And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,…
And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the Word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel, etc. Let us notice -
I. THE CHARACTER IN WHICH THE PROPHET OF THE LORD IS HERE REPRESENTED. "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel."
1. The appointment of a watchman implies the peril of the Church. Watchmen in ancient times were posted on the walls or in the towers of cities in order that they might watch for the appearance or approach of an enemy, and give instant warning of the same. The house of Israel was exposed to dangers and enemies, or it would not have needed a watchman. And the Church of Christ today is opposed by "the gates of hell" (Matthew 16:18), by evil powers in the world, and by evil persons and erroneous teachings within itself (Acts 20:29, 30).
2. The appointment of watchmen in the Church is the prerogative of God. "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman," etc. No man may constitute himself a watchman, and no Church may appoint a man to this office apart from the call of the Lord thereto. Christian ministers are called of God (cf. Hebrews 5:4).
II. THE DUTY OF THE PROPHET AS A WATCHMAN. His business was "to take notice, and to give notice."
1. To watch. "Hear the word at my mouth." It is a peculiarity of these watchmen that they have not to look around to obtain intelligence, but to look up. Their eyes and ears must be directed towards the Lord. They must receive their message from him, and then proclaim it unto men. And the Christian prophet must speak the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must "hear him" (Matthew 17:5); we must preach him (2 Corinthians 4:5). This part of a watchman's duty demands vigilance. Slothfulness and inattention may prove disastrous both to his charge and to himself. His observant faculties must be in active exercise.
2. To warn. "And give them warning from me." Ezekiel was to publish to the house of Israel what he heard from the Lord, and to publish it in his Name. The Christian preacher must warn and encourage, exhort and rebuke, in the Name of his Master, the Christ. He must receive from him; he must testify for him (cf. Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16).
III. THE CHARACTERS UNTO WHOM THE WATCHMAN MUST ADDRESS HIMSELF. He must warn both the righteous and the wicked (vers. 18-21). But four types of character are adduced here.
1. The wicked man who has not been warned by the watchman, and dies because of his iniquity. (Ver. 18.) God declares that "the wages of sin is death;" that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." And though this wicked man was not warned by the watchman, yet he was warned by his own conscience, and by voices of Divine providence, and by the sacred Scriptures. "Where the public ministry does not do its duty, Holy Scripture is still at hand, and it is each one's fault if he be not called to repentance by the voice of this" (Hengstenberg).
2. The wicked man who has been warned by the watchman, but still persists in sin, and dies because of his iniquity. (Ver. 19.) His guilt is greater, and his punishment will be more severe, by reason of the warnings which he has despised.
3. The sometime outwardly righteous man, who has become a worker of iniquity, and has not been warned by the watchman, and dies because of his sin. (Ver. 20.) This verse calls for some remarks by way of exposition.
(1) That in the providence of God the characters of men are tested. The words, "I lay a stumbling block before him," point to this. The expression signifies to subject one to trial by exposing him to difficulties and dangers, as in Jeremiah 6:21. "God tempts no man in order to his destruction, but in the course of his providence he permits men to be tried in order that their faith may be approved, and in this trial some who seem to be righteous fall" (Dr. Currey).
(2) That some characters fail beneath this test. Where the righteousness is only external, it is unable to endure the trial. But "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" will not be injured by the trial.
(3) That when one who has done righteous acts fails under trial and becomes a worker of iniquity, he forfeits the reward of those righteous acts, and, if he persist in sin, he will die by reason thereof. "He shall die because of his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered." To obtain the reward of good works perseverance therein even to the end is necessary (cf. Hebrews 6:10-12 2John 8 Revelation 3:11).
4. The righteous man who has been warned by the watchman, and, persevering in his righteousness, lives. (Ver. 21.) The sincerely righteous need warning, exhortation, and counsel, and are likely to profit by them.
IV. THE DIFFERENT RESULTS OF THE WATCHMAN'S MINISTRY.
1. As regards his hearers.
(1) Some would not heed his warnings. In the examples given in the text there is a majority of this class. The result to them would be greater guilt and severer condemnation. How many, alas! treat the warnings of the Christian watchman in a similar manner! They hear them, but practically despise them.
(2) Some would heed his warnings, and their salvation would be furthered by so doing. An example of this is given in ver. 21. And others, through him, might be led to turn from their iniquity, and live. Unspeakably blessed are such results.
2. As regards himself.
(1) If the watchman should be unfaithful his guilt would be terrible. "His blood will I require at thine hand" (vers. 18, 20; cf. Genesis 9:5; Genesis 42:22). "It is the life," says Schroder, "which is in the blood, of those in Israel which is entrusted to the prophet as a watchman. For this Jehovah, the Supreme Proprietor, demands a reckoning. The prophet who forgets his duty, which he owes to the unrighteous in God's stead, becomes a manslaughterer, a murderer of that man, and is regarded as such by God;" and as a murderer, not of the body, but of the inestimably precious soul. The thought of such guilt is overwhelmingly dreadful How awful is the responsibility of the Lord's watchmen! "Who is sufficient for these things?"
(2) If the watchman is faithful, though unsuccessful, he would be clear from guilt, and be saved himself (cf. Acts 18:6; Acts 20:26, 27).
(3) If the watchman is faithful and successful, great would be his joy and great his reward, as in the case stated in ver. 21. And in the case which is not mentioned here, but is yet among the possible results of his work, viz. that the wicked should believe his message, and turn unto the Lord. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him," etc. (James 5:19, 20). Who can estimate the blessedness of a result like this?
CONCLUSION. Our subject presents:
1. The strongest reasons for fidelity on the part of the ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. The strongest reasons why the Church of Jesus Christ should constantly aid his ministers by earnest prayers on their behalf. (Cf. Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:3, 4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2.) - W.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,