Ezekiel Israel’s Watchman
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people, and say to them, ‘Suppose I bring a sword against the land, and the people of the land take one man from their borders and make him their watchman. 3 He sees the sword coming against the land, blows the trumpet, and warns the people, 4 but there is one who hears the sound of the trumpet yet does not heed the warning. Then the sword comes and sweeps him away. He will be responsible for his own death. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, so he is responsible for himself. If he had heeded the warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But suppose the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people. Then the sword comes and takes one of their lives. He is swept away for his iniquity, but I will hold the watchman accountable for that person’s death.’
7 “As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them on my behalf. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you must certainly die,’ and you do not warn the wicked about his behaviour, the wicked man will die for his iniquity, but I will hold you accountable for his death. 9 But if you warn the wicked man to change his behaviour, and he refuses to change, he will die for his iniquity, but you have saved your own life.
10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you have said: “Our rebellious acts and our sins have caught up with us, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but prefer that the wicked change his behaviour and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil deeds! Why should you die, O house of Israel?’
12 “And you, son of man, say to your people, ‘The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him if he rebels. As for the wicked, his wickedness will not make him stumble if he turns from it. The righteous will not be able to live by his righteousness if he sins.’ 13 Suppose I tell the righteous that he will certainly live, but he becomes confident in his righteousness and commits iniquity. None of his righteous deeds will be remembered; because of the iniquity he has committed he will die. 14 Suppose I say to the wicked, ‘You must certainly die,’ but he turns from his sin and does what is just and right. 15 He returns what was taken in pledge, pays back what he has stolen, and follows the statutes that give life, committing no iniquity. He will certainly live – he will not die. 16 None of the sins he has committed will be counted against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live.
17 “Yet your people say, ‘The behaviour of the Lord is not right,’ when it is their behaviour that is not right. 18 When a righteous man turns from his godliness and commits iniquity, he will die for it. 19 When the wicked turns from his sin and does what is just and right, he will live because of it. 20 Yet you say, ‘The behaviour of the Lord is not right.’ House of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his behaviour.”
The Fall of Jerusalem
21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth of the month, a refugee came to me from Jerusalem saying, “The city has been defeated!” 22 Now the hand of the Lord had been on me the evening before the refugee reached me, but the Lord opened my mouth by the time the refugee arrived in the morning; he opened my mouth and I was no longer unable to speak. 23 The word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, the ones living in these ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land, but we are many; surely the land has been given to us for a possession.’ 25 Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: You eat the meat with the blood still in it, pray to your idols, and shed blood. Do you really think you will possess the land? 26 You rely on your swords and commit abominable deeds; each of you defiles his neighbour’s wife. Will you possess the land?’
27 “This is what you must say to them, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: As surely as I live, those living in the ruins will die by the sword, those in the open field I will give to the wild beasts for food, and those who are in the strongholds and caves will die of disease. 28 I will turn the land into a desolate ruin; her confident pride will come to an end. The mountains of Israel will be so desolate no one will pass through them. 29 Then they will know that I am the Lord when I turn the land into a desolate ruin because of all the abominable deeds they have committed.’
30 “But as for you, son of man, your people (who are talking about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses) say to one another, ‘Come hear the word that comes from the Lord.’ 31 They come to you in crowds, and they sit in front of you as my people. They hear your words, but do not obey them. For they talk lustfully, and their heart is set on their own advantage. 32 Realize that to them you are like a sensual song, a beautiful voice and skilled musician. They hear your words, but they do not obey them. 33 When all this comes true – and it certainly will – then they will know that a prophet was among them.”
C H Spurgeon
Ezekiel 33:1-4. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
In that case the watchman is quite clear; he has done his duty, he has sounded an alarm, and a fitting alarm, upon the trumpet; he has sounded it immediately, without loitering or delaying. He has not been afraid of giving uneasiness to men; he has done his duty, fearless of remark, and he is clear. Happy also is he in knowing that, by heeding the trumpet’s warning blast, many have escaped the threatened danger. Still, even then it seems that there are some who hear the trumpet, and will not take the warning. That is the sad part of our service; it makes the most successful ministry to be fringed with black. It cannot be all joy for him who wins the most souls for God; for at times he can sympathize with his brethren, the prophets, in their sorrowful enquiry, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Listen to this, you who hear the gospel, and yet do not repent; if you heed not the warning, your blood will be upon your own head.
