Ezekiel 33:7-11

This chapter marks a turning point in the book of Ezekiel. Up till now, the prophet prophet had been fulfilling his call as Israel’s watchman. A major emphasis of Ezekiel’s preaching was personal responsibility, a theme which reached it climax in chapter 18. This was something the exiled Israelites needed to understand and appreciate. They viewed themselves one way, but God viewed them the correct way. A sort of religious and nationalistic pride had taken hold of the people. They were God’s people, after all. Their’s was a divine heritage; a kingdom formed in God’s mind and forged with His power. They had generations of godly heroes: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, and Solomon. And they were the custodians of God’s Word and Presence. They foolishly thought they could coast along on their Godly heritage; that the blessings would just keep on flowing. They took God’s grace for granted and assumed He would always forgive them and that they could do no wrong.

God, though, had to wake them up. Exiling them was punishment for generations of rebellion and they needed to realize that. They needed to know that He was not a mean, malicious Deity who took joy in watching His people suffer. They needed to know that they, the exiles, and that Jerusalem, on the verge of collapse, were getting exactly what they deserved.

Ezekiel also had harsh words for the nations that surrounded Judah and Jerusalem. Some of those nations shared borders with the land of Israel. And some of those pagan nations were related to Israel – related by blood. All of these prophecies were given before the fall of Jerusalem. Now we come to the second part of the book, a collection of sermons and prophecies given after the fall of Jerusalem.

Up to the end of chapter 32, Ezekiel’s prophecies concerned the immanent fall of Jerusalem and the reasons for that fall. They were prophecies when Ezekiel gave them, but with chapter 33, they become history. Jerusalem fell exactly as predicted. Now the prophet looks forward to Israel’s future – Israel’s far future, and ours – and to the coming of the glorious Millennial Kingdom when the glory of the Lord will again be on this planet.

1. Another commission

The word of the Lord came to me… (Ezekiel 33:1)

As always, Ezekiel had to preach God’s Word, not his own. Not one word of Ezekiel’s messages was his own. The prophets of God were never like the sun, with light shining from within themselves. They were more like the moon. The moon shines brightly in the night sky but emits no light of its own. Instead, it reflects the light of the sun. None of the prophets, including Ezekiel, had any light in them to give. They gave the Word of God to the people as God gave it to them.

Before Ezekiel gives the people a glimpse into the far future – a future of great blessing – he give them one final reminder why, in the present, they were being punished and Jerusalem lay in ruins. His message was a simple one: Now is the time to repent and turn back to the Lord!

Ezekiel was the Israel’s watchman, and the Lord reminded him of this fact:

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’ (Ezekiel 33:6)

God had to remind His prophet that he was a watchman. There was still a very real danger to what was left of Israel. That’s why a city needed a watchman: danger. The enemy of God’s people is always trying to get to them. No wonder our Lord, generations after Ezekiel told His prophet to “Watch,” gave us the same command:

What I say to you, I say to everyone: `Watch!’ ” (Mark 13:37)

2. What the watchman does

The watchman of Israel – the literal one as well as Ezekiel, the spiritual watchman – had a two-fold responsibility:

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.” (Ezekiel 33:7)

(A) He had to “hear the word I speak.” Ezekiel had to hear God’s Word. A watchman needed to keep his eyes open to see, but also had to keep his ears open to hear. We are spiritual watchmen, and we have all been called to “hear the Word of the Lord.” We must hear the Word and to understand it so that we may give it to others intelligibly.

To a sinner in peril of losing his soul, the only word that can save him is God’s Word. Your best wishes, as helpful as they may be, won’t bring about the salvation his soul. He needs God’s Word, and if it is in you, you can give it to him. You are God’s watchman, and it is your responsibility to ready.

(B) He had to “give them warning from God.” The sinner needs to be warned that he is in danger and that his only hope for life is a relationship with Jesus Christ. The wayward believer – and there are many of those – needs to be warned to get right with God; to get serious in his relationship with His Savior. There is an ever-present danger swirling all around man; a battle for his very soul, and that’s why you have been called into service as a watchman for the Lord.

3. What the people must do

We, as God’s watchmen, have our responsibility to perform, just as Ezekiel did. But those who hear the Word of the Lord we give them, also have a responsibility once they hear it.

(A) Their condition: LOST!

When I say to the wicked, `You wicked people, you will surely die, ‘ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, those wicked people will die for their sins, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. (Ezekiel 33:8)

Man without Christ is wicked, regardless of how nice and pleasant they are. Once you understand that, you will see the urgency of getting the Word to them. We do the lost a great disservice when we don’t stress their sinful state. It’s out of fashion nowadays to preach against sin, yet we have a solemn responsibility to warn the lost that they are not “good people” in the sight of God. They wicked and they are lost.

(B) Their opportunity

God has sent us to the lost to “warn them for God.” God needs to speak through someone, why not you? Every sinner is given a chance to make his life right; every sinner is given the opportunity to repent.

(C) Their responsibility

But if you do warn the wicked to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sins, though you yourself will be saved. (Ezekiel 33:9)

Here’s that “personal responsibility” theme again. The sinner will be held accountable for NOT heeding the Word of the Lord. As surely as you, a believer, is responsible for the Word God gives you, so the sinner is responsible for the Word you give them. The warning is “to turn from their ways.” In other words, as we might say today: “Get right with the Lord!” If they do not, they will be held accountable for their decision. A lot of sinners will say things like, “I know you’re right. I know I need to get my act together.” But nice sentiments like that count for nothing. Putting off the decision to repent and follow Christ is the same thing as saying NO.

Regeneration is completely a work of God, but conversion – turning from sin – is an act of man’s own will. God cannot make the decision for the sinner. He respects the free will He gave mankind. That’s why the sinner will be held accountable for what they do with God’s Word.

4. What God thinks

Say to them, `As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11)

This is the agony of God’s love that found its ultimate expression in the words of His Son: Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.

God wants to bless, He takes no delight in cursing. But both blessing and cursing are part of the way God works with His people. They are very much a part of God’s covenants with Israel.

The Fall of Jerusalem was the pivot point of Ezekiel’s prophecy. All the warnings from accumulated generations of prophets went unheeded. Time and again as God spoke to His people,He promised blessings if they obeyed, and curses if the rebelled. The warnings came to pass with fall of Jerusalem. In addition, God would also deal with other nations that refused to repent.

But God was not finished with the exiles. God would restore the nation to its former glory. But at the same time, God sees the individual needs of His people. God sees the painful, pitiful state of a lost soul.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Ezekiel as Israel’s watchman had a job to do. We as modern-day watchmen have a job to do. It’s the same as Ezekiel’s. Let’s take our job seriously. Let’s take the Word of the Lord to people who are dying to hear it.

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