7 But I have appointed you, son of man, to be a watchman for the house of Israel. So whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you are to warn them from me. 8 When I say to a wicked man, “Wicked man, you shall surely die,” if you do not speak to warn the wicked man against his way, that wicked man will die because of his guilt, but I will also hold you responsible for his blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die because of his guilt, but you will have saved your life.
10 So you, son of man, say the following to the house of Israel. This is what you people are saying: “Certainly our rebellion and our sins weigh us down, and because of them we are rotting away. How then can we live?” 11 Say to them, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from their way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why should you die, O house of Israel?”Ezekiel 33:7-11
The weathermen have been busy these past couple of weeks. They tracked hurricane Laura that made landfall in the Beaumont area. Then this past week we watched hurricane Sally slam into Gulf Shores. The meteorologists do their best to track these storms in order to warn the people in their path. Then the National Weather Service sends out official warnings—Get out! Save yourself! Let’s call these weather watchers the “Watchmen of the Weather.”
When we talk about watchmen you can easily have a visual in your head. Maybe it’s a security guard at a bank, crossing guard, and today we also have electronic home watchman called “Ring” or “Simply Safe.” My watch even tells me that I should breath! If you think about it we have many areas of our life where we have people or things watching our homes, work, cars, children, health, credit cards and bank accounts, social security numbers, and even cameras in our classrooms and church in order to keep an eye on things and keep us safe. When my electronic monitoring system detects danger or even a change in my banking, it sends me an alert. I think we’ve made the case that watchmen serve to protect you and keep you out of harm’s way.
But, what about this? As important as it is to protect your earthly life and the things of this world, how much more important it is to protect your spiritual life—your eternal life with God?! Who’s going to watch out for you? Who’s going to warn you when spiritual danger is close by? Who’s going to warn you if they see your relationship with God slipping? Or who are you willing to warn when you see these same things happening in their lives? Let’s be encouraged by the Holy Spirit according to Ezekiel 33 because God wants you to
Be A Spiritual Watchman
To Warn Them
God used the Prophet Ezekiel right after Jeremiah, during the years when Jerusalem was falling into the hands of the Babylonians. This was God’s message: “7 But I have appointed you, son of man, to be a watchman for the house of Israel. So whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you are to warn them from me.” Just like in the days of Jeremiah, so Ezekiel was serving during difficult spiritual days in Israel. Ezekiel has the difficult job of telling those who rebelled against God that horrible days of destruction and punishment were coming. They were going to be defeated as a nation and carried away. Yet, even then God was coming with his yearning call for repentance to turn away from their sin and turn back to the Lord. Ezekiel has a view from the top of his spiritual watchtower, being informed by God of the coming danger as he sounded the warning to Israel.
All through the history of the world God has provided watchmen to publicly care for the spiritual condition of people. Abraham had Melchizedek, King David had Nathan, Hezekiah had Isaiah, the Jews had John the Baptist and today—God publicly proclaims his message through his Word that is proclaimed by pastors, Kingdom Kids teachers, parents and grandparents. That is why you have called pastors to serve at Divine Peace. We study the Word and see God warn us about sins and temptations that would lure us away from him. Then we are called to share God’s warning with you through preaching and teaching. People can look to many people for direction and counsel for their life, but I have told many people—I do my best counseling on Sunday mornings at 10:30AM. I warn about sin and encourage you to remain faithful to your Savior.
Besides your called pastor, the Lord has also called you to be a watchman. That’s what Jesus said in today’s gospel! “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his sin just between the two of you” (Matt 18:15). Yes, God calls each of you to be a watchman in your private life. You have studied the Bible and know what is right and wrong in God’s sight. You have learned the Gospel of Jesus and know how to tell someone, “Jesus forgives you and so do I.” You know the comfort and encouragement it brings to you when someone loves you enough to show you the danger or wants to protect you from harm. So God has called you to show others the dangers they are experiencing and to protect them from eternal punishment in hell.
Application: I also want to be clear that God does not call us to spy, pry or be a busybody. We are not called to be the Gestapo! We are called to be watchmen. There is plenty we can learn about a person’s life from regular conversation, Facebook and daily contact with people and you’ll notice things. I know you do because I hear about it. It is a part of being human. Just like a child who sees another child doing something they shouldn’t and runs to mommy and daddy or a teacher about their bad behavior. I suppose it’s done in order to try and make ourselves look better. And as we get older it gets a little more refined. We can see another person’s sins. That’s the easy part. The hardest part is addressing it with the people you love.
