Sermon on Ezekiel 33:7-11
Text: “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. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.
10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”
After the first murder in the world, God confronted Cain with this question, “Where is your brother Abel?”, hoping that Cain would confess his sin. However, Cain answered by saying, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Cain’s answer not only claimed ignorance of his brother’s whereabouts, but also that he had no responsibility for him. This type of attitude is very prevalent in our world today. We see so many people only caring about themselves. They have no time for anyone else. The thought is that I am only responsible for myself and my actions. Unfortunately, this thought process often spills over into how we deal with people when they are sinning. We say that we don’t want to get involved. This morning, the Lord reminds Ezekiel and us that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ONE ANOTHER. 1. God Has Made Us Watchmen. 2. We Warn One Another To Repent.
Previous to our text, The Lord, through Ezekiel, had pronounced judgement on the nations around Judah. He condemned them for refusing to believe that he was the true God. One by one, these mighty nations would fall. However, the Lord also had a warning for the people of Judah. They were not to think that they would get off scott free for their many sins. He speaks of a sword coming upon the land. Then, the Lord repeats something that he had told Ezekiel earlier in this book, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel.” (Verse 7) Ezekiel was called to be a watchman. This is not something that he chose to do. Rather, God chose him for this special way of serving the people of Judah.
You and I have also been called to be watchmen. What makes this so amazing is the fact that not only do we not deserve this honor, what we do deserve is to be set outside of God’s love for all eternity. The reason for this is the same reason that God pronounced a curse upon the nations around Judah and Judah, itself. It is for worshiping false gods. We might think to ourselves that we have never done such a thing. We have never bowed down to an idol made of wood, stone, or metal. While that is true, we all still have worshiped false gods. Any time anyone or anything has taken first place in our lives rather than God, we have put them in the place that God demands. Have we ever been willing to take something that isn’t ours? This means that this object became more important to God, who tells us that we are not to steal. Have we ever put off reading God’s Word, because there was something else that we would rather do? That activity became more important to us than God, who tells us that we are to read and study his Word. There are so many things that we make into gods. For each and every time, we deserve to be cursed by God for all eternity.
Yet, God, in his great love for us sent his Son to be our Savior. He came to rescue us from our hopeless situation. Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation. He, first of all, lived a perfect life for us. He always placed his Father above anyone or anything else. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness to change stones into bread. Even though he had been fasting for forty days, he refused, because he knew it was not his Father’s will. When Peter, whom Jesus dearly loved, tried to dissuade him from carrying out his Father’s will, Jesus rebuked him, saying that he did not have the things of God in mind. Then, he carried that perfect life and offered it on the cross. He took all of our sins upon himself and paid for every one of them. He was punished for our sins and gave us his perfect life, instead. When Jesus rose from the dead, he announced to the world that he had completed everything necessary for our salvation. In his love, he sent his Holy Spirit into our hearts and made us his children. We have been saved. We have an eternity of bliss to look forward to in heaven. In addition, he calls us to be watchmen.
What, exactly, was the job of a watchman? In Ezekiel’s day, many of the people did not live within the city. When danger approached, the watchman standing on the city’s walls would see it first. It was his job to sound a warning trumpet so that all within hearing distance could hurry into the city’s walls for safety. If he didn’t sound the alarm, the people would have been attacked and taken captive. Those who heard the trumpet, but took no precautionary measures and came into the safety of the city would have only themselves to blame. It was up to the watchman to warn the people about approaching danger.
This was the task that had been given to Ezekiel. He was to be the watchman for his fellow countrymen. He was to warn about impending danger. However, the alarm that he was to send out had nothing to do with foreign armies invading. Instead, we read in verses 8&9, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, 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 to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.” The danger that Ezekiel was to warn the people about was their sins. If they continued in them, they would die. God was not talking about a physical death, here. He is warning that, if they continued in their sins, they would face an eternal death in hell. God told Ezekiel that he was to be a watchman for God, telling the people about the danger that they were in.
This is also the task that we have been given. We live in a world of sinners. We are surrounded by them. It is so easy for us, when the people around us are sinning, to look the other way and not say anything. After all, who wants to have people become upset with us? Maybe, we reason, it would be better to say nothing, at all. Another reason that holds us back from speaking to someone else about their sin is that they will turn around and say something like, “Look who’s talking? Remember the time that you did this or that?” Besides, that, we continue in our thinking that it really isn’t very loving to point out someone else’s sin. It hurts them. Didn’t we just read in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor?” Pointing out someone’s sin doesn’t sound very loving.
Yet, this is exactly what we have been called to do. God says that we are responsible for each other. Out of love for that person, we want to point out to that person that, if they continue on the path that they are on, they will be lost for all eternity. Picture it this way. Suppose you see someone about to step off the curb into oncoming traffic. Would you think to yourself that you really don’t want to shout out a warning to them? They may be distracted by what they were doing. They might feel foolish, if I yell out a warning to them. Besides that, who am I to tell someone else where they should go or what they should do? Of course not! Because you are concerned about their safety, you shout out to them, “Look out!”
It is out of love for those around us that we shout out the warning when someone is sinning. We don’t do this so that we can feel superior to them. Our main purpose isn’t to make them feel bad. Our purpose in doing so is that we care for them. We don’t want them to continue doing something that would harm their faith. We don’t want them to do something that would ultimately cause them to lose their faith. If they lose their faith, they will be lost forever. Will it hurt their feelings when we point out a sin to them? Yes. Will they become upset with us? It is certainly possible. However, out of love for them, we will do everything that we can to warn them. We do so, because we hear our God’s love for them in verse 11, “‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” God wants us to be responsible for those around us. We do so out of love for him and for those around us.
We, also, pray that people will love us enough to tell us when we are starting to stray down a dangerous path. When someone points out a sin that we are doing, our first instinct may be to become upset with them. We become angry. However, what is causing that anger? Isn’t it the fact that we know that what we have been doing is wrong? Our sinful nature wants to continue in that sin. We make excuses for what we have been doing. Yet, out of love, this person has come to us with a warning. They don’t want us to damage or even lose our faith. Rather than becoming angry with them or shutting them out, may God give us a heart of thankfulness for this person who loved us so much that they were a watchman for me. They loved me so much that they took responsibility for me. May God also give us repentant heart that comes to him, confessing that sin, and trusting that, for Jesus’ sake, I am forgiven.
When we are placed into a situation where we observe someone else sinning, it is so easy to echo Cain’s words, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. God would answer that question with a “Yes.” God has given us the task of being responsible for each other. We are to watch out for each other. While it is not always easy to be the responsible one, it is something that God wants us to do. It is something that we do out of love for him and for those around us. May God help us to take our responsibility for one another seriously so that we can all join together before his throne in heaven and sing his glory for all eternity. Amen.
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