Our lesson today is from Ezek 3:15-27. In Ezek 3:14, Ezekiel was transported by the spirit to Telabib by the river Chebar, where those who had been taken captive dwelt. What he saw astonished him. And so he sat among them seven days. There God made Ezekiel the watchman for the house of Israel.
The watchman’s responsibility – Ezek 3:16-17 – God spoke to Ezekiel saying, “I have made thee a watchman.” According to Ezek 33:2-6, the watchman’s responsibility was to warn of impending danger. If the watchman failed to warn them, they would die and the watchman would be held responsible because he didn’t warn them. If, on the other hand, he warned them and they died because they didn’t believe him, he would not be held responsible for their death, because he warned them.
Ezekiel was to “hear the word at my mouth” and warn two groups of people: the wicked who would not turn from their wickedness and the righteous who had turned from their righteousness to iniquity.
Warning the wicked – Ezek 3:18-19 – In the first case, God says to the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die.” If Ezekiel doesn’t warn the wicked to save his life by turning from his wickedness, the wicked will still die for his wickedness. He dies in his iniquity. But the Lord will require his blood at Ezekiel’s hands.
In the second case, Ezekiel does warn the wicked, yet the wicked refuses to turn from his wickedness. He will die in his iniquity, but Ezekiel delivers his own soul. He gave him fair warning.
Warning the righteous – Ezek 3:20-21 – In the first case, a righteous man turns from “his righteousness” and commits iniquity. God lays a stumbling block before him, like Jer 6:21, Matt 21:44, Rom 9:31-33, for example, and he dies.
- He dies “in his sin,”
- His righteousness is not remembered, and
- His blood is required at Ezekiel’s hand, because he didn’t give him warning.
In the second case, Ezekiel does warn the righteous man, and he sins not. He lives because he doesn’t commit iniquity, and Ezekiel delivers his soul. This doctrine prompted Paul to say, “I am pure from the blood of all men,” Acts 20:26-27, because he had preached all the counsel of God. He didn’t hold anything back. This doctrine prompts us to realize what a great responsibility we have to preach the gospel and to warn lost sinners against going to hell.
In Ezek 3:20, we see the expression “his righteousness.” In the Old Testament, a person had his personal righteousness by doing by faith what the Lord said. See Deut 6:24-25, “It shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God.” Paul referred to this personal righteousness in Rom 10:5, as “the righteousness which is of the law.” Paul wrote in Phil 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law.”
Because a man could turn from his personal righteousness back to wickedness and iniquity, it was possible for him to “die in his iniquity” or “die in his sin,” Ezek 3:18-20.
In the New Testament, on the other hand, a man shall “die in (his) sins” if he doesn’t believe in Jesus, Jn 8:24. If he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom 10:9-10, then he can no longer die in his sins because he is in Jesus Christ, Eph 2:5-6; Rom 8:38-39. He now has the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, Rom 4:3-8. Look at Phil 3:9 again, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Thus, Ezek 3 doesn’t apply to Christians, doctrinally. We can’t die in our sins.
God to make Ezekiel dumb – Ezek 3:22-26 – God directed Ezekiel to go to the plain where he would talk with him. When he got there, the glory of the Lord appeared to him again and he fell on his face. The spirit stood him up (as in Ezek 2:2) and directed him to shut himself up in his house. He told Ezekiel that they would bind him and that he would be dumb, so that he couldn’t reprove them.
God to make Ezekiel speak – Ezek 3:27 – then the Lord said, “when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth.” Again the Lord told him to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” He was only going to speak when the Lord wanted him to speak, and he was only going to say what God wanted him to say. Ezekiel was told to have no expectation concerning the response from those to whom he preached. “He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear.” Israel was a rebellious people, Ezek 2:7, and the likelihood was that they would not hear.
Conclusion: spiritually, we can learn a lesson from this passage. When God prompts us to witness to someone, we should, like a watchman, warn them according to what God said. What they choose to do with the warning and the gospel is up to them. We should just be sure to tell them. Like Ezekiel, we have a responsibility to tell them.