—Ezekiel 33 begins with the talk of a watchman:
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “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, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 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. 5 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. 6 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.’
When I read those words the other day, I just couldn’t shake the thought that some of us, the faithful in the Church, are appointed to be the Watchmen, like Ezekiel. We’re called to watch. We’re called to sound the alarm when we see the enemy at work. We’re called to protect those around us with that knowledge. If we speak when we ought, and people ignore us, it’s on them. But if we don’t…
If we don’t…then their punishment is our guilt.
Those Watchmen, my friends, are responsible for the blood of their neighbors—literal or figurative, if we’re looking at the eternal—if they do not share the message God has given they.
Sometimes we’re afraid of the things God has called us to do—afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing people. We’re told to be afraid of God instead, because we revere Him. This is a kind of fear I hadn’t considered yet—the fear of what happens if we don’t answer the call. The fear that motivates us and gives us urgency. That keeps us alert. That makes us bold.
What warning have you seen as you watch the world? Are you speaking it? And if so, are you speaking it from LOVE? Because we all know just shouting it out from a soapbox isn’t enough. But even when we have the message, even we deliver it in the right way…what happens?
Later in that same chapter, Ezekiel says this in verses 30-33:
30 “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. 33 And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Again, this really jumped out at me! With their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.
Anyone else go “WOW!” at that? Talk about summing up our society today! People talk so much about acceptance and inclusion and not judging others…but when it comes down to it, their concern for others falls short of their concern for themselves. And worse, we in the church all too often do the same thing. Our ideals fall away when it comes to actually sacrificing our own comforts for others’.
These verses make it clear that those two things are in complete opposition: loving others, versus our own gain.
What has He asked us to sacrifice? Have we done it?
It’s difficult—it’s meant to be. If we want to #BeBetter, we know work is involved. First in ourselves, so that then we can boldly speak it.
But these verses also show us what could well happen when we do. Our words SOUND good. They’re music. Melody and harmony. They tickle the ears of our listeners–in the case of Ezekiel, these are other Israelites, who should be following God. In our case, these could well be the people sitting in the pews around ours in church. They clap their hands and sing along in all the right places. “They hear your words; but they do not do them.”
Still, it was Ezekiel’s responsibility to speak—and it’s ours too, if He gives us a message.
I’ll leave you today with this benediction from our devotional book that really resonated as well:
Lord, you have appointed some to be prophets; give us ears to hear and mouths to speak. You have appointed some to sing of your goodness in the streets; make us bold to celebrate you. You have called some to be still, listen, and act; give us steadiness of mind and singularity of purpose. Amen. (Common Prayer, Claiborne et al, June 24)
Are you called to hear and speak? To sing His praises with boldness? To listen and act? Whichever category you fall into, let’s obey together.