“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. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for [a] his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.” – Ezekiel 33:7-8
In ancient times, a watchman or guard watched over a city or a regiment of soldiers. His job was to make sure that the city or regiment was safe from their enemies. Should he detect an approaching unknown person or persons, he was to sound a warning cry to warn that an unfriendly force was approaching.
The watchman had a most important responsibility. His failure to act, might have caused the city to fall into the hands of the enemy or caused his fellow soldiers to die. Therefore, the watchman had to always remain alert. Were he to fall asleep or wander off from his post, many people who relied on him for their safety and their life, would have perished.
In the text, Ezekiel was a prophet to the house of Judah during the exilic years in bondage in Babylon. The prophet was sent to the house of Judah; however, the text refers to Israel.
After King Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms – Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern kingdom. Israel represented ten tribes while Judah was made up of two tribes.
The northern kingdom, Israel, was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC and most of the inhabitants carried away into exile. Judah, the southern kingdom, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 597 BC and again, most of the inhabitants went into exile, in Babylon.
The term Israel is used broadly here. When this happens, Israel is used to indicate the chosen people of God.
In this text, the Lord gives the prophet a warning about his assignment. He is called as a watchman to the nation of Israel. Like the watchman, the future of the people is in his hands. He cannot fall asleep or be lax in his assignment.
The prophet is called to proclaim God’s word to the nation in exile. The people lived in a pagan land and some of them had begun to serve the false gods of Babylon, which was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.
Like the prophet, the Lord calls us in the church to proclaim the good news of the gospel to the people of the world. It is not our job or responsibility to sit in judgement of anyone. The Lord did not send us to condemn anyone.
God explains to the prophet that he has no intention of seeing the wicked die in his sins. The prophet is warned that he will die if he refuses to warn the evildoer.
Sometimes, through laziness, or indifference, the church falls in its responsibility to take the gospel to the people. We are called to make everyone our responsibility.
However, it is not our responsibility to try and change hearts. No, we cannot do that, and it is not our responsibility to do so. Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and bring people to repentance.
Our responsibility to each other is to help, rather than hinder. We are called to heal, rather than hurt. We, who are in Christ, are called to be good watchmen. We are responsible for the souls of the nation and the world. Therefore, let us do what we can to watch and to warn. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Dr., P. O. Box N 4794, Phone 242-426-9084, Webpage: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.