Wednesday, June 1
Reader: “Son of man, I have appointed you”
Response: “as a watchman for Israel.”
Scripture: Ezekiel 3:12-21
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a loud rumbling sound behind me. (May the glory of the Lord be praised in his place!) It was the sound of the wings of the living beings as they brushed against each other and the rumbling of their wheels beneath them.
The Spirit lifted me up and took me away. I went in bitterness and turmoil, but the Lord’s hold on me was strong. Then I came to the colony of Judean exiles in Tel-abib, beside the Kebar River. I was overwhelmed and sat among them for seven days.
After seven days the Lord gave me a message. He said, “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.
“If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.”
As you reflect on what you have just read, think of Ezekiel living this message in today’s world. In the previous chapter, Ezekiel was given a vision as to what he was to do in challenging Israel to repent and change their ways. He was to be a watchman, a lookout for the community. He was to warn the people of God’s judgment for their behavior. In our passage he has just been brought back from his visionary experience and once again entered earthly reality. He was taken to a colony of Israelites in Babylon by the Kebar River. He was so overwhelmed he sat in silence for seven days, similar to Job’s friend’s arrival to comfort him.
The weight on Ezekiel’s head was the responsibility given to him. When God gave him a warning message for the people, he was to deliver it regardless of their response. The weight on Ezekiel was if he didn’t deliver it to the people, whether they were acting righteously or not, their blood was on him. If he delivered God’s warning message to bad people and they didn’t repent, their blood was on their own head and Ezekiel was not responsible. But if Ezekiel failed to give them God’s message and they died in their sin, then Ezekiel was held responsible for their deaths. The same principle applied with the righteous people. If they got off the track and rebelled against God and Ezekiel didn’t give them God’s message of warning, he would be held responsible for their deaths.
The key to this whole section comes in the few sentences just prior to today’s passage.
They say, “Then he [God] added, ‘Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.’”
Here is what is so powerful to me in this passage. We are to share the gospel and God’s word, regardless of the response of the people with whom we talk. Ezekiel could not make the people respond to God’s message. His job was to carry God’s message to them. He was not responsible for whether they accepted God’s warning or not. We are not responsible if someone accepts or rejects the gospel. That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But it is important that we speak up for the truth. We dare not be silent in these chaotic days as God’s truth is being mocked and brazenly defied. We are not held responsible for other people’s responses, but we dare not be silent and complicit.
Music: “Once to Every Man and Nation” Fountainview Academy
Give us courage, O Lord, to stand up and be counted, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, to stand up for ourselves when it is needful for us to do so. Let us fear nothing more than we fear you. Let us love nothing more than we love you, for thus we shall fear nothing also. Let us have no other God before you, whether nation or party or state or church. Let us seek no other peace but the peace which is yours, and make us its instruments, opening our eyes and our ears and our heart, so that we should know always what work of peace we may do for you. Amen. ―Alan Paton from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.94