Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Watchmen for God

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me” (Ezekiel 3:17).

“Ezekiel … was appointed a watcher over the exiled nation of Israel, and was in this capacity to continue the work of the earlier prophets, especially that of Jeremiah, with whom he in several ways associates himself in his prophecies; to preach to his contemporaries the judgment and salvation of God, in order to convert them to the Lord their God.”

Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament
Volume 9 (Ezekiel & Daniel), page 2

Ezekiel, as a prophet of God and preacher of righteousness, lived and served his God in the darkest of days of the kingdom of Israel. The people were in exile, chafing under Babylonian rule, and looking for relief. There were false prophets in the land who were willing to tickle the ears of a desperate people. Jeremiah recorded the people’s unwillingness to listen to the message of God’s prophets in Jeremiah 29:19, “because they have not heeded My words, says the LORD, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the LORD.” He then pronounced God’s judgment against the false prophets in verses 20-23, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in My name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes. And because of them a curse shall be taken up by all the captivity of Judah who are in Babylon, saying, ‘The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire’; because they have done disgraceful things in Israel, have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in My name, which I have not commanded them. Indeed I know, and am a witness, says the LORD.”

It is in this context that Jehovah sent the prophet Ezekiel to be a watchman over the house of Israel. In Ezekiel 33:7-9, God instructed Ezekiel in the work of a watchman, saying, “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.” Note the following components of the text:

  1. The watchman was issued a word from the mouth of God.
  2. The watchman was to use that word to warn the chosen of God.
  3. The danger to be warned of was iniquity.
  4. The message was, “O wicked man, you shall surely die!”
  5. The purpose of the message was to bring the wicked man to repentance, “to turn from his way.”
  6. Failing to fulfill his responsibility would make the watchman culpable for the sins of the wicked man, “his blood I will require at your hand.”
  7. Warning was the sole responsibility of the watchman, he was not responsible for the actions taken by the wicked man, “you have delivered your soul.”

The use of the watchman ever has been the Lord’s method as he seeks to bring man to repentance and a right relationship. This was true during the days of the patriarchs, in the appointment of Moses as lawgiver to Israel, in the time of the judges of Israel, and during the reign of kings in Israel as God called prophets to preach to the people judgment and deliverance. It is the preaching of the Word of God which brings about repentance, and delivers souls from the bondage of sin and death. Men have been given the charge to warn, and the people ever have had the obligation to heed their voice. When they have refused, God’s judgment has been the result. When they heeded the voice of God, he has blessed them.

That pattern in no way changed in the New Testament. God used watchmen in the first century to warn spiritual Israel, and admonish those caught in sin. John the Baptist was given a word by God, preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). The ultimate example of this is the sending of our Lord himself to establish his covenant, as described by the Hebrew writer, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). After the Lord left the earth, he sent the Comforter (the Holy Spirit), to guide the Apostles into “all truth” (cf. John 16:13). It was part of God’s divine plan in establishing his kingdom to equip the saints with watchmen. Their purpose, as always, was to instruct and admonish with a word “given” by the Lord.

We are to follow the example of Paul. “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Elders are to “… take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Preachers are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). All Christians are to “… on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). All Christians can and should serve as watchmen among the people of God.