warning might be heard. And thank you for the book of Ezekiel.