Today’s Reading: Ezekiel 1-4
Today’s Reflection: Ezekiel 3:17-19
17) “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. 18) 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. 19) 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 was a prophet who was called to minister to his people at the time of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and Chaldeans, and throughout their exile from Judah and captivity in Babylon. After seeing the power of God and reflecting on it for seven days (Ezekiel 3:12-16), God gives Ezekiel this awesome and sobering charge. Awesome, because he was called to proclaim the word God gave him. Sobering because if he failed to warn the wicked that their sins would lead them to death, he too would share their fate. This tells us of the great responsibility of those called to the knowledge, sharing and teaching of God’s Word.
But this call has also been greatly misunderstood. It has been used as justification for calling out, judging and even condemning the behaviour of people in the world, people who are not a part of the body of Christ. This happens today from the pulpit, to the protester (at the gay pride parade, outside the strip club, in front of the abortion clinic), to the street corner preacher shouting hell fire and brimstone to the ‘wicked’ passers-by. It is believed by many that these tactics will either convert non-believers, or free God’s people from responsibility for them. They’ve been given ‘warning’, right? Their punishment from God is now on their own heads.
The problem with this (aside from Jesus admonition neither to judge nor condemn in Luke 6:37) is that the watchman’s call is to bring warning to the house of Israel, which is to say God’s people or Christians today, not to Gentiles or non-believers. Those who call themselves by God’s name are held to a different standard.
Luke 12:47-48 – 47) And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48) But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
And it is often the sinful behaviour of those who call themselves God’s people that poses the greatest challenge to reaching the world with the truth of God’s word.
Romans 2:23-25 – 23) You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24) For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Remember, Ezekiel had been called as a prophet because the people of Judah were being punished for their sins, not to point out the sins of other nations. Jesus harshest words were not for Gentile non-believers, or even Samaritans who did not offer their sacrifices at the temple of God in Jerusalem, but for the Pharisees who had the scriptures memorized. Likewise, we’ll often find warnings we receive are for ourselves and fellow believers. If we heed these words for our own lives, we’ll find doors to presenting an effective ministry to non-believers begin to open up for us as well.
Hosea 5:1 – Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor.