Ezekiel As a Watchman
Open Your Bible
Ezekiel 3:1-27, Isaiah 6:1-13
“Giving the kids an assigned role helps the classroom thrive,” my son’s kindergarten teacher explained. Earlier that week, I had heard about the different classroom jobs from my five-year-old, so I was already aware of the positions of line-leader, librarian, mail deliverer, and light-switch checker. But there were some new roles the teacher had to explain. Like when someone forgets to listen to the teacher’s instructions, the role of extra ears helps to repeat them. And my personal favorite, the clean-up helper who holds the other kids accountable to do their part to keep the classroom clean. The kids are all responsible for one another. If one student fails to do his duty, then the whole classroom is in disarray. Completing your assigned role is how the entire group flourishes.
In Ezekiel 3, we learn about his special assignment from God: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman over the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:17). “Watchman” refers to the person whose job was to stand out on a tower and look out to warn of coming danger. This image illustrates how Ezekiel would receive the word of God and then warn God’s people of their sins. God’s people would hopefully repent and be saved from God’s wrath. Ezekiel had his job cut out for him as God described His house as “rebellious” (v.27), for the people of God had a reputation for being disobedient. Though Ezekiel’s job would not be easy, it would be necessary for God’s people to flourish.
The Hebrew word used here means to observe or to watch closely. For me, I interpret this as a personal challenge to be engaged in the life of our spiritual community—near enough to observe the spiritual health of our sisters and brothers.
As Christians, we perform different roles: prayer-warrior, meal-deliverer, Scripture-reader, worship artist, teacher, comforter, caretaker, friend, mother, sister, wife, and disciple. We could also add to that list the role of watchman. In the New Testament, we are called to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). We are told to go and tell our brothers and sisters who are wandering from the truth and bring them back to the gospel of Jesus (James 5:19–20). Caring for one another’s spiritual health keeps our spiritual communities from being disobedient to God and falling into disarray.
This task of watchman is not any easier today as it was in ancient Israel. Like Ezekiel, there are many rebellious people in the house of God who will not listen to our words of warning. As we hold our brothers and sisters accountable to the faith, there may be tension and timidity. But the Holy Spirit is present with us, and we can pray and ask God for the right words to say in these difficult situations.
As we spend time in reflection during this Lent, may we consider what it means to offer instruction and encouragement that “…promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love…” (Ephesians 4:16). Just like a kindergarten classroom, our faith communities need us to do our part: to watch out for one another and obey God.