In ancient times, the Jewish people blew the shofar for many reasons. One reason was, when an enemy was approaching, the watchman blew the shofar to warn the people so they had time to find a place of safety.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from the watchman. In Ezekiel 33, the Lord gave Ezekiel two situations involving the watchman. The first involves the watchman who, even though he fulfills his responsibilities, someone is killed by the enemy. The second is the watchman who does not fulfill his responsibilities and someone is killed.
The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: “When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the shofar to warn the people, then if anyone hears the shofar but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the shofar but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.
In this first situation, the watchman fulfills his responsibilities. He positions himself in a place that is good for observation – on one of the higher walls of the city or on a high tower, so that he can see the enemy approaching. When he sees the enemy approaching, he blows the shofar, which warns the people that danger is approaching. Those who are outside the city, working in the fields or going about their business, have time to get into the city where they are protected by the gates and walls and those who defend the city. Those who are in charge of the gates have time to close the gates so the enemy can’t enter. The people are safe.
The person who is outside the city, who hears the shofar and ignores the warning, and is killed by the attack, is responsible for the loss of his own life. He was given adequate warning by the watchman, and could have saved his life, but chose to ignore the warning – so the unnecessary loss of his life is his own fault. The watchman was not negligent. He is not responsible for the man’s death. The watchman incurs no guilt and will not be punished.
Now we come to the second situation. It involves the watchman who is negligent. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the shofar to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood. If the watchman sees the enemy approaching, and does not blow the shofar, and the people are not warned, and don’t have time to enter the city; or the gatekeepers don’t have time to close the gates so that the enemy enters the city – and someone is killed, the Lord will the hold the watchman responsible for his negligence.
Now the Lord tells His prophet that he is 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 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.
Ezekiel was a prophet, and a prophet is like a watchman. Because God chose Ezekiel to be a prophet; to know Him and His ways and hear from Him in a special way, Ezekiel was responsible to warn those who were disobeying the Lord that they needed to repent; they needed to turn to the Lord and His ways; and if they didn’t, they would die for their sin; they would die unreconciled to God.
If Ezekiel did try to persuade them to abandon their evil ways, he would receive the reward of a faithful prophet. But if he didn’t, the Lord would hold him accountable. He would be saved but be judged and lose honor and reward.
It was a honor to be a watchman. It was an honor to be a prophet. Why would the Lord need to warn Ezekiel that he needed to fulfill his responsibilities as a prophet or suffer the consequences? The answer is obvious: Being a prophet is difficult. People don’t like being told they are wicked, unacceptable to God and must turn from their sins, repent or die because of their sins. They dislike that message and reject the messenger – which makes the life of the prophet unpleasant.
The prophet was like the watchman. If you are a follower of Messiah, then you too are like the watchman. Like the watchman, you are in a high place where you can see the danger approaching. You are united to Messiah, who is in the Heavenly Heights. You see God and you see the Adversary. You see Heaven and you see Hell. You see salvation and damnation. You see sin and repentance. You must warn people that mankind is in rebellion against God, dead in their trespasses and sins and in the most desperate need of the salvation that only faith in Yeshua provides. You must warn them that they need to repent, turn to God or they will die.
You are a watchman. Can you imagine a watchman on the city wall, seeing the enemy approaching? He sees people outside of the walls. He has his shofar with him but is afraid to blow it because the sound of the shofar is upsetting, and he doesn’t want to upset those outside the city? He’s afraid of offending them? He’s afraid of their response? Or can you imagine being a watchman who doesn’t blow the shofar because he isn’t on the wall with his shofar because he is too busy doing other things?
We must warn the wicked about the danger they are in and the way to escape certain death! What Messiah whispers in our ear, we must loudly and unashamedly shout from the housetops! And if we don’t? We will suffer loss. Lose our reward. I can’t help but thinking that those who have no concern for the salvation of the lost and have no interest in warning them or telling them the Good New about Messiah may not be saved at all.
Tell the world the bad news and the good news – that because of the catastrophe that took place in Eden, human beings are alienated from God, who is the source of life. Because we joined the rebellion of the fallen angels, the authority to rule humanity was transferred to the devil and the demons. Satan became the god of this world, and we became his subjects. Because of the fall of man, we have a sin nature; and because of all this, we are headed to death, not life; to Hell, not Heaven.
Tell them that our greatest needs are to be reconciled to God and to be rescued from Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death, and Hell; and that it is impossible for us to do this ourselves – that no amount of human effort, good deeds, law-keeping, rituals or ceremonies can ever be enough. news:
Tell them that there is a way of salvation, but only one way of salvation. They must believe the Good News – that God the Father sent His Son news:from Heaven to Earth. The Son of God was born into the royal family of the chosen people. Yeshua the Messiah became our greatest rabbi. He did many miracles demonstrating He was sent by God. He lived a sinless life. Then He allowed Himself to be put to death. But death could not hold this perfect man, and God the Father raised His Son from the dead. Messiah Yeshua then ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of God, where He is right now, ruling over the universe, and able to save those who believe in Him!
Tell them that those who know these truths and transfer their loyalties to the Father and the Son are reconciled to God. They are removed from the control of Satan and the demons. They are given the Spirit of God. They are given a new nature. They may experience the first death – physical death – but they will never experience the second death. They will be resurrected and live forever as the glorious sons and daughters of God in the new heavens and new Earth!
May the blowing of the shofar remind you that are a watchman. May none of us be negligent watchmen. May all of us be faithful watchmen.