Ezekiel received his prophetic commission from the Lord more than two-and-half millennia ago. Since the prophetic office has long since ceased, what possible value could there be in dredging up such an ancient situation? The answer lies in the fact that it reveals the way the Lord always deals with His people—whether Israel or the church. One verse suggests three very important elements in those dealings: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me” (Ezk. 3:17).
“I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel.” Every believer is called upon to be sober and vigilant: it is part of our responsibility as saints. A parent must be a watchman for his children; the elder for the younger, and every one of us for every other one. But in addition to the universal responsibility to watch given to all, God raises up watchman wherever He gathers His people. Pastors, of course, hold this primary duty. Is it not odd that we value watchman in public and civil arenas—soldiers, police officers, etc.--but seem often to resent them in our personal and private affairs? Yet it is a signal evidence of the loving faithfulness of the Lord that He calls and equips saints to alert us to the dangers intended to cause us spiritual harm. As wonderful as it is to have people dedicated to protecting our physical lives and personal property, how much more valuable is it to have those who watch for our souls? So far from resenting their ministry, we should thank God for those who perform this difficult and often thankless task and embrace their ministry in our lives.
“Therefore hear the word at my mouth.” A natural watchman’s first duty is visual: he must use his eyes to search out danger or potential problems. But the first duty of a spiritual watchman is auditory: he must be attentive to the voice of the Lord. Spiritual danger is first recognized by those who have their ears and hearts attuned to the Word of God. Anything, whether internal or external to the flock that sounds a discordant note with the Word of God must be searched out, examined in the light of the Word, and judged in accord with the revealed will of God. A faithful watchman, then, is not one who says and does what he thinks his congregation wants but that which the Word of God sets forth as objective truth. He believes the Bible to be truth from the mouth of God, absolutely authoritative, and essential to eternal life and temporal security and victory.
“And give them warning from me.” As adults and “free moral agents,” we have a tendency to resist interference in our personal lives. But it is the God-ordained responsibility of watchman to warn those he has been commissioned to serve. “All’s well” may ring comfortably in our ears. But the faithful watchman will not proclaim such words when he perceives the truth to be otherwise, nor will a wise believer want him to do so. We should be thankful for a word of warning from the watchman of God because it is intended for our blessing and, if heeded, will surely deliver us from some danger, whether that be from some attitude or action we take on our own or one that is directed against us. Warnings are like heavenly STOP signs given by our loving God in order to prevent us from coming to harm. But unlike the natural ones, which we may get away with ignoring on occasion, every one of God’s warnings that we ignore involves us in a spiritual accident. To ignore a God-ordained watchman is to ignore God; we cannot do that with impunity. We must heed our pastors with submissive, thankful hearts, knowing that in watching for our souls, they are doing the work of our faithful, gracious, loving Lord.
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