30 September, 2023

September 4 | The Watchman

by | 29 August, 2022 | 0 comments

A Bible school class named themselves the HOPE Class. The acronym stood for “Hitched Or Patiently Engaged.” But that is not what hope stands for or means. Hope is the eager and very real anticipation of a world totally controlled by God. The major prophet Ezekiel marked out the consequences of sin (we focused on that last month), but he also marked out hope for sinners. This month students will learn of the tender care necessary to turn a sinner back to God, how having a new heart helps with that task, how people who have experienced the deadly nature of sin can breathe with new life, and how God’s nature can come afresh to once-weary sinners.  

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Unit: Ezekiel (Part 2)
Theme: Hope for Sinners
Lesson Text: Ezekiel 33:1-16
Supplemental Text: Jeremiah 26:1-9; Acts 20:20-21; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; ​James 5:19-20
Aim: Serve as a watchman if you see your brother or sister turning away from Christ.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_September4_2022.

Send an email to [email protected] to receive PDFs of the lesson material each month.

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By Mark Scott

Being a watchman comes with a price. Night watchmen must fight sleep. Day watchmen must fight crowds. Some watchmen must fight thieves. Spiritual watchmen, like prophets and church leaders, are no different. Risks come with the job. The task at first pass might sound glorious, but true watchmen carry around some angst about their “labor.” 

Ezekiel’s ministry of judgment on fallen Israel (chapters 1–24) and judgment on Ammon, Tyre, and Egypt (chapters 25–32) has turned to a ministry of being a watchman to the people of Israel (chapter 33) and specifically to the leaders of Israel (chapter 34). The word watchman denoted someone who was fully aware of the surroundings. It referred to someone stationed on the city wall who could see the enemy approaching and sounded the alarm for the people. Failure in this duty carried a death sentence to the watchman. In the case of Israel, God was the ultimate watchman (Psalm 66:7). 

The Watchman’s Message 
Ezekiel 33:1-9 

The chosen watchman’s duties were announced in verses 1-6. Ezekiel was chosen by God as Israel’s prophetic watchman in verses 7-9. He is referred to with the prophetic title son of man (four times). God’s revelation came to Ezekiel (The word of the Lord came to me). God’s sword (knife or dagger) referred to Babylon that he had raised up against Israel. When the watchman saw Babylon coming, he was to warn (teach or admonish) the people by blowing the trumpet (shofar or ram’s horn). Trumpets were used to summon soldiers to battle, announce festival days, and call various assemblies to order.  

The people bear the responsibility of how they respond to the watchman’s message. If the watchman sounds the warning and the people do not heed it, they have only themselves to blame for the coming judgment (thus the phrase, their blood will be on their own head). But if the watchman fails in his responsibility to warn the people, then the watchman bears the responsibility for the judgment coming on the people.  

This is repeated for emphasis to Ezekiel in verses 7-9. He is to challenge the wicked person to be dissuaded (warned) from wicked ways. If Ezekiel failed in this job, the responsibility fell on Ezekiel, but if Ezekiel warned the wicked, and the wicked refused to turn away from the wickedness, then that person will suffer the consequences and Ezekiel will be saved.  

The Lord’s Heart 
Ezekiel 33:10-11 

Clearly the Lord did not like speaking this harshly. It burdens him to speak of the people’s offenses (transgressions or rebellions) and sins (and the guilt associated with them). These things cause Ezekiel’s people to be weighed down and waste away (pine away or be consumed). The text could not be clearer. The Lord takes no pleasure (delight or favor) in the death of the wicked. His righteousness demands that sin be punished. Otherwise he would not be true to himself. But the Lord’s heart is churned within him (Hosea 11:8). The Lord pleads to his people through Ezekiel to turn (repent)—in fact, he says this twice. The question is haunting: “Why will you die, people of Israel?” Sin does more than break God’s law; it breaks his heart. 

The People’s Obedience 
Ezekiel 33:12-16 

There is no substitute for uncompromised and heartfelt obedience. Few things delight the Father more than that. This paragraph makes that abundantly clear. If a righteous person (someone who lives by God’s standards and holiness) starts practicing disobedience, then his former righteousness is disregarded (counts for nothing). On the other hand, if a wicked person gives evidence of genuine repentance, then his former wickedness will not be held against him. This standard makes clear that God is both just and the justifier (Romans 3:26).  

This may sound at first pass like works righteousness, but Ezekiel’s message goes on to say that if righteous people begin to trust in their righteousness and do evil, what they did will be forgotten and they will die for the evil they have done. The flip side is true for the wicked person who turns his heart toward God. His wicked deeds will be forgotten. Three specific sins are mentioned that may have been issues during this Babylonian occupation—pledges for loans, thievery, and not following the decrees of the Lord.  

The Lord could never be charged for not being fair and loving. A watchman has the privilege of announcing both the judgments of God and the love of God. Either way, it is hard work. 


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