Being a watchman is a stressful job.
One must be awake and alert at all times so as not to miss the critical moment when the enemy might appear, often when least expected. A prompt warning of an attack is required to allow proper defenses to be raised. The job is so important that in some places, if a watchman falls asleep on the job, they may even be subject to capital punishment.
God appointed the prophet Ezekiel to be a spiritual watchman for the people of Israel being held in exile in Babylon. Ezekiel probably did not relish the job, but it was important, and God trusted him with this vital responsibility.
1 Once again a message came to me from the Lord: 2 “Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman. 3 When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. 4 Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. 5 They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives. 6 But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’
7 “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. 8 If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. 9 But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself. Ezekiel 33:1-9 (NLT)
Wow, a tough job indeed! But there are a few spiritual concepts that we can take away from Ezekiel’s difficult assignment.
First, people do not always want to hear warnings. If their anger flares, they may choose to shoot the messenger rather than to take on the true enemy.
Second, a watchman does not really have the option of withholding a warning. If they see it, they must speak it. Having one’s warnings be rejected is an unpleasant experience, but it is far preferable to bearing the blame for someone else’s failure to respond to a warning we did not pass along.
The sobering fact is that people are dying all around us. Sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, often in both ways. Just as in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, we come across all sorts of people in our lives that are battered, bruised, and robbed of the joy of life. They may be trapped in an addiction that has sapped away their health, home life, or finances. They may be drowning in a sea of hardships, not knowing which life-ring to grab onto. Perhaps they have totally rejected God up to now for one reason or another yet have never needed Him so desperately as they do now.
It is often so hard for us to know exactly what to say or do. If God has truly put us into this situation, we, as watchmen, know that we must try to offer something. We do it prayerfully in love as the Holy Spirit leads, trusting God to make up for our lack. We may risk being totally rejected by someone in anger, but we ask for the courage to take a step forward in compassion anyway.
Life is busy and we have many demands to fulfill at almost every stop in our day. But perhaps God is calling us to focus more on the people around us, to listen to them, and to try to meet their needs as we are going about our own business.
If we encounter someone going through a difficult time, that may present an opening for us to offer to pray for them. We listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit and ask for the courage to speak, to say something of eternal consequence when we sense that the time is right. It should not be as difficult to do this as it seems to be, but with God’s help, we can fulfill our side of the watchman’s contract. The one that says, “Yes, God, I will try to obey You and love others today.”
Who in your life have you sensed the Holy Spirit is leading you to be a watchman for?
Father God, we desire to share You with those around us who are empty and hurting, but it can be so difficult to do so. Forgive me for the countless times I have neglected to notice others in need or failed to engage them in love when I did. Grant us clear guidance and the courage to listen and to share divine truth. Help us to be faithful and alert watchmen as we go about our day today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.