Are you a Watchman?
If so, what are you on the watch for? We are starting a new book today, the book of Ezekiel 1-6. Ezekiel was a prophet who was called to be a Watchman for God, to warn God’s people of their sin and its consequences.
Whenever we start a new book, I like to give a brief history and overview of the book. Below is from the Easy English Bible Commentary.
“After the death of King Solomon, the Israelite nation became divided. 10 of the 12 tribes set up a separate country with their own kings. These 10 northern tribes turned away from the Lord their God. After several centuries, God sent the nation called Assyria to fight against them. In the year 722 BC the 10 tribes went into exile in Assyria.
At that time, God did not remove the two southern tribes. These two tribes formed the nation called Judah. But during the next 100 years, the people in Judah became very evil. They became as bad as the 10 tribes, or even worse.
Ezekiel does refer to Judah as Israelites. During Ezekiel’s life, Judah was all that remained of the original nation called Israel. But some of the prophecies in the book are for all the Israelites.
God Sends a Warning
The agreement that God made with Israel warned the people. It said that the people must obey God. If they did not obey, God would send them into exile among the nations. This happened to the 10 tribes. It would soon happen to the people who lived in Judah.
Ezekiel the prophet
All that we know about Ezekiel is in this book. His name means ‘God gives strength.’ Ezekiel was born in the year 627 BC. He was a priest, the son of Buzi the priest. He belonged to the family of Zadok, who was a famous priest. Ezekiel went into exile at the same time as King Jehoiachin in the year 597 BC. Ezekiel lived with other *exiles at the river called Chebar. His home was in Tel-Abib town. His wife died in the 9th year of his exile.
Ezekiel lived at the same time as Jeremiah the prophet. But Ezekiel does not mention Jeremiah. Jeremiah was still in Judah while Ezekiel was with the exiles.
The Book of Ezekiel
Ezekiel is divided into four parts. The first part of the book (chapters 1-24) deals with the failure of God’s people. Ezekiel tells how God will punish them. He tells the exiles that God will destroy Jerusalem. When this had happened, he changes his message. Then he tells about the punishment of the nations (chapters 25-32). Chapters 33-39 look forward to the future. These chapters describe the return of the people from Israel to their country. The last part of the book (chapters 40-48) describes the future temple. And the tribes of Israel will divide the country in a new way.”
The shape of the book of Ezekiel
|Part One||The Sin of Judah and the Judgement of God||1:1-24:27|
|Part Two||Punishment of the Nations||25:1-33:20|
|Part Three||God will bring *Israel back to their Country||33:21-39:29|
|Part Four||The Future *Temple and *Sacrifices||40:1-48:35|
Are You a Watchman Who Lives Out Your Message?
God intended Ezekiel to give a message to Israel by means of the experiences in his life – Ezekiel 24:24. This aspect of Ezekiel’s ministry has rung true in my own life, as well. How can I tell others if I have not first lived out what I am telling?
And all of the experiences I go through serve a purpose—to comfort others with the comfort I have received from God. Ezekiel went through some pretty hard things. God had him to speak to God’s people through symbolism from those hard things.
The book of Ezekiel opens up with Ezekiel in exile with God’s people and God gives Ezekiel a vision in chapter one. This vision to me is reminiscent of some of the visions the Apostle John had in the book of Revelation. It feels like a sci-fi thriller.
“The vision of the glory of God was an incredible experience for Ezekiel. He felt the power of God and saw the special angels called cherubim. He saw God’s throne and an impression of God’s *glory. And then God spoke to Ezekiel.” (Easy English Bible Commentary).
Are You a Watchman Who is Called?
Ezekiel’s calling is similar to Jeremiah’s. Speaking to a stiff-necked, rebellious people. We see this calling in Ezekiel 2:3
” 3 Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day. 4 They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ 5 And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for remember, they are rebels—at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.”
I think in our culture we picture our calling as being about us. Maybe we see it like a Norman Rockwell image. But if you look at Jeremiah and Ezekiel, their callings were hard. They were not received well by the people they were trying to reach.
Are you a Watchman Who Serves Even When it is Hard?
It is easy to serve when all is well. But are we willing to serve when people are resistant to the Gospel? What would you think if God called you to do the things Ezekiel had to do?
- In chapter 3 he ate a scroll
- Then in chapter 4, Ezekiel had to lie on his left side with cords on him so he could not move for 390 days for the iniquity of God’s people, then another 390 days on the right side, cooking his food over human excrement, but God let him cook it over cow dung.
- And in Chapter 5, Ezekiel shaved his head and beard, burned some of it and slashed some of it with a sword, and had some off his hair on his robe.
These dramatic things that Ezekiel did were because the sins of God’s people were horrific. Sin separates God’s people from Himself and the deplorable acts of people who knew better deserved a radical response.
Ezekiel 6:11-14 describes God’s judgment:
“11 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Clap your hands in horror, and stamp your feet. Cry out because of all the detestable sins the people of Israel have committed. Now they are going to die from war and famine and disease. 12 Disease will strike down those who are far away in exile. War will destroy those who are nearby. And anyone who survives will be killed by famine. So at last I will spend my fury on them.
13 They will know that I am the Lord when their dead lie scattered among their idols and altars on every hill and mountain and under every green tree and every great shade tree—the places where they offered sacrifices to their idols. 14 I will crush them and make their cities desolate from the wilderness in the south to Riblah in the north. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
When the Task Seems Impossible
Ezekiel was called to be the watchman on a post that seemed impossible. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. We just have to prove faithful and let God complete the work.
Scripture of the Day: Ezekiel 3:17-19
17 “Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. 18 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. 19 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.”
What is a Watchman?
“Watchmen in the Bible were guards responsible for protecting towns and military installations from surprise enemy attacks and other potential dangers. Ancient Israelite cities often stationed watchmen on high walls or in watchtowers. Their job was to keep watch and warn the townspeople of impending threats.
The Hebrew word translated “watchman” means “one who looks out,” “one who spies,” or “one who watches.” Sometimes watchmen were scouts who looked out for approaching friends as well as enemies.” (Easy English Bible Commentary).
Are you a Watchman for God?
The Bible also refers to watchmen in a spiritual sense. God appointed prophets as spiritual watchmen over the souls of His people: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me” (Ezekiel 33:7; also Hosea 9:8).
“A prophets’ job as watchmen was to urge God’s people to live faithfully and warn them of the perils involved in falling away from the Lord and doing evil. As watchmen, the prophets were also called to warn wicked people of the judgment and destruction that would come their way unless they turned from their evil ways.” (Easy English Bible Commentary).
- Are you being a watchman? Who does God have you to watch over?
- When we are called by God, it will not be easy, but He will enable us.
Sometimes God calls us to do things we don’t understand. God went through radical measures to reach us—will we be used to reach others, too?