Ezekiel 33:5-6. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman ‘s hand.
This is a very solemn truth. It not only concerns me, and the many ministers of Christ who are here, but it is for all of you who know the Lord, for you also are set as watchmen to your families, to your neighbours, to the class which you teach, or which you should teach, in the Sunday-school. May God grant that we may, each one of us, be delivered from other men’s sins, for we may become partakers with them in their iniquity unless we bear our testimony against them, and give them warning of the consequences of their evil-doing!
Ezekiel 33:7. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel;
It is not merely the people who took a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman; but, “I have set thee.” Oh, the solemn ordination of a true servant of Christ! It is not by laying on of hands of man, nor by a pretended descent from the apostles; it is a call from God.
Ezekiel 33:7. Therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
That is the way to preach, to get the sermon from the mouth of God, and then to speak it as the mouth of God. Dear teachers, wait upon God for that which you are to teach; take it warm with love out of the very mouth of God, and then speak it for God out of your own mouth. Good will surely come of such teaching as that.
Ezekiel 33:8. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
Even as God required Abel’s blood at the hand of Cain, and pronounced him cursed because he was guilty of that blood, so will he require the blood of perishing men at the hands of those set over them, and a curse shall come upon them if they be found negligent.
Ezekiel 33:9-10. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?
This is as much as to say, “We cannot get away from our sins; there is no hope of our living.” When men get into the iron cage called “Despair”, there really seems to be no hope that they will turn from their sin. There is no hope in themselves; their only hope is in the Lord.
Ezekiel 33:11-12. Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Therefore, thou son of man,
Notice how often God calls Ezekiel “the son of man.” He had many wonderful visions; but he was to be kept humble by being constantly reminded that he was nothing more than a “son of man.” He was to be kept sympathetic with the people; they were men, and he was one of them: a “son of man. It seems hard that any mother’s son of ours should die and perish; the thought that he will perish for ever, is terrible indeed to one who recognizes his union with the race as a “son of man.”
Ezekiel 33:12. Say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sin.
It is not merely what we have been, but what we are, and what we shall he, that will have to be taken into account. If we have been righteous in our own esteem, what if we turn from it? If we have been sinful, yet if, by God’s grace, we turn from it, the past shall be blotted out.
Ezekiel 33:13. When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.
There is no salvation for any man without final perseverance, and if that final perseverance were not secured to us in the covenant of grace, there would be no salvation even for the brightest believer, or the most sparkling professor. What are our lights in themselves? Will they not soon burn dim unless the secret oil of God’s grace shall keep them bright? Whatever point any of you have reached, do not begin to put your confidence in that. If you had seemed to be righteous through a lifetime of seventy years, yet, unless the grace of God kept you even to the end, you must perish. The mercy is that we have many precious promises concerning the eternal safety of all who are in Christ, and God will not fail to fulfil every one of them.
Ezekiel 33:14-17. Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.
Sinners are very fast in judging God. Oh, that they would judge themselves! It is not the Lord who is unjust; it is the balances and weights of men that are unjust. Oh, that they did but know it!
Ezekiel 33:18-20. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committed iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
Now let us read at the thirtieth verse.
Ezekiel 33:30-31. Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
This is another of the great sorrows of the prophetic calling, that however accurately we report the Lord’s message, however earnestly we try to drive it home to the consciences of our hearers, it must often be said, “They sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.”
Ezekiel 33:32. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
Preaching seems to such people to be only a song, or a piece of acting for their amusement; but it is not so. They that can find sport in the things of God, will find it dull sport in hell when they shall be for ever driven away from the presence of God, and from the glory of his power.
Ezekiel 33:33. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.
But then it will be too late for them to know it; for they will have missed their opportunity of profiting by the message that the prophet delivered to them. God grant that it may not be so with any one of us, for his abounding mercy’s sake! Amen.