Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ezekiel 33: Word of the Watchman

In what's turning into an Ezekiel 33 mini-series, this post examines an idea a theological point from the beginning of the chapter.
    The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand. (Ezekiel 33:1-6 ESV)
The Lord speaks a parable to Ezekiel, proclaiming the responsibility of the watchman to proclaim what he knows. When the watchman blows the trumpet, people in the land can take warning and have a possibility of salvation. If they ignore the warning, or if they hear no trumpet because the watchman forsakes his job, then they are surely lost. God then takes this parable and applies it to Ezekiel.
    “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 33:7-9 ESV)
God's prophet is the watchman. The message is a warning from God to repent, and Israel must respond for deliverance. The parable and application in its context is straightforward, but the implications for our day are huge.

First, God uses watchmen to deliver his message. He used Ezekiel and other prophets to speak the word of the Lord. Now he speaks through his Son, His Word, and the church who proclaims the message of good news: salvation by the blood of the Lamb. The church must speak the Word of God, the gospel, for the world to have any hope of salvation.

Second, God does not say that those ignorant of the watchman's word cannot be held accountable. "That person is taken away in his iniquity." All are guilty, and each person stands on their own merit. We are guilty for our iniquity, not because we have not heard God's Word.

Third, the watchman bears responsibility for the message. Not only do they need to speak the Word of the Lord, but they will be judged on the basis of their faithfulness to that proclamation, "His blood I will require at the watchman's hand."

This has staggering implications for evangelism. God has prescribed gospel proclamation as the means for kingdom growth. We have the responsibility to preach the good news. That is the world's only hope. And we will be judged on whether or not we opened our mouths. God does not judge on the effectiveness of the message--the conversion rate or any such corporate nonsense--but pure faithfulness to say what God has given us to say. And even though the lost are lost because of their own iniquity, we have blood on our hands too if we do not warn them of the coming sword. We must be faithful watchmen.
    What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
    According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:5-15 ESV)

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