A priest is an ordinary person who has been called to be in a position of influence! Though priests exert considerable influence today, they were the pinnacle of influence in times past when there was no separating religion from politics; when there was no distinguishing between ‘church’ and ‘state’.
Ezekiel, being a priest in the house of the Lord was called to be influential. Though he had no formal authority (for he was not a king), he had plenty of power to influence the elders of Judah and the overall population.
Now, since the scriptures tell us that we are a member of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) in Christ, it is clear that we are now all priests! This means that we have all been called to be people of influence in our society. Therefore, we can no longer idly stand by in our communities while circumstances deteriorate! We cannot simply say ‘there is nothing I can do’. No, there is something we can do!
While we may not have the authority and resource to change the world around us, the least we can do is be a watchman! This is what God called Ezekiel to be in a time when there was seemingly nothing he could do – for he was in captivity with the rest of Judah. Here is what the Lord specifically spoke to Ezekiel about being a watchman:
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways
Here are 3 important truths this passage of scripture tells us about watchmen.
Responsibilities of a watchman
- Watchmen are responsible to speak only what the Lord relates to them; they are not to be originators of their own words. In other words, we have to take ourselves out of the equation – it is not about what we think or what we want to say, it is about listening to God to receive what He says. Just as God gave Ezekiel the words to speak, He will give us the words to speak as well (Ezekiel 3:10).
- Watchmen are not responsible for the outcome; they are responsible to obey God in doing and saying what God has asked of them. The outcome depends on the individual or the society the watchmen are responsible to guard
- Watchmen are held responsible for their disobedience. In other words, they bear the guilt for the demise of the society or of the individual if they fail to perform their duty. Hence, failure to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to speak into the life of an individual is a costly matter. When God tells us to act, societal norms need to get out of the way. But ‘he is my boss’ or but ‘I am shy’ are no excuses! ‘What will people think if I do this or say that’ many times is what leads to the prolonged suffering and unnecessary deaths of people we have been called to watch over. Friends, you and I have been called to be watchmen! Indeed, we must pick up the mantle of being a watchman and exert positive influence on our societies if we are ever going to see the world change.
Characteristics of a watchman
While God has called all of us to be watchmen, not everyone is chosen to be a watchman. As an analogy, just because we have passed all the qualification exams in school does not mean we automatically get hired. We have to go through an interview process where we are evaluated. The same is true of God. He will choose only those who have passed the evaluation. The evaluation that Ezekiel passed is hidden in the following verses:
The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.” Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign Lord! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No impure meat has ever entered my mouth.” “Very well,” He said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow dung instead of human excrement.” – Ezekiel 4:13-15
Here are 3 important truths these passages reveal about the characteristics of watchmen
- Watchmen have a proven record of obedience: Ezekiel said that he had never defiled himself even from his youth. This shows he was obedient to observe all the ordinances of a Nazirite. If Ezekiel would not compromise his Nazirite vow, God understood that he would not compromise His word.
- Watchmen are bold and courageous: Ezekiel spoke back to God and objected to God’s initial prompting to defile himself. How bold and courageous! By this, God understood nothing was going to move Ezekiel into rebellion. Unlike the other elders of Judah, He was going to stay steadfast no matter the situation.
- Watchmen have a heart of love and integrity: Ezekiel could have cowered and done what the Lord wanted Him to do disdainfully. Instead, He was bold and courageous to entreat God not to defile himself. In essence, he was saying: ‘God, I love you too much and love myself too much to defile myself’. As a result, God changed His mind for Ezekiel. By this God understood that Ezekiel had a heart full of integrity.
As a side note, we should ask God if we are not sure about His instruction. Moreover, just like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, we can ask him to change his mind about what He is asking us to do. Of course like Jesus, we must say ‘not my will, but Your will be done’.
Food for Thought: To be successful watchmen, we must be strong and courageous to obey the voice of God in love no matter what!