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.
“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 33:1-9 ESV
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. . . . So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:13, 18-20 ESV
When people serve in the United States armed forces, one thing they often have to do is sentry duty. Most branches of service have a list of rules for sentries that have to be memorized and followed. The first rule is that sentries must take charge of their post and of all the government property in their view. They must not let anyone pass their post if that person is not on the access list. Sometimes in basic training, training instructors will try to trick the sentry into letting them pass, and if the sentry falls for the trick he or she will be in big trouble! Another rule is that a sentry must not quit the post until the next sentry comes to take over for him or her. Something else that sentries must do is give the alarm in case of a fire or some kind of disorder. Sentries must follow these rules very carefully, because keeping watch is a very important job in the armed forces.
Long ago walled cities and sometimes army camps had watchmen, and these watchmen were like sentries. If they saw danger approaching they would blow a trumpet to warn the people. God told Ezekiel that he had made the prophet a watchman, and Ezekiel’s job was a very serious one. The Lord said that if Ezekiel failed to warn people that their sin was going to bring God’s judgment on them, the prophet would be responsible for the punishment that fell on wicked people. But if Ezekiel warned the people to turn away from their sins, and they didn’t listen to him, God’s judgment would be their own fault. Ezekiel had a very grim, but very important job. Speaking words of judgment would make people angry with him, but no matter what they said or did, Ezekiel needed to stay faithful to his job.
We all have a job as God’s watchmen, but we have both bad and good news to tell others. The bad news is that the Lord punishes people for their sins, and that because of our sins we are all separated from God. But we have good news to tell also. We can tell people that God loves them and wants them to be his people forever. He sent Jesus to take on the judgment for our sins, and Jesus paid for all the sins of the world at the cross. Everyone who believes in Jesus has forgiveness from God every day, and instead of judgment, we are God’s children and will live with him forever in his heavenly kingdom.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for people who warn us about our sins and tell us the good news about Jesus. Please help us to share this news with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.