It’s hard. Why? Maybe it’s guilt because you’re stuck in the same sin. Maybe it’s the feeling of unworthiness because how can I, a sinner, point out someone else’s sin? Maybe it’s because you’re lazy or just don’t care and have the attitude of Cain who complained to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Or you see sin in another person’s life and think, “That’s their problem. Not mine!” I’ll let someone else deal with it. Listen to what the Lord says to that, “8 When I say to a wicked man, “Wicked man, you shall surely die,” if you do not speak to warn the wicked man against his way, that wicked man will die because of his guilt, but I will also hold you responsible for his blood.” There it is. In God’s sight not warning someone about their sin problem makes us just as guilty. It’s hard. But, it’s vital for their soul and for your accountability before God.
This is easy to picture! If you woke up one morning to the smell of smoke and looked out the window at your neighbor’s house on fire, what would you do? Certainly you wouldn’t say, “You know, I remember once when my house was on fire and what I did. They’ll figure it out.” Or “I’m still so tired this morning, I don’t think I have the energy to go and warn them.” Or “Sure is too bad their house is on fire. That’s their problem, not mine!” Or “It sure is early in the morning. I don’t think I want to go knock on their door and wake them up. How rude!” If you did nothing you would be at best careless and at worst responsible for their life! God wants us to Be Their Spiritual Watchman to Warn Them! And even more so
To Save Them
You’ve heard the people who live along the coast respond to the warning given by the weatherman. Some will take their warning to heart and get out of town and to safety. Others give various reasons for not wanting to leave their home such as fear of looting, or they have lived through hurricanes before, or they are comfortable in their situation that they’ll be just fine. So, why do the meteorologists give their warnings? It is to save life! This is always God’s desire when dealing with people. He uses the stern warning of his law to show sin and bring people to a realization of their dangerous situation. God told Ezekiel, “11 Say to them, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from their way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why should you die, O house of Israel?” This passage is clear to teach that God wants everyone to repent and trust in Jesus. St. Paul repeated this teaching to Timothy, “This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). No wonder God graciously gives us spiritual watchmen in order to save our life as they bring us the gospel through Word and Sacrament.
But, God doesn’t want just you to be saved, he also wants your neighbors, too. He wants the minority neighbor across the street, the insecure co-workers, the selfish government leader, the I-rate parent, the arrogant friend, the cheating spouse, the insensitive relative, and so on. God wants them all in heaven. That’s why he sent his Son to die for the sins of all people. God wants them all to turn back from their evil ways and live in heaven, not die in hell.
So, let’s make this very practical. How can you be a spiritual watchman to save them? First, notice the danger that they are in. Then love people enough to reach out to them with God’s Word. If they are sinning, urge them to stop, repent and trust in Jesus’ forgiveness. Remember, God did not say this was going to be easy. He actually called Ezekiel twice to warn Israel. They ignored his warning and kept on their path of destruction. Then the day came that they were carried off into exile. God spoke to Ezekiel, “9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die because of his guilt, but you will have saved your life.” God was gracious and merciful to a rebellious people. He was patient with them, but his patience did run out. Ezekiel watched his people go into exile, but he did the job he was called to do.
When hurricanes come we all realize that some people will heed the warning and other will not. So also the warning from God to repent and trust in the Lord. Still the cry must go out because actions have consequences. Being a watchman as a pastor or personally is not usually fun, but it is loving. Some will get angry and others will ignore the warning and continue in their ways. Others are restored in a right relationship to Christ Jesus as they turn from sin and live. I could tell you stories of people who have experienced this. One was a drunk. I confronted him and the church ended up excommunicating him because they loved him. He ended up getting sober and returning to church. Another person was living with a person as if they were married, but they weren’t. I confronted them and they left our church. Years later I learned they stopped living together in sin, got married and had joined another Christian Church. In both cases in talking with them they said, “Thank you for having the tough conversation with me. I understand my sin, have repented and know I’m forgiven.” And the angels rejoiced. And that’s why God calls you and me to be watchmen.
When a hurricane is coming we pray the Lord would be merciful and spare the people and their homes. We pray that all who were in harm’s way take the warning seriously and get out before it’s too late. When people are stuck in the path of sin let us also pray that God would be merciful to them, send them a watchman to warn them and stop before it’s too late. Yes, let us all be eager to be a Spiritual Watchman to warn them and to save them. Amen.