The Lord Appoints Ezekiel
16Seven days after I had seen the brightness of the Lord's glory, the Lord said:
17Ezekiel, son of man, I have appointed you to stand watch for the people of Israel. So listen to what I say, then warn them for me. 18When I tell wicked people they will die because of their sins, you must warn them to turn from their sinful ways so they won't be punished. If you refuse, you are responsible for their death. 19However, if you do warn them, and they keep on sinning, they will die because of their sins, and you will be innocent.
20Now suppose faithful people start sinning, and I decide to put stumbling blocks in their paths to make them fall. They deserve to die because of their sins. So if you refuse to warn them, I will forget about the times they were faithful, and I will hold you responsible for their death. 21But if you do warn them, and they listen to you and stop sinning, I will let them live. And you will be innocent.
Ezekiel Cannot Talk
22The Lord took control of me and said, “Stand up! Go into the valley, and I will talk with you there.”
23I immediately went to the valley, where I saw the brightness of the Lord's glory, just as I had seen it near the Chebar River, and I bowed with my face to the ground. 24His Spirit took control of me and lifted me to my feet. Then the Lord said:
Go back and lock yourself in your house! 25You will be tied up to keep you inside, 26and I will make you unable to talk or to warn those who have rebelled against me. 27But the time will come, when I will tell you what to say, and you will again be able to speak my message. Some of them will listen; others will be stubborn and refuse to listen.
Within the legal system there is the concept of “criminal negligence.” A person can be held responsible for harm that occurs to another, if the person was aware of the potential harm, but did not take the appropriate measures to prevent it from happening. For example, failure to put up warning signs or barriers where there is a road hazard would be a case of criminal negligence.
The Lord is here reiterating his commissioning to Ezekiel, seven days after the initial commissioning in 1:1-3:15. The Lord is trying to drive home the level of responsibility that a prophet bears when it comes to proclaiming the commanded divine messages. The analogy is used of the watchman who was stationed on the high points of the ancient city wall. As he scanned the horizon for signs of an enemy, if he detected one the watchman was to sound the alarm so that people of the city could prepare for the impending attack.
Ezekiel, as a prophet, was like a watchman. He was called to speak out messages about the impending destruction that God was going to bring on his people because of their breaches of the covenant relationship. Although the indictments for sin and declarations of divine judgment were not easy messages to proclaim, nevertheless, the prophet bore the responsibility to declare them. And those messages served the specific intent of being warnings. They gave the people the chance to repent so as to avoid the full impact of the divinely decreed judgment, which had not yet happened.
To us, the followers of Christ, has been given the task of the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) of proclaiming the Gospel to the world. Like the prophets in the Old Testament, we too bear a certain level of accountability in fulfilling that duty of sharing the Good News.
Lord, the whole world does need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Forgive me for the times that I felt prompted to share you with another person, but failed to do so. Help me to boldly share with those to whom you specifically call and direct me. Amen.