October 27, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“But, if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life [or those peoples’ lives] will be taken because of the sin of the watchman: I will hold the watchman accountable for that person’s [or those peoples’] death.” (Ezekiel 33.6)
Well, there is little other way to understand this particular verse, and the whole of the pericope (verses 1-6), outside of leadership accountability. It is similar to the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” but in the opposite direction. In that story, the boy desired attention and knew that people would come running to his aid to protect their sheep under his care if he cried “Wolf!” He did this several times, the people came running and the boy did not feel alone nor unsafe. The problem presents itself when trouble, in the form of a ravenous wolf, actually shows up and stalks the flock. The boy is in fear of his life. We do not see any actual concern for the sheep under his care. He cries out “Wolf! Wolf!” but no one comes. They do not come because they are convinced it is another ruse used by the boy for his amusement. The result is that not only are sheep threatened but the boy is devoured.
In the warning given to Ezekiel, the watchman for the nation of Israel, the accountability is all about the watchman for the sake of the people. If the watchman sees the enemy coming and sounds the shofar to give the people sufficient time to prepare, then he has faithfully executed his duty. If the people do not respond to the warning and are killed then no one is to blame but themselves. Of course, we do not hear of the fate of the watchman, It is doubtful that the enemy will spare his life because the people failed to respond appropriately and were killed. But, we do not know what happened to him. But, if the enemy approaches and the watchman does not sound the shofar and the people are left unprepared and are killed, then the watchman is held accountable and will most certainly lose his own life, too. Either way, it seems the only good end for the watchman is if the people respond to the warning, take arms and protect themselves according to plan. The onus is on both the watchman and those under his watchful care.
And then there is the curious note which begins the pericope that states from the mouth of God, “When I AM bringing a sword against a land and the people appoint someone to be watchman….” This word is obviously intended for the ears of the nation of Israel. In the time of Ezekiel, Israel is essentially two different entities. One group of “Israel” is in Babylonian captivity and Ezekiel is with them encamped at an internment facility by the Chebar River. This group of people are the pillars, the movers and shakers, of Israel. Among them are the royals, the priests, the key business leaders and other significant community decision-makers of influence. The other group of “Israel” are those people who were left behind in what was literally in the land of Israel, or Canaan. They are essentially sheep without a shepherd. They are easily influenced by the occupation army and representatives of the Babylonian court. Their sole desire is to survive. They have been made vulnerable because of the faithlessness of those who are, or were, the leadership of the nation of Israel. God’s “sword” is sent as a judgment against them. They were meant to be the watchmen. Instead, they became consorts and cohorts with the enemy. They made this decision for their own survival in the world of man. It was good politics but bad religion and depraved faith. Because of their decision, God has held them accountable and removed them from power and opportunity to further the blessing which had been promised to Israel if “they would be God’s people and recognize God as their God.” Lots of innocent people suffered the consequences because of their failure.
And can we make application to the culture and climate of our own day and time? I believe we can and I will reflect more on that tomorrow. Until then, I leave you to consider identifying the players and where you believe you are in that scenario. Who are you now? Who should you be? What would be the fate of others because of your decision as to who you see yourself as? And don’t eliminate yourself because you have not been “people appointed” because, remember, you are not old Israel but the new covenant community commissioned by Christ since you are mighty ones of God, believers in Jesus as the Messiah and the head of the Messianic community of faith. He is our hope and stay.
Until tomorrow, shalom.
God, the call to accountability is great but we must not shirk our responsibility to serve one another in faith, hope and love. We seek the strengthening of Your Spirit so that the work we are called to do and the work we are intended to do is the work that we shall do knowing that our fate is not in the hands of those around us but in Yours alone. We know it is far more important to fear the One who can render judgment on body and soul than the one who could simply take our life in this world. To God by the glory in the name of Jesus, we pray, AMEN.