The Faithful Watchman
There is an old saying that the vigilant watchman warns of imminent danger. When your singular duty is to warn of impending destruction, when your singular duty is to warn of imminent danger and you fail in that duty, it is shameful and disgraceful because you had one thing to do and you failed to do it. Today I want to discuss what makes a good watchman, what makes a faithful watchman, the virtues and characteristics a watchman must possess in order to be faithful in his duties, vigilant at his post, and fearless in warning of the coming danger.
When the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, in His sovereign wisdom God led off with a practical example, one that Ezekiel's contemporaries were very familiar with. They understood the duty of the watchman, they knew the capital importance of a faithful guard, because in those days either on the borders of the country, or the watchtowers of the citadels the watchmen were ever present, scanning the horizon in perpetuity that they might see the approaching enemy. It allowed the citizenry to sleep well at night knowing that the watchman was on the wall, knowing that if the enemy happened to attempt an attack the watchman would warn them and wake them from their slumber.
It is a fearful thing when a watchman is either negligent in his duties, has been bought off by the enemy, or is found asleep at his post when the enemy attacks, because that which he was duty bound to guard will be overtaken without warning. Sadly, today, many watchmen are asleep, sadly, today, many watchmen are distracted by other things, and they do not warn of the enemy's siege, they do not warn of the imminent danger. The life of the watchman is a lonely one; it is one absent the luxuries of life, because his duty is to stand where his Master put him, and watch. No time for games, no time for distractions, no time for a power nap, because a good watchman, a faithful watchman knows that the enemy's attack can come at any moment.
So back to the original idea for this post, what makes a good watchman, and what makes a faithful watchman?
Ezekiel 33:1-7, "Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, '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. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be on himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But 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."'
A lengthy passage, but well worth the read, because there is allot of wisdom that we can extract from it. When God is speaking to Ezekiel concerning the watchman, He not only describes what the watchman's responsibility is, but also what the people's responsibility is. The watchman is responsible for blowing his trumpet; the people are responsible for taking warning, and saving their lives. Now if the watchman refuses to blow his trumpet, and the people are not warned, if any person is taken from among them, God will require that individual's blood of the watchman's hand.
From the beginning of this passage we realize that God is speaking concerning spiritual things, because He says 'if any person is taken in his iniquity', because the watchman, for whatever reason refused to blow the trumpet, God will hold the watchman to account.
There are many teachings we can glean from this passage, some encouraging, others challenging, but I want to stay on topic because I have the tendency to wander.
So what makes a good watchman?
The first thing that makes a good watchman is that he has vigilant eyes.
Good eyesight, and from a spiritual perspective good spiritual insight is mandatory for a good watchman. A blind man was never appointed as watchman, because being blind he could not fulfill his duty. We live in a generation wherein the blind are leading the blind because rather than confront the sin in their lives, rather than repent before an omnipotent God, they prefer to remain in spiritual blindness and be led off the cliff by the guy who with soothing words and a creepy smile tells them that they can do as they please because hell's just a story parents tell to naughty kids.
If God has opened your eyes to see the spiritual clearly, it is your sacred duty to stand on the wall, and be of use to the kingdom of God, warning and blowing your trumpet. Whether they heed the warning or they dismiss it, you would have done your sovereign duty, you will have blown your trumpet and their blood will not be on your hands.
I often wonder if these individuals who are teaching abject heresies have had their conscience so seared that they do not realize the amount of blood that is on their hands and the fact that one day, and one day soon it will be required of them.
The second thing that makes a good watchman is that he stays at his assigned post.
It is very important for us to know our place, and remain at our assigned post, to fulfill with faithfulness the duty that has been bestowed upon us. There are many who do not like their assignments, there are many who believe the posts they have been assigned are beneath them, and so they try to find a better position, a better vantage point, a different mission than that which God entrusted them with. Even with the best of intentions, when we are not at our assigned posts, we have disobeyed a direct order from God. God knows your aptitudes, God knows your shortcomings, and God knows the best place for you to be. We can't second guess God just because our pride tells us we deserve better, or we ought to have been called to a higher calling, we must simply obey, and remain where God has placed us until He sends us on to our next post. Many a watchmen are missing from the wall, their posts left empty, because although God told them where to go, where to be and what to do, they've gone AWOL thinking they were doing God a favor.
The third thing that makes a good watchman is that he acts with immediacy.
When a good watchman sees the enemy approaching, he acts without delay, and with the immediacy of purpose that must be ever visible in the actions of those who have been chosen to warn. When the watchman sees the enemy approaching, he doesn't dawdle, he does not consider the fact that those who are sleeping might be startled into wakefulness, he sees the clear and present danger approaching, and he sets his trumpet to his mouth. The immediacy with which the watchman blows his trumpet underlines his value, and saves the lives of those he has been appointed to watch over.
