I began reading the book of Ezekiel this week and became suddenly animated and spiritually excited. I just finished reading Jeremiah and Lamentations, which were oh so sad. The book of Jeremiah described Jeremiah pleading with the Israelites to return to God, or God would allow calamity to overcome them as punishment for their sins, which is what eventually occurred. Then in Lamentations, Jeremiah, weeps over his nation and for God to return His blessings to Israel.
Ezekiel begins with God making Himself unmistakably known to Ezekiel, while he’s exiled in Babylon. In this amazing encounter, God calls Ezekiel to proclaim His words to the Israelites, even though they are a “rebellious” people and He knows many of them will refuse to listen. (God repeats this statement 6 times in chapter 2, which is only 10 verses long!!) After his first encounter with God, Ezekiel is overwhelmed. He goes into hiding for 7 days, before God speaks to him again…
At the end of the seven days, the word of the Lord, came to me: “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 a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself. (Ezekiel 3:16-19)
In ancient Near Eastern culture the watchman was responsible for the safety of the community; his job was to warn people of impending danger. Any watchmen that failed in his duty was held personally responsible; and negligence resulting in loss of life was punishable by death. As I read this verse I couldn’t help but get the feeling that God has provided all His children with this task to serve as watchmen in our communities. It’s our duty to share God’s love with the people we work with, go to school with, ride the train with, and/or live with. He’s entrusted them to our care and whether or not they listen to us when we speak, He’s still called us to open our mouths and proclaim His Truth. However, just as God told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 4:26-27–“I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be silent and unable to rebuke them, though they are a rebellious house. But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.”–we are only to speak when told to do so by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, remain diligent, always listening for the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for He’ll direct us when to speak and when to remain silent…usually with a quickening in our Spirit and passion in our hearts.