The calling to lead people to repentance.
Read Ezekiel 3:16-20
“I have appointed you a watchman…whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me.”
Ezekiel’s divine call to his prophetic ministry was not encouraging. After receiving a vision of God’s glory in heaven, God appoints Ezekiel to be a watchman for the house of Israel. However, instead of giving Ezekiel a rousing promise of divine blessing and success in his task, God assures him of the very opposite. In 2:4-5, he describes the people he will serve as “stubborn and obstinate children” and “rebellious house” who will refuse to listen to Ezekiel’s message. Instead of being received and honored by the people, his ministry will be like walking through a thistle and thorn patch or sitting on scorpions (2:6). Hardly an optimistic view. If I were Ezekiel, I think I would have been like Jonah and head to the furthest place possible.
Even as God foretells the struggles that Ezekiel will face, he makes clear Ezekiel’s responsibility. First, Ezekiel is fulfilling his prophetic role of proclaiming the word from God so that the people will “know that a prophet has been among them” (2:5). Second, Ezekiel is to be a watchman to the house of Israel. In the Ancient Near East, the watchman was the individual stationed high in a watch-tower on the city walls to be on the lookout for any arising danger threatening the safety of the people within the walls. A watchman would be responsible for keeping a sharp eye looking in the distance for any approaching armies who might be marching against the city. He was also responsible for keeping watch inwardly for any internal threat such as fire or a thief prowling about at night. If he saw any danger, he would then raise the alarm to call the people to action. Thus his task was essential for the safety of the people was interwoven with his diligence. If he failed to warn, he was held personally responsible for any loss or damage.
This imagery provided Ezekiel with an understanding of his ministry. His ministry would be one of warning of sin and calling people to repentance. Ezekiel himself would not be judged for how people responded; instead, he would be judged for his faithfulness in proclaiming God’s message and calling people to repentance. If Ezekiel failed to warn, his indifference to their plight made him guilty of their death.
This provides us a clear understanding of God’s expectations for his followers today. It is our responsibility to equally warn people of the impending judgment and call people to repentance so that they might enjoy the salvation and forgiveness God offers. Increasingly we are told to remain silent by people who want to ignore the warning. We are told that we are unloving and judgmental by warning them of their sin. Judgmentalism condemns people without the offer of forgiveness, and indifference is not caring about the threat descending upon them. Both are unloving. To truly love someone is to warn them of the disaster about to befall them and offer them hope through the salvation of Christ. Just as God entrusted his redemptive message to Ezekiel, he also entrusts us with the same responsibility to warn people of their sin and call them repentance. Just as God would hold Ezekiel responsible for his faithfulness to perform his duty, so also he holds us accountable for being faithful to warn people of the dangers and consequences of sin. While our message is inherently positive, for it is a message of hope and salvation, it is also confrontational, for it points out the reality of sin to point people to offer of grace.