By Benjamin H. Liles
I know I've been over this probably a few times before, yet I believe it bears repeating seen as Ezekiel reports on this as well. James writes in his letter to the church, "My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger...But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves...Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:19-27, Holman Christian Standard, italics for emphasis).
It begs the question from me: "How do I listen to the word of God and do what He says?" I believe the answer is found where Ezekiel is given the message God has for him. We read, "Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head" (Ezekiel 33:1b-4, New King James).
The short of this is exactly what James is saying in his letter. God is saying, essentially, "I'm giving you a direct warning here. It is this: 'Turn to the sound of the warning of the trumpet,' lest when the sword comes your life and blood are on your own hand." If we look at what James says within the context he's saying that we shouldn't simply hear the word of God and simply turn away. Deception, in the life of the believer in Christ Jesus, is not acceptable. These people listen to the word of God and do what God commands. So, when God issues a warning, they take notice and do what He says.
God continues on talking to Ezekiel: "If the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul" (Ezekiel 33:6-9, italics for emphasis).
Even though the passages here are for the children of Israel, specifically, we see that in the New Testament, where we're told, "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18, New American Standard). I realize that Paul is saying this in regards to the Lord's return for His own, but I think there's a larger context. If we use scripture, always in the right way, we will admonish, edify, and encourage one another with the word of God. Recall the words Jesus gives to John about who He is? "The blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news" (Matthew 11:5, Holman Christian Standard).
How can people actually turn from their sin to the voice of God if no one proclaims both His law and His mercy, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ? If no one plants the seed, the word of God, nor goes back to reap the harvest (Christ said the fields were ready, see John 4:35), then how do we fulfill the mission God gave to us as His ambassadors of love and truth?
So, we get this idea of the "watchman," someone who declares God's word so the people listen and obey from Ezekiel. I don't want to base my opinion on conjecture or assumption, but I do believe Ezekiel is the first to be called "watchman" by God on high! God says to him, "Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’ Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’" (Ezekiel 33:10-11).
Peter declares this same thing in his letter to the church, "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9, New Living Translation). Consequently, we can see that scripture will overall agree with other parts of scripture. We see that the job of the watchman isn't out of style when Jesus teaches the disciples His Father's ways. If Ezekiel, by God's command to be a watchman, a messenger of His word to the people, then the same applies to us!
Paul wrote to the church as Ephesus, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11, King James 2000). That word for apostle ends up meaning, "to commission, send forth." In other words, God didn't just send Ezekiel to give a word, just like with Paul among others like him, such as Peter and John. No, God gave these men His power to show those they taught that He gave them a divine message to be heard and obeyed. This part of the definition of apostle clarifies the matter, "commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the gospel; focusing back on the authority of the sender (Jesus Christ, in this case)."
I consider myself a teacher of God's word as the apostles from the time of Jesus were the pillars of the faith and the foundation of the church. Paul speaks to this: "Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22, Berean Study).
It is always my sincerest hope and prayer that every message I write blesses and builds you up in the Lord Jesus the Messiah. All I ever truly want to do is point the way to how He fulfills the very word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, that He is the One scripture speaks of. He is the foundation stone, the One in whom the religious elite in first Century A.D. that rejected Him. "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Psalm 119:22, Holman Christian Standard). Christ told the Pharisees, especially, that He is God's Son in the flesh and they ridiculed Him, claiming He had demons in Him.
Friend, don't commit the blatant sin they did toward Jesus, for not only did they not know what they were doing, but they hated Him without cause. As we're told within God's word, "For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:29, King James 2000). And not only that He dies on the cross so we wouldn't bear the punishment God has in store for those who reject Him by rejecting the Son, Christ Jesus. Hear the word of God and obey His word, for your sakes, not just based on my testimony. Allow God to restore your sight so you can see yourself as He says you are: for you need Him, just as I always will. We all need him. And He has given us His Son so we may have eternal life with Him. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.