Chapter 33:1-9 (ESV) - The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.
“So you, son of man, I have made 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, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Question to consider: How does Ezekiel as the watchman for Israel point to the work of Christ?
Today’s passage seems to parallel God’s initial word to Ezekiel in chapter 3. No time reference is given so it could have been a more comprehensive description of the original visions given to him. However, this section of the text progresses beyond the initial judgment by Babylon to the future of Jerusalem and the ultimate “Son of man” who would stand as a watchman for the people. The restoration and future destruction of Jerusalem were introduced back in chapter 4 when Ezekiel was commanded to lay on his right side behind an iron plate for 40 days after having laid on his left side for 390 days. I would argue that this section provides a more detailed view of this vision which would not occur until long after Ezekiel was gone. The people could trust that Ezekiel was a true prophet of God because of what had already come to pass. Ezekiel had already prophesied the death of his dear wife the very day it happened (an immediate fulfillment) and the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (a near-term fulfillment).
One thing that struck me in reading this was that God told Ezekiel to speak to your people and not my people. The same message was given through Hosea as one of the children born from his wife’s adultery was named Lo-ammi which meant: Not My People. “And the Lord said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’” (Hosea 1:9)
Just as Ezekiel as the son of man would be faithful to stand as a watchman for his people and provide warnings of God’s coming judgment, so one day the true Son of man, Christ Jesus, would be faithful to stand for His church and receive the judgment of God on our behalf in order to reconcile us with the Father.
This passage also reinforces the idea that God had His prophets proclaim the coming judgment, not as a cruel and inevitable statement of doom, but as a warning so that those who are willing to repent of their sin and turn back to God could receive mercy. Unlike the world’s imperfect attempts at justice, God has never condemned an innocent person. We are to do whatever we can to be our brother’s keeper and proclaim righteousness in Christ, but at the end of the day, salvation belongs to the Lord, and He will be the one that makes sure His word does not return to Him void.
Dear Lord, thank You for being our watchman and redeemer. Help us to be faithful in proclaiming Your work of salvation for the world, and may it produce a harvest of righteousness in it. Amen.