construction worker with stop sign August 13 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Ezekiel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Chronological Note: According to Ezekiel 1:1-3 Ezekiel dates his call to the ministry when he was 30 years old, five years after the deportation of King Jehoiachin, which would be the fifth year of King Zedekiah in Judah.

Spiritual Watchmen

Most of us have some responsibilities over people. A construction zone traffic controller has responsibilities to see that vehicles will not endanger her fellow workers or those traveling. A crosswalk guard has responsibilities to make sure the traffic stops to let children walk safely across a street. Parents have responsibilities over their children. Pastors have responsibilities over their congregation. Youth leaders have responsibility over youth. Teachers have responsibilities over their students. If we might take the prophet Ezekiel as an example, by principle we can see that God has also made Christians spiritual watchmen. What does a watchman do?

In Bible times, watchmen would be stationed in the towers above the city walls. From that vantage point they could see the whole countryside and warn the city of approaching invaders. What dangers do we see that could war against the souls over whom we are responsible?

Ezekiel was a priest and prophet of the LORD. He was taken to Babylon in the second raid of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. He ministered among the Jewish exiles in Babylon, close to the Euphrates River in Kebar. Meanwhile, Jeremiah still remained as a prophet in Jerusalem. One day, Ezekiel saw a vision of God with four strange looking creatures (“cherubim” according to Ezekiel 10:2). They were attending the throne of Almighty God. God was present with his people even in their difficulties and disobedience, and Ezekiel was awestruck at the site. God then gave Ezekiel his commission. As was said before, Christians have a commission, a spiritual assignment to watch over people. To be an effective minister of Jesus Christ, however, we do not necessarily have to see a vision of him. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe,” John 20:29 (NIV). Even so, we do need a personal and real relationship with Him to be his watchmen. When we believe and receive Jesus as our savior from sin, we receive forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). At that very moment God's Holy Spirit enters us and gives us the power and grace to fulfill our mission.

Ezekiel’s assignment was to minister to the exiled Israelites, a people who would not listen to him. This was certainly not an enviable task, but we can sympathize with him. Many of us are also called to minister to rebellious children, youth, or adults who do not and will not listen. What do we do? Sometimes God calls us to stay with the task. The Scriptures say, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” (Galatians 6:9, NIV). You may say, “what if they won’t listen to our words?” Try God’s words.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Ezekiel was given the Word of God to eat (in a figure) and proclaim to the exiles. The Spirit of the LORD was on Ezekiel, and like God, Ezekiel was filled with anger and bitterness over the sins of Israel. His word from the LORD would be judgment for their extreme wickedness. The word of God is powerful and convicting to people who will listen. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, NIV). Hard hearts need the hammer of God to break their rock-like will to pieces.

We still do not know, however (as in Ezekiel’s case), if God’s Word will break through their hard hearts. What do we do if God’s words are not heeded? The answer is that we are not responsible for the outcome, but we must faithfully proclaim the Word of God. This is our responsibility as spiritual watchmen. When we do that, God is pleased regardless of the outcome.

Ezekiel was a watchman. He was to proclaim the Word of God with courage. This would not be easy, so his courage came from the LORD. He was not to give up and become like the godless Israelites. It is so easy to give up and give in when we are not making progress. Persevere; God will reward you for your faithfulness.

What if we consistently present God’s word and persevere, and it still does not work? God may lead you, like Ezekiel, to try object lessons to get their attention. You may recall he did this with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13, 24). Sometimes prophets were instructed to do some strange things. Ezekiel was told to draw the city of Jerusalem on a slate and then build siege works against it (a picture of the current Babylonian siege). After that he was instructed to set up an iron pan like an iron wall that Jerusalem could not break (perhaps this referred to the siege –it was impenetrable, or perhaps it referred to desperate prayers that would not be heeded by God because of their sins (Isaiah 59:2; Lamentations 3:44, The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.1235). When he was through making a model of the siege works, Ezekiel was then told to lie on one side for 390 days, one day for each year for the sins of Israel and 40 days on the other side, one day for each year of Judah’s sins. Apparently, each day he was given time to make preparations for scanty meals to eat, symbolizing the famine Jerusalem endured (Ezekiel 4:16-17). After that, God told Ezekiel,

Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber's razor to shave your head and your beard [a sign of humility and mourning]. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair. When the days of your siege come to an end [the siege he illustrated by laying on his side, eating poor, scanty meals], burn a third of the hair with fire inside the city [symbolizing death by famine and plague]. Take a third and strike it with the sword all around the city [symbolizing death by sword for all those who fled the city]. And scatter a third to the wind [symbolizing exile of a third of the people]. For I will pursue them with drawn sword. But take a few strands of hair and tuck them away in the folds of your garment [God would preserve a remnant of the people]. Again, take a few of these and throw them into the fire and burn them up [yet even some of these will not escape death in exile, Ezekiel 6:6-12, 7:15]. A fire will spread from there to the whole house of Israel [persecution would affect both those in Jerusalem and those exiled elsewhere, (Ezekiel 5:1-4, NIV; note: some insights were derived from The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.1236-7).

In future lessons we will see Ezekiel do even more strange things that we might consider bizarre. He will do them because God was trying to get the attention of the Jewish exiles. The Israelites would not listen, but God still loved them and went to great lengths to try to restore them. Because of our love for individuals we also go to great lengths to get their attention. We do this because we are watchmen over their souls, because we care about them and love them.

Lessons to live by:

  • God is present with us in our difficult circumstances, even when we are disobedient.
  • God has assigned Christians with spiritual responsibilities and holds us accountable for those under our charge.
  • It takes courage to proclaim God’s word to those who are not listening. Pray for it.
  • God’s words are powerful and penetrating - much more than our reason and arguments - so it is wise to use them.
  • Object lessons are helpful to get peoples’ attention, when words alone may not suffice.
  • It is not loving to allow those under our influence to deceive themselves without intervening.
  • God loves us enough to confront us when we are wrong.
  • If you do not know God, He wants offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more... ). Through his Spirit you can have the power to endure tough times and to fulfill your mission.

Today’s Bible memory verse: Ezekiel 2:7a “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen…” (NIV)

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