Scripture reading – Ezekiel 33

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Ezekiel 33 moved the focus of our Scripture readings from God’s judgment of Egypt and the nations (Ezekiel 29-32) to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility to serve the LORD as His watchman. Ezekiel’s task was not an enviable one. He was charged with delivering a message to the people of the captivity living in Babylon, and it was one they despised. Ezekiel’s task was to remind the nation of its past, discern the times, and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins.


Ezekiel 33


The Call and Commission of a Watchman (Ezekiel 33:1-9)

Far from Jerusalem and living as a captive in Babylon, Ezekiel was charged with speaking the word of the LORD “to the children of [his] people” (33:2). He was one of God’s watchmen, whose duty was to warn the people that the sword of judgment was in the land. Tragically, many watchmen failed to sound the warning (“blow the trumpet”), leaving the people unprotected and unprepared.


A Case of Culpability (Ezekiel 33:3-6)

Ezekiel was told that when a faithful watchman sounded the warning, and the people refused to heed the sound of the trumpet, their blood was on their heads. Yet, should the prophet fail the nation and not warn the people, their blood would be on his head as God’s watchmen (Ezekiel 33:3-6).


Ezekiel’s Commission (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

The LORD called and commissioned Ezekiel to be a “watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7). It was his task to hear the LORD and warn the nation (Ezekiel 33:7). He was to warn the wicked saying, “Thou shalt surely die,” but should Ezekiel fail, the blood of the wicked would be upon his hands (33:8). If Ezekiel were a faithful prophet and the wicked refused to heed his warning, he would be delivered from the guilt of their blood when they perished (Ezekiel 33:9).

Ezekiel’s Commission

Ezekiel’s Appeal to Israel: The LORD is Compassionate. (Ezekiel 33:10-20)

Ezekiel’s mission was to call the people to repent and assure them that the LORD would extend His compassion to sinners (Ezekiel 33:10-11). Lest any believe salvation by grace through faith is a New Testament doctrine, or that the saints of the Old Testament placed their faith in works to merit God’s favor, the LORD declared to Ezekiel: “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression” (Ezekiel 33:12).

Good works [i.e., righteousness] do not save; they never have and never will (Ephesians 2:8-9). Only the LORD can redeem and save a sinner from the consequences of their sins! Thus, we read that those who trust in their righteousness “shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it” (Ezekiel 33:13).  

Yet, the wicked who repent of their sins and turn to the LORD and prove their faith by walking in His will “shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezekiel 33:15; James 2:18). Indeed, the sinner who repents is promised that “none of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (Ezekiel 33:16).

The News of Jerusalem’s Destructi

The News of Jerusalem’s Destruction (Ezekiel 33:21-26) 

The year was 585 BC, “the twelfth year of [the] captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month” (Ezekiel 33:21); a messenger from Jerusalem arrived in Babylon. Having escaped the city under siege, he brought the dreaded news that Ezekiel had prophesied should come to pass: “The city is smitten” (Ezekiel 33:21c).

Ezekiel shared how, the evening before the messenger arrived, “the hand of the LORD was upon” him (Ezekiel 33:23). The LORD put in Ezekiel’s mouth His words and revealed the cause of God’s judgment. In their pride, the children of Israel boasted confidently of their Abrahamic lineage and asserted that the land of Israel was their inheritance (Ezekiel 33:23-24). Yet, their sins brought God’s judgment, for they had defiled the land with their wickedness (Ezekiel 32:25-26).


The Consequences of Israel’s Sins (Ezekiel 33:27-29)

The fall of Jerusalem was only the beginning of sorrow for those who survived the destruction of the city. Those who fled the city would be slain. Others would be killed by wild beasts in the fields (Ezekiel 33:27a). Some sought shelter in caves, only to perish of disease (Ezekiel 33:27b). Thus, Jerusalem’s pride in her strength had come to an end. The land was left desolate (Ezekiel 33:28). All this was to the end that the people would know the judgment was come upon them “because of all their abominations which they [had]committed” (Ezekiel 33:29).


Ezekiel: A Persecuted Prophet (Ezekiel 33:30-33)

One would think the confirmation of all Ezekiel prophesied would command the respect of the people in captivity, but it did not. Instead, the LORD warned His prophet, “The children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother” (Ezekiel 30:30).

Some came to Ezekiel and made a pretense of listening to the word of the LORD through His prophet (Ezekiel 33:30), but they were hypocrites. With their mouths, they claimed to love the LORD, but “their heart goeth after their covetousness” (Ezekiel 33:31). They complimented the prophet on his voice and heard his words but refused to obey (Ezekiel 33:32).

Ezekiel: A Persecuted Prophet

Closing thoughts –

The calling of a watchman was an essential part of securing the well-being of a walled fortress. It was a position of trust. It was the watchman’s duty to be vigilant and ready to sound the alarm should he see an enemy approaching.

So, it was for the spiritual watchmen of Ezekiel’s day. They were the prophets of the LORD, charged with warning God’s people that if they continued in their sins, the “sword” of the LORD was imminent. A faithful watchman would “blow the trumpet, and warn the people” (Ezekiel 33:3) and be free from their blood. However, should the watchman fail in his duty and the people be slain, the LORD warned He would require the watchman to give an account for the souls slain under his watch (Ezekiel 33:6).

Of course, in the New Testament age, the pastors and deacons are the watchmen of a church and congregation. We read in 1 Timothy 3 that the pastor [i.e., bishop or overseer] is to be vigilant and sober (1 Timothy 3:2), and the deacons be “grave” and therefore serious-minded about their task and calling (1 Timothy 3:8). Paul also challenged Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus, to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).  

Lastly, echoing the LORD’s admonition to the spiritual watchmen of Ezekiel’s day to be faithful lest they be guilty of the blood of others, James warned believers: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1).

Not many are called to be spiritual watchmen of congregations and institutions; however, if you are a pastor, deacon, or serve in a spiritual leadership position, you have accepted the responsibility of being a spiritual watchman. Are you faithful? Are you watching out for the spiritual well-being of those under your influence? If not, should they die, their blood will also be on your hands on the day of God’s judgment.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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