Summary: Spiritually-speaking we have a lot of silent alarms today. The duty of the watchman is to sound the alarm.
September 4, 2005
(Labor Day Weekend)
So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel 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, "O wicked ones, you shall surely die," and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand.
But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: "Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?"
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 their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Ezekiel 33:7-11 (NRSVA)
What would you say should become of an alarm clock that doesn’t wake you up in time for work? (Some have answered that its owner would rise up and call it blessed!) In reality, an alarm clock that fails to sound the alarm is useless.
God has had a pattern of dealing with the chosen nation which goes something like: scatter, gather…and repeat! Ezekiel’s time was 13 years after the scattering of God’s people. Jerusalem had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (today’s Iraq), the nation was scattered in punishment. Ezekiel himself was a captive in Babylon, and it was there that the Lord called Ezekiel to be a prophet; God told Ezekiel that he was being set up as sentinel, a watchman over the house of Israel. Whenever God spoke, Ezekiel was to listen, then blow the horn of warning for all he was worth. Ezekiel was Israel’s moral and spiritual alarm clock. When God posted a sentry over the house of Israel He wasn’t just going through the motions. There was wrath to come because of the moral and spiritual decline of the people of God! The fact that God placed a sentry over the house of Israel presupposes the greater fact that a sentry was needed.
Some have called Ezekiel a “prophet of hope”. I suppose that’s true from Israel’s standpoint; even the name “Ezekiel” (God will strengthen) carries the promise of hope. Israel needed hope, as do we all.
Sentry duty is as old as the day God removed Adam and Eve from their paradise and posted an angel to prevent them from sneaking back in. It is a constant reminder that there are people that ought not be trusted:
• Armies always post sentries to watch out for the enemy.
• Homeland Security is searching bags at airports, and bodies too in the name of guarding against terrorists.
• The FDIC is watching over your money to make sure banks don’t steal it.
• ADT is watching over my house right now, protecting against intruders.
• And AOL, bless their bones, is posting spy-ware guards everywhere to keep me safe from Internet hackers and crackers.
• Even Colgate with super whitening power is guarding against tooth decay right in my mouth!
• We have passwords, pin numbers and entry codes.
Sentry duty is big stuff!
This past week saw the Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana coastline ripped apart by hurricane Katrina. By Thursday the death toll in Mississippi alone had climbed to 185, and was expected to rise.
One reporter standing in front of the New Orleans convention center told how difficult the recovery process was; there was even a body lying in the doorway of the center for the past three days. The news reports from Biloxi showed devastation greater than hurricane Andrew. This was a disastrous and tragic week.
The images are disturbing, but there is the reality that in the time leading-up to the storm, the Governors of those coastal states were like Ezekiel alarm clocks, pleading with people to evacuate, to get out of harm’s-way.
Many did leave, but so many stayed, and now we are seeing the loss of life compounding the loss of property. Had the Governors not acted as “watchmen” sounding the alert, the nation would be up in arms over the neglect to warn the people.
In the verses preceding our text, God states that if the watchman doesn’t warn the people, their blood is on the watchman’s head; if the watchman does his job, but the people don’t listen, their blood is on their own heads. My dad used to say about such things to his sons…you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself!