Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelled by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat…
It is a serious thing to be responsible for our own conduct; it is (if possible) yet more serious to have responsibility for others. The two things are inseparably intertwined.
I. RESPONSIBILITY SPRINGS FROM NATURAL RELATIONSHIP. Relationships are of all kinds - near and remote. No man is completely detached from others. His life penetrates other lives. A father is responsible for his children. Brothers are responsible for sisters, and vice versa, it was not until the demon of murderous hate had strangled the natural instinct of brotherhood, that the sullen miscreant asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?
II. RESPONSIBILITY SPRINGS FROM OFFICIAL POSITION. The eternal God had exalted Ezekiel to a position of honour in his kingdom; and high rank is another name for high responsibility. To make this clear to his servant, God employed comparison, analogy, forcible illustration. On the city watchman hung the fate of the city - the lives of fellow citizens. He was exempted from other duties that he might the better discharge this. For many reasons, some manifest, some hidden, God appoints men, not angels, to be the exponents of his will to men. Faithful service will be richly rewarded; the loss of such rewards is a heavy penalty. But responsibility, if abused, bears a prolific harvest of disasters.
III. RESPONSIBILITY SPRINGS FROM SUPERIOR KNOWLEDGE. If knowledge is power, knowledge is responsibility also. The light of wisdom or of science is entrusted to us that it may be diffused. In proportion to the practical value of the knowledge is the responsible duty to propagate it. Hence the special insight into man's fallen state, the subtlety of temptation, and the overwhelming results of impenitence - in brief, the special knowledge of God's intention with respect to guilty men - this entails on every prophet and preacher an imponderable responsibility to be faithful. Men might have been saved had they known both the generous and the judicial purposes of God; we knew and might have instructed them.
IV. RESPONSIBILITY SPRINGS FROM POSSIBLE INFLUENCE. To the utmost extent that we can touch the springs of motive and of action in our fellow men are we responsible for them. Our responsibility does not begin and end with the message we deliver. We are to warn men. This mystic influence we possess over others is reflected from every smile and tone and feature. Hence temper, motive, fervour, earnestness, are elements of our power. We warn others by our own abstinence from sin, by our self-denials, our heavenly-mindedness, our fruitful goodness, our pious walk and converse. Responsibility ends only when we have exhausted every method to draw men heavenward.
V. RESPONSIBILITY SPRINGS FROM THE KNOWN RESULTS OF NEGLECTED TRUST. The God who has placed his servants in responsible positions has deigned to inform them what shall be the effects of neglect and cowardice. To the unwarned wicked the effect shall be destruction: "They shall surely die." To the unfaithful watchman the effect shall be dishonour and loss: "The blood of the unwarned shall be required at his hand." The wicked might have died, though warned; but he might have repented and lived. A diseased man may die, although the remedy be applied; but if the known remedy be withheld, the blame of that death will fall on the slothful attendant. God has not seen it to be wise or fitting to make provision against unfaithfulness in his prophets. If they fail in the discharge of their momentous functions, no other agency will supply the room. The impenitent (who have no claim on God for any remedial measures) will, in such a case, die in their iniquity. Forevery position of influence, or honour, or usefulness we hold, "we must give account of ourselves before God." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.