God doesn't have a gospel for when you get old, God doesn't have a message for you for tomorrow, with God, everything is immediate, everything is today, and everything is now. The trumpet of God is blowing, it has been for some time, but far too few heed its warning call, far too few are being awakened from the slumber they find themselves in.
Hebrews 3:8-9, "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, proved Me, and saw My works forty years."
There is immediacy in the call of God, as there must be immediacy in the actions of the watchman as he sees the walls of the citadel being assailed, and as he sees the enemy approaching. Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, do not put it off until tomorrow, but stand before the mirror of God's Word and see whether or not you are in line with Scripture.
The fourth thing that makes a good watchman is that he sends a clear message.
There is clarity in a message of repentance, there is clarity in a message of holiness, there is clarity in a message of obedience, there is clarity in a message of humility, they are not confusing or complicated, they are not mazes through which you must make your way, their sound is clear, it is distinct, and it is unblemished.
1 Corinthians 14:8, "For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?"
I've often said that there is simplicity in following after God if we are willing to receive His word at face value. There is simplicity in walking in righteousness, there is simplicity in pursuing holiness, there is simplicity in the act of repentance, because God's desire was not to make it complicated for us, it was to make it as simple as possible.
It is men who take it upon themselves to make uncertain sounds, it is men who take it upon themselves to twist the Word, to complicate the scriptures, and these men will answer to the one true God on the Day of Judgment for making the yoke of Christ heavy, and for twisting the narrow path of faith. Be vigilant, be at your assigned post, act without delay, send a clear message, and for these things you will receive your just reward.
In the previous essay we covered what makes for a good watchman, and in this essay we will continue in the same vein, discovering that message God gave Ezekiel. Yes, in this issue of the e-newsletter you get not one, but two articles from yours truly, because they are intertwined and complement each other.
There are five important elements in the prophetic message God gave Ezekiel and they are elements that have neither changed, nor been diminished with the passing of time.
Ezekiel 33:11, "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?'"
Within this single verse there are five important elements that I have identified, the first of these being God's heart in regards to the wicked. God said, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked!' It is one of the most glorious affirmations contained within the Word of God, and it shows us God's heart. No, He does not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked; God's desire is that the wicked man turn from his way and therefore live. Physical death, as well as spiritual death which consists in man's eternal separation from God are both the consequence and direct result of sin. The word of God is clear on this point when it says that the penalty for sin is death, as well as when it says it is appointed unto man once to die, then judgment.
Death is not the end of existence, it is not followed by annihilation or reincarnation, but rather our physical death is followed by judgment! We each owe a debt, and it is a debt that all men pay. We each live one life, we each die one death, but how we choose to live this present life will determine where we go after we die, whether to God's eternal rest, or God's eternal judgment. His heart has not changed, He still takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and He still desires that the wicked turn from their way that they might live.
We don't get a do over, we don't get the opportunity to relive our lives and make better choices, we can't go back in time and right the wrongs that we've committed, and for many this is a terrifying truth indeed. We get one life, and in this life there is no better news than the fact that God does not desire the death of the wicked, but that they repent and have life in Him.
Whoever this is for, no matter how grimy with sin you might be, no matter how enslaved by your addictions, no matter how bound by the enemy, no matter how weary and burdened, know that there is hope. God loves you, and He takes no pleasure in your death. This is why the immortal God, sent His Son in mortal flesh, to be born in a manger in Bethlehem, to hang on a cross on Calvary and die for our sins, because He did not desire to see our death. In Him we have hope, He took the burden of our sin and lawlessness and unrighteousness upon Himself, that in Him we might have life with God. It should have been you sentenced to death, it should have been me sentenced to death, but Christ took our death sentence upon Himself that we might be reconciled with the Father and be offered eternal life. It's almost too beautiful to be true, but it is, and this is why we worship Him as Lord and King because He gave His life that we might have life.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."
The second element of great importis that God's declaration of taking no pleasure in the death of the wicked is as certain, and real and true as He Himself is. God began the message Ezekiel was to deliver with three very important words: 'As I live!' We are as certain of God's heart concerning the wicked as we are concerning the fact that He lives. As He lives, He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. There is nothing more steadfast and sure than the life of God, He who is the source of all life and the wielder of all power. If God's oath can't convince you of His intentions, I can't think of anything on this earth that will.
Hebrews 6:17-18, "Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us."
