Chapter 3:16-22a (ESV) - And at the end of seven days, the word of the Lord came to me: “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. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”
And the hand of the Lord was upon me there.
Question to consider: Compare and contrast the word received by Ezekiel with those who proclaim to receive a message from God today.
Have you ever noticed that those who claim to be prophets today say that people need to be trained to hear the voice of God? I don’t know about you, but I do not think that Ezekiel needed training to hear the voice of God. We call them visions because no one else is described in the narrative as having witnessed these encounters, but they happened while he was awake and going about the normal course of life. He didn’t go off into a cave somewhere, sit cross-legged, and hum. He wasn’t asking to experience “the presence of the Holy Spirit” or for the Lord to give him a “special word for 593 BC”. The messages weren’t vague or related to increasing his personal finances, relationships or health. The very throne room of God descended to meet Ezekiel with a sound of many waters and blazing fire, and the Lord spoke in a way that reached his physical ears and not some metaphorical “ears of faith”.
The hand of the Lord weighed heavily on Ezekiel to proclaim every word that God gave him regardless of whether it was popular or even accepted by the exiles from Judah. What people did with that word was their responsibility, but if Ezekiel failed to proclaim the message God gave him, he would be charged with their bloodguilt.
For a real-world example of this, I would recommend reading my study on the book of Jonah. People treat God harshly for bringing judgment as if the only one who is not allowed to administer justice is the one who embodies it in perfect measure. God’s judgment does not come without warning, and He lavishes mercy upon those who repent and turn to Him. This is precisely why Jonah tried to escape God’s command to deliver God’s message to Nineveh, and why he was so angry when they repented. “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3)
If God immediately delivered judgment upon those deserving of it, none of us would live. Every breath we take is an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ. Ezekiel wasn’t tasked with going into a murderous Gentile nation like Nineveh to deliver the message. He was sent to those who professed to belong to God. He was sent to those who should recognize the word of God and have a heart that longed to be at peace with Him.
Even today, we should be like Ezekiel and proclaim Law and Gospel, even to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We constantly need to be reminded that our righteousness is not good enough to stand before God so that we will cling ever tighter to Christ and His righteousness. It is not always well received, but we are not called to be popular but to be watchmen over one another.
Dear heavenly father, please help us to lift one another up in prayer and spur one another on in the faith, letting Your work flow through us richly. Whether people need Your exhortation or encouragement, help us to be faithful vessels to proclaim both Your judgment and mercy. Amen.