The Watchman of Israel
It was a cold wintry night. I could hear the wind whistling through the trees as I walked my post. What I wouldn’t have given for a little warmth and a hot cup of coffee. Guard duty in the army can be a very lonely experience. Yet, the guard has an awesome responsibility for the safety of the lives and property he is called upon to watch.
The Prophet Ezekiel was commissioned by God to be a watchman over the house of Israel. He was to warn the Jewish people of the spiritual destruction which was imminent if they remained in their iniquity. God said to Ezekiel:
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. (v. 17)
By examining Ezekiel’s commission, we can see what God requires of a watchman over Israel.
THE WORK OF THE WATCHMAN (VV. 8-9, 17)
CHOOSING THE WATCHMAN
God said to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel . . .” (v. 17). The need for a watchman indicates possible danger. The nation of Israel placed watchmen at strategic points on the wall of the city in order to warn the people of impending attacks.
COURAGE OF THE WATCHMAN
Some may say, Ezekiel was a strong, fearless man of God. I just don’t have his boldness. Actually, the opposite seems to be true! A character study shows Ezekiel to be a man like many of us – sensitive to the opinions of others, inclined to draw back at the scowls and rebellious indifference of his people, and fearful to bring the message of judgment to them. But, God instructed Ezekiel not to fear the face of his people. He said, “. . . fear them not, neither be dismayed (lose courage) at their looks . . .” (v. 9).
Even though Ezekiel might have been fearful of his ministry, God promised to give him sufficient strength for his mission as a watchman. God told him, “Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads” (v. 8). In essence, God was saying, Ezekiel, do you sense that their head is hard? Well, I have made your head stronger than theirs!
It is interesting to note that Ezekiel’s name means “God will strengthen”. God was telling him not to fear, not to lose courage. He assured Ezekiel that He would make his witness stronger than their rejection. In fact, he would give to Ezekiel strength like “an adamant harder that flint. . .” (v. 9).
The “adamant” stone was extremely hard and impossible to break or cut. It was used to cut flint, or stones harder than flint. The implication is that God would supply Ezekiel with a source of strength far greater than any opposition he might encounter from his people.
THE WORD TO THE WATCHMAN (VV. 1-4, 10-17)
PROVIDED THE WORD
Ezekiel was not to go with his own words, but with God’s Word. God said to him, “. . . hear the word at my mouth . . .” (v. 17), and “. . . speak with my words unto them” (v. 4). God would provide Ezekiel with the message He wanted the people to hear.
There were a number of things Ezekiel was instructed to do with God’s Word. First, he was to “hear” it (v. 10). It is one thing for God to provide the message, but quite another for man to hear it. Second, he must “receive” it in his heart (v. 10). Ezekiel was told to “eat this scroll” (v. 1). God’s Word must become an integral part of the watchman before he can speak for the Lord with real conviction.
PROPAGATING THE WORD
It was not only God’s will that Ezekiel “hear” and “receive”, but that he “go” and “tell”. God said, “Go . . . unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them . . .” (v. 11). Ezekiel had no choice but to respond to God’s command and go.
So, Ezekiel got involved! He tells us, “And I sat where they sat, and remained there among them . . .” (v. 15). Here Ezekiel presents three important truths concerning the ministry of a watchman,
First, he “sat where they sat” (v. 15). To be effective as a watchman, one must get to know and understand the thinking, needs, feelings and problems of the people he is to oversee. Second, Ezekiel felt “overwhelmed among them”. He was overwhelmed with the grief and miseries of his people in captivity. The watchman, to be effective at his task, must sympathize with the people he is called upon to protect. Third, Ezekiel sat and listened for “seven days” (v. 15). “At the end of seven days, he says, “. . . the word of the Lord came unto me . . .” (v. 16). To minister properly, the watchman must wait until God provides him with the proper understanding and message for the people.
THE WARNING OF THE WATCHMAN (VV. 17-21)
It is the watchman’s responsibility to warn the people when they are in danger of destruction. God told Ezekiel, “. . . and give them warning from me” (v. 17).
WARNING TO THE WATCHMAN
If Ezekiel failed to warn the people, it meant that God would require their blood at his hand (vv. 18, 20). In essence, God is saying to the watchman – I will hold you responsible for the spiritual death of the one who dies without warning, because I have commissioned you to take the message of life to him.