Just to show us, the heirs of promise the immutability, or the unchanging nature of His promise, He also confirmed this truth by an oath, even though the fact that it is impossible for God to lie would have been enough. Not only did He reveal His heart concerning the lost, but He also made an oath that we might have strong consolation or comfort, in the knowledge of this truth.
The third element of this verse is the question that God poses to those who are unwilling to repent that they might have life. 'Why should you die?' is the question that God asks all those who reject Him. Why do you choose death and not life? Why do you choose judgment and not forgiveness? Why do you choose to be God's enemy rather than His friend?
As absurd as the sinner's attitude might sound, this is the cruel reality of life: the unrepentant sinner, chooses death! He feels the pleasure of living in sin and is unwilling to part with it, because his being has been perverted at its root, and the wickedness he is living in reaches to the core of his being. He has come to love that which he should despise, and has come to despise that which he should love. Men choose death, men choose separation from God because they are unwilling to depart from their sin, and they are unwilling to untangle themselves from the wickedness that is choking the life out of them. Why should you die when you could live? That is the question that should be keeping the unrepentant sinner up at night.
The fourth element that deserves exploration in this verse is the divine promise that God makes. If you turn from your wickedness, you will live and not die. It is a promise that is as simple as it is glorious, turn from your wickedness, and live!
During the dark of night, when Nicodemus came to Jesus, Christ made one of the most illuminating declarations in mankind's history, expressing the desire, the initiative, and the action of God to save the sinner that the wicked might not die, but be redeemed and live with Him in eternity.
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
It is the most quoted verse in the whole of scripture, and it is also the center, the heart of the gospel. Today however, I want us to see the divine order of this verse, and everyone's part in it.
First God loved, then He gave, that man might believe, not perish, and have life. So who's supposed to believe? Jesus made it simple, whoever believes, whether they be a thief, a liar, a gossip, a murderer, if they believed they would not perish but have everlasting life. Whoever believes in the Son of God, and in the One who sent Him to die in our place, has eternal life.
Faith, believing in Jesus, is neither optional nor selective, because we know that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If all have sinned, then all need to be saved, and if all need to be saved, then all must believe. When we believe in Jesus, repentance is inevitable, because He has given us a new life, and a new purpose, a new hope and a new identity. If we refuse Christ, one day we will be called to account, for the Holy Spirit has already come and convicted the world of sin.
John 16:8-9, "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me."
Repentance is no more optional than believing in Jesus is for everlasting life, and this is a truth few continue to teach because it requires self-denial, and transformation on our part. I'm still having a difficult time with the notion that repentance has become a controversial doctrine within the house of God, because without repentance, without the turning away from the things of this world, and toward the love of God, we will never grow, or mature, or know the fullness of He who lives.
As Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus in Athens he made a declaration that much of today's church chooses to dismiss or ignore because it speaks of the paramount need for repentance.
Acts 17:30-31, "Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
So what is it that God commands all men everywhere to do? Does He command them to raise a hand at a crusade, does He command them to say a prayer and come up to the altar? No, God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness.
Some need to repent of their sins, others of their hypocrisy, and others still for the form of godliness they possess which bear no fruit worthy of repentance.
I'm still amazed that after all this time I still have to defend repentance, I still have to defend holiness, I still have to defend the work, power, and ministry of the Holy Spirit, because every few months another wolf rears its head dismissing these things, and I start getting the e-mails, 'what about what so and so said?'. All that matters is what Jesus said, all that matters is what the Word of God says, and until we stop questioning the basics, until we stop questioning the elementary principles of our faith, we will not go on to perfection, and we will not ascend to the deeper and more profound knowledge of the things of God.
The fifth and last element that deserves exploration in this verse is the divine command that God gives. 'Turn, turn from your evil ways!'
So what would make a loving God make such a demand of the sinner? If He is a loving God, why not just scoop us all up into His bosom, regardless of whether or not we turn from our evil ways. We've talked about this often enough, because the loving God we serve is also a just God.
There is a solemn and sovereign tonality to this command, as though the heart of God is breaking when He says, 'I take no pleasure in your death oh wicked man, why do you want to die, turn, turn from your evil ways and live.'
There is but one way that we will live, and that is if we turn from our evil ways. There is but one way that we will live, and that is if we believe in the Son of God, Christ Jesus, the bearer of our sins and grief. There has never been another way, there is no other way, and there will never be another way. On His life, God made an oath, that if we turn from our evil way, He will give us life, because His pleasure is the saving of a soul, and not the death of the wicked.
Whenever the road gets rocky, whenever the climb is steep, whenever the hardships weigh you down, just remember the words of Christ, and take courage, 'because I live, you will live also!'
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