Ezekiel 33:1-33; Hebrews 13:1-16; Psalms 112:4-10; Proverbs 24:13-14
OT: ““As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself… Tell them, ‘As I live — this is the declaration of the Lord God — I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?’ “Now, son of man, say to your people, ‘The righteousness of the righteous person will not save him on the day of his transgression; neither will the wickedness of the wicked person cause him to stumble on the day he turns from his wickedness. The righteous person won’t be able to survive by his righteousness on the day he sins. When I tell the righteous person that he will surely live, but he trusts in his righteousness and acts unjustly, then none of his righteousness will be remembered, and he will die because of the injustice he has committed. “‘So when I tell the wicked person, “You will surely die,” but he repents of his sin and does what is just and right — he returns collateral, makes restitution for what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing injustice — he will certainly live; he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be held against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live… “As for you, son of man, your people are talking about you near the city walls and in the doorways of their houses. One person speaks to another, each saying to his brother, ‘Come and hear what the message is that comes from the Lord!’ So my people come to you in crowds, sit in front of you, and hear your words, but they don’t obey them. Their mouths go on passionately, but their hearts pursue dishonest profit. Yes, to them you are like a singer of passionate songs who has a beautiful voice and plays skillfully on an instrument. They hear your words, but they don’t obey them. Yet when all this comes true — and it definitely will — then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”” (Ezekiel 33:7-9, 11-16, 30-33 CSB)
God called Ezekiel to be a watchman for the nation of Israel. The job of the watchman was to sit atop the wall surrounding the city and keep watch for approaching enemies. If the watchman saw an enemy approaching, it was his responsibility to warn the city of the impending danger. The watchman’s job was to sound the warning so that those in the city could escape. He wasn’t responsible for actually saving the people – just warning them. That was God’s expectation of Ezekiel – sounding the warning of impending judgement so that all could hear and respond. Ezekiel wasn’t responsible for the response to his warning. He was only responsible to faithfully give it. If Ezekiel was faithful to warn the people, and the people ignored his warning, Ezekiel was not held responsible. However, if Ezekiel did not diligently warn the people of God’s coming judgement, the people’s demise would be on his head.
What was the message that Ezekiel was to deliver? In short, his message was repent and be saved. God takes no pleasure in seeing people meet their just demise. It is God’s desire that people repent from their wickedness so that God can show them mercy and grant them salvation. Ezekiel’s message to the people was that righteous works were not enough. They needed to truly repent and return fully to God. We have a tendency to treat salvation like a pair of scales. On one side of the scales are our righteous works, and on the other side of the scales are our sinful deeds. We think that as long as the righteous side of the scales is heavier than the sinful side, we will be saved. That is our idea of fairness, but that is not how holiness and righteousness before God works. Any unconfessed and unrepented of sin stains our life and disqualifies us from righteousness and holiness. We can’t trust our righteous works to save us. We must repent from all sin and turn to God. When we do that, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and make us righteous through faith.
That is the message that Ezekiel faithfully gave to the people of Israel… and he drew a crowd as he proclaimed God’s word. But the people came to be entertained instead of convicted. Ezekiel was faithful in his role as watchman, but the people ignored his warning. Because of that, God’s judgement came and the nation met its demise. Ezekiel was not held responsible for the lack of response, only that he clearly communicated the message.
In a way, Christ has called His disciples to be watchmen. We are called to clearly communicate the gospel of the kingdom – that forgiveness and salvation, righteousness and reconciliation can be found through faith in Jesus Christ. We aren’t the ones that do the saving – we are the ones that do the warning and the proclaiming. We aren’t held responsible for people’s response to the gospel. We are held responsible for proclaiming and demonstrating the message of the gospel, clearly so that all can understand. Are we, like Ezekiel, being faithful watchmen despite the response?
Psalms: “Light shines in the darkness for the upright. He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous. Good will come to the one who lends generously and conducts his business fairly. He will never be shaken. The righteous one will be remembered forever. He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord. His heart is assured; he will not fear. In the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” (Psalms 112:4-8 CSB)
We know through the scriptures that righteousness is granted by faith – namely faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The message of Jesus and the message of the apostles was repent and believe. Sin comes out of a life through a repentant heart by way of the mouth as we confess and repent. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance and it is by faith in the word of God that we know of God’s goodness. When we place our faith fully on Christ and repent from our sin, God by His Holy Spirit declares us righteous and makes us new and holy creatures. We are also reconciled to God and our life-giving relationship with Him is restored. It is as righteous, reconciled and fully restored people that we can walk in the confidence described by the psalmist. Had the Jewish people responded to Ezekiel’s warnings and repented of their wicked ways, they would have been saved and their peace and assurance in the Lord would have been restored. For those who have not responded to the gospel, will you keep ignoring the word of the Lord, or will you repent and believe. For those who have responded and become followers of Christ, are you faithfully proclaiming the good news and bringing light to those in darkness?
Prayer: Lord, I thank You for Your mercy and grace – that by Your mercy and grace, You forgave all my unrighteousness and made me righteous as I repented and placed my faith in You. Help me now to be a faithful bearer of Your good news. Help me to not become discouraged by people’s lack of response but to be faithful to proclaim the good news of the kingdom to those who haven’t heard, and to teach the ways of the kingdom to those who want to know more. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.