Paul was given the same divine commission to share the Gospel. He said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men . . .” (2 Cor. 5:11). It was the pattern of Paul’s ministry to take the Gospel of Christ to Jewish people first. After his conversion, Paul wasted no time in preaching the Gospel in the synagogue at Damascus. Luke tells us, “And immediately he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).
In Acts 13 and the chapters which follow, we are told that Paul preached the Gospel to the Jew first, in Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. It was only after many of the Jewish people in Corinth rejected his message that Paul said, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean” (Acts 18:6).
In his farewell message to the elders of Ephesus, Paul declared, “Wherefore, I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26). Paul was aware of God’s words to Ezekiel, and he knew the awesome responsibility that he, too, had to evangelize the Jewish people.
WARNING TO THE WICKED
There are two types of people who must be warned – the wicked man (v. 19), and the righteous man (v. 21). The righteous man is the one who, after walking with God, has fallen into sin, or possibly the self-righteous man who counts on his good works to gain him acceptance with God.
It is God’s responsibility, not ours, to save them. But, God brings people to spiritual life through our witness. One man will not heed the warning. He will hear, but scorn, both the messenger and his message. This one is destined to “die in his iniquity” (v. 19). Another man will take heed and repent of his sin, and “he shall surely live” (v. 21).
THE WATCHMAN TODAY
The voice of the prophet has been silent for almost 2,000 years. Who is the watchman over Israel today? Christian friends, we need only look into the mirror of the Word, and God will show us His watchman.
But you say – Who, me, a watchman? That’s right! If the Jewish people are to hear the words of spiritual life in the Saviour, we are the only ones who can bring them the message. Paul put it succinctly when he said,
How, then, shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:14)
THE WORK OF THE WATCHMAN
It is a trusted honor to be chosen as a watchman. To be so appointed means that the leadership of your country has the confidence to put the security of the nation in your care. The watchman must possess the keen eye of an eagle. He has to carefully study the contour of the land, because the slightest movement on the countryside could mean imminent danger. He needs nerves of iron and a steadfastness to his assignment, and he must never flee his post for fear of an approaching enemy. He must always be alert – to sleep at his post is unthinkable. The watchman must be faithful to his commission.
I can hear some say, Jewish people will never respond to my witness. Well, God warned Ezekiel that this would be the attitude of the people in his day.
But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me; for all the house of Israel are impudent (hard forehead) and hard hearted (stiffnecked). (v. 7)
And, was not the same thing true in Jesus’ day? Remember His words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37). Before we ever go to our Jewish friends, God warns us that some will never hearken, nor even show the slightest interest in our message.
The fear of being rejected, however, does not negate our responsibility to be watchmen. We are to watch and warn them of the spiritual danger which awaits all who reject Jesus. If we look to God, He will strengthen us with a “holy boldness” to speak in love to our Jewish friends. No matter how men might respond to our witness, God still says, “I have made thee a watchman.” We must not reject, but rather respond to the duty before us.
THE WORD OF THE WATCHMAN
Watchman, are you prepared to give God’s Word to your Jewish friends? Every believer is to be “ready to give an answer for the hope that is in him”. The Bible study in this magazine, entitled “The Messianic Hope”, will help you to share the Lord Jesus with your Jewish friends. Many will never have the opportunity to hear the message of the Messiah unless concerned Christians become involved in Jewish evangelism. There are six million Jewish people in the United States, and a handful of Jewish missions cannot begin to reach them. You are the key to Jewish evangelism, my friend!
Like Ezekiel, you must become involved with sharing God’s Word concerning salvation with those with whom you come in contact. It means that you must sit where they sit and share Messiah with them.
But you say, I have tried to share the Lord with them, and they have rejected my witness! – or, They don’t want the message! – or, Why should I go to all the trouble? – or, Why should we bother?
Why? Because God has commanded, “. . . speak unto them, and tell them . . . whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (v. 11). Even though some Jewish people will reject your witness, it has been promised that a remnant will be saved. Paul says,
. . . Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved. (Rom. 9:27)
Even so, then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Rom. 11:5).