God’s Spiritual Watchman
January 2, 1998 Ezekiel 1-3
*Ac 20:20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.*
*Ac 20:21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.*
*Ac 20:22 "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.*
*Ac 20:23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.*
*Ac 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-- the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.*
*Ac 20:25 "Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.*
*Ac 20:26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.*
*Ac 20:27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.*
*Ac 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.
Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.*
*Eze 3:17 "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.*
As I was considering what might be an appropriate message to begin the new year, I was drawn to the concept of being a watchman from our New Year’s Eve watch night service.
Certainly, in that context, we are to be recommited to watching for the Lord’s return.
*Mr 13:32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.*
*Mr 13:33 Be on guard!
You do not know when that time will come.*
*Mr 13:34 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.*
*Mr 13:35 "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.*
*Mr 13:36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.*
*Mr 13:37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"*
But underneath that over-arching truth, and even because of it, we are to be watching out for one another.
That is the nature of the task that Paul spoke of in Acts 20 when he said he had completed the task that Jesus gave him, “the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”
And it was this task that he was passing on to the Ephesian elders whom he told to, “keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”
In fact, this task was so important that if Paul didn’t do it, he would have considered himself to have been guilty of murder, something I’m sure he was quite sensitive too, having been guilty of murdering Christians before his miraculous conversion by Jesus himself on the Damascus road.
But since he had faithfully proclaimed the gospel, the whole will of God, he declared that he was innocent of the blood of all men.
Paul passed the watchman’s torch on to the Ephesian elders.
There is a special sense in which the leaders of the church are to be watchmen.
The captain of a ship is a watchman even though he has other watchmen under him.
The captain of the Titanic was a poor watchman because he was engrossed in other things, deceived and self consumed.
He made it impossible for his watchmen to react to the iceberg in time and many lives were lost.
But there is also a sense in which we are all responsible for one another.
We are not responsible for the decisions that others make according to their own will to sin.
But we are responsible to see that their decision is an informed one.
If we know to do good and don’t do it, then we ourselves sin (James 4:17).
A watchman’s task is to keep watch for those things of importance that would affect those under his responsibility.
A watchman who does not inform those in the house that there is a fire is responsible if their lives are lost.
If he informs them and they choose not to flee, then he is innocent if their lives are lost.
So if we are to be watchmen, what qualifications must we meet?
Our primary passage today is in Ezekiel, chapters 1-3.
During the time span of Israel’s captivity in the land of Babylon, God called Ezekiel to be a watchman over his people.
They had rebelled against God, having fallen out of love with him and turning to disobedience.
They were undergoing discipline.
God disciplines those whom he loves as sons.
In the midst of discipline, we need to know that more than anything.
God was sending a message of judgment as well as grace to his people through Ezekiel in warning them to turn from sin.
Later in the book (chapters 18 & 33), this message gives the assurance that each one is responsible only for his own sins and not to the extent of the third and fourth generation as in Ex. 20:5.
For us in the church, this message is much more glorious.
It is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ which gives power to turn from sin through the assurance of forgiveness.
Those who are unsaved in sin are like the Jews in Babylonian captivity, reaping the penalty of their perversion.
God has called us to be watchmen of the gospel over men’s souls that they might be set free to worship him through the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is what we are to be found doing when he returns.
We are not to grow weary of the battle for men’s souls.
We are to warn people to accept the gospel because he is returning.
*Mt 24:12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,*
*Mt 24:13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.*
*Mt 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.*
Each of us who has accepted the gospel has been uniquely equipped to proclaim it as the watchmen we have been called to be.
Let us see from Ezekiel the manner of our qualification:
Must have a spiritual experience with God. (1:1-28)
Must have a spiritual calling from God. (2:1-6)
Must have a spiritual message from God. (2:7-3:3)
Must have the courage to speak the message of God. (3:4-11)
Must have the same feeling God does about the message.
Must understand the life saving urgency of his calling.
Must deliver God’s message in God’s way and time.
As we began this message, we looked at Paul’s farewell instructions to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.
In many ways, that N.T. passage parallels the points we have discussed here in Ezekiel.
He was appointed a watchman by direct experience and commission from God to speak God’s message about Christ with courage and intensity, understanding its life saving urgency.
And he did deliver that message in God’s way and time through the agency of the Holy Spirit of God.
His charge to the Ephesian elders was that they should likewise be watchmen of the faith in the manner he taught them and modeled for them.
He did his part in faithfully proclaiming the message that, “ - they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”
And he declared himself innocent of the blood of all men because he did not, “ - hesitate to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”
He passed on the torch.
But who fell down on the job?
Recall the account of the Ephesian church by our Lord Jesus in Rev. 2?
*Re 2:1 ¶ "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:*
*Re 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.
I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.*
*Re 2:3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.*
*Re 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.*
*Re 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen!
Repent and do the things you did at first.
If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.*
What do you suppose happened here at the Ephesian Bible Church?
Did someone fail to, “ - keep watch over themselves and all the flock?”
There was a height from which they had fallen.
That height was from the pinnacle of the all-consuming love of Christ.
They were commended for some things they did right, but none compensated for the failure of the fall from love.
They had a good legacy - a rich history - of accomplishment and tenacity.
They held the line against evil and kept pure doctrine, endured difficulty and ‘hung in there.’
But somehow, in the Ephesian church someone failed to keep watch on the heart monitor.
If the heart goes, so goes the body.
Christ here is warning about cardiac arrest.
Removing the lampstand is biblical language for ‘disconnection of life support after the monitor flat-lines out’.