“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Ezekiel 3:17 – 19 (ESV)
When someone thinks of duty there are many things that can come to mind. Duty to the Military, Duty to Parents, Duties of your Job… One of the things that is almost never talked about in relation to the Christian faith is that we have duties as Christians, and these duties are not to be held in the same contempt as other duties like doing the dishes or cutting the grass. We need to think about these duties… What are Christian duties? There are many of them, and they are all listed in the Bible. You find a lot of our duties in Exodus like the Ten Commandments, in Matthew 5 like the Beatitudes, or like in the corresponding text in the New Testament that we are going to be looking at, the very last earthly command of the Resurrected Christ in Matthew 28:18-20:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
You may be thinking, “He is about to cross the line and interfere with my life.” and I am saying, “Yes, I am about to meddle.” Let us look at another related text in the Old Testament from Ezekiel.
In 3:17, God is speaking to Ezekiel telling him the duty of a prophet. He is a watchman. What is the first duty of a watchman? To be a lookout and an alarm. The watchman is continually looking out for danger and suspicious people or things in order to safe guard something, in this case the people of God. The other duty of a watchman is to sound the alarm at the first hint of danger. You sound the alarm to alert the people and to raise the army to the ready. The people are alerted to flee to safety and the army is sounded to defend the people. So the prophet is the very first line of defense against an enemy spiritual or otherwise, and he does this by keeping a vigilant watch and recognizing potential dangers. The second duty that he performs is the alerting of the people, and the prophet does this by giving information to the people.
You might be thinking, “Well that is all fine and good but that is just for the prophet, right?”. Let’s consider that question in light of Scripture. As Christians, with the Holy Spirit working through us, the average Joe in a small part acts as a prophet and as a priest; what is commonly called the “priesthood” of all believers. We are all, as Christians, told to profess and proclaim the teachings of Christ and Him crucified (see Matthew 28 above). In a sense, the Church, the Body of Christ has replaced the historical prophet with a composite of all believers, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as contained in the Bible as well as the directive from the Christ Himself to take the Word of God to the ends of the earth.
One of the results of genuine conversion is the immense desire to tell everyone in the world the good news of what Christ has done in them. I know that I had this when I first accepted Christ, and the Holy Spirit was working through me. But as time drew on, the initial fire and passion chilled to a simmering ember through the general wetness and heaviness that life likes to pour on us. We need to continually stoke the fire and keep it burning hot. Note I didn’t forget or loose my grip on Christ, my fervor just dwindled.
In Ezekiel 3:18 God says the following to the prophet, “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.” This speaks of great personal importance. God gives us a saving message. He expects us to carry it to everyone to whom that message is pertinent. By withholding it we demonstrate to our brothers that we either have left over pockets of sinful resistance in our souls or at worst demonstrate that we lack the love for others to desire that anyone escape the fires of hell. That should give us sober pause.
God then concludes his warning to Ezekiel in 3:19, “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” The man of God, we see here, saves his heart from hardening by the sharing of the same message that saved him. God desires mercy, and His message is a message of mercy. That foundation of mercy grounds our salvation. The more intimate that we become with our Savior’s story and message, the more intimate we become with ourselves and with God.
What do we gather from Ezekiel 3:7-19 and Matthew 28:18-20? First of all, God gave us a message that saves us from death and condemnation. Second of all, He wants us stand at post like a watchmen, ready to give this message to everyone. Finally, it is out of love that we give this message to the sinful world in order that through hearing they may be saved. The prince of preachers of the 19th century put it this way:
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”