In Ezekiel 33, God speaks about the job of a watchman. The duties are simple; a watchman is to stand at attention and watch for the movements of the enemy. The watchman is to know the terrain in such a way that he would be able to tell if something was missing or off. If the watchman saw the enemy advancing, it would then be his job to alert the village that the enemy was coming and preparations were necessary. Regardless of what happened next, the watchman would have done his job and God says in chapter 33 that the watchman cannot be held accountable for anything that takes place. However, if the watchman saw the trouble coming, or worse, wasn't even looking, and the enemy trounced the city, then God says the watchman will have the blood of the whole city on his head and will be held accountable. That's pretty strong words and directions. Literally, the fate and care of the city and the lives of the people in the city rested on the ability of the watchman to do his job.
Just after explaining the watchman's job description, God then turns to Ezekiel and names him the watchman of God and immediately tells him to go inform Israel of trouble on the horizon. Ezekiel now understands his job. He must tell Israel whatever God tells him or be held accountable for what is about to befall Israel. This means that whatever God tells him to say, he'll be responsible to say whether it's good or bad, whether it's accepted or not, whether it's pleasing or not. It doesn't matter. Ezekiel has his orders and he must follow through.
Just as Ezekiel was called to be the watchman of God, I have to believe that we, His people, are called to do the same, especially those who claim a call on their lives to ministry beyond the Great Commission ministry ascribed to all Christians. God has called His people in general to be aware, diligent, vigilant, and able to discern the voice of God and the leading of the Spirit. When we are unable to hear, or worse are disconnected, from the Spirit of the Lord, it becomes impossible to be a successful watchman and I believe we are seeing the destruction which results from a lack of warning.
If my next door neighbor knew that my house was going to be burglarized during the night and failed to tell me, and I found out after the fact, it goes without saying that I would be beyond upset. They would have had the opportunity to prevent the pain and loss but neglected to do so either vindictively or lethargically. On either account, my ability to trust them would probably be severely damaged. On the same level, the Bible tells us that our enemy has one purpose and it's simply to steal, kill, and destroy. Peter tells us that he roams around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. This verse gives us insight enough to know that if the enemy is looking for who he can devour, he also knows there are those he cannot. So with this knowledge, we know that the enemy is trying to destroy us, our spouses, our children, our family members, our friends, our co-workers, our fellow church members, and the people we don't know. Knowing that, would we have more in common with the righteous watchman or the fictional blind neighbors I mentioned earlier? In short, if we know Satan is trying to destroy us and those around us, what are we doing to save and protect one another?
I have a few ideas why there is less watchmen in the church today. For one, the average Christian has been enveloped in the worldwide craze of individualism. We can't see the danger someone else may be in because we can't see past our own circumstances. We can't see what's coming because we can only see our own deficiencies and situations. We're guilty of neglecting people, events, and other things if it doesn't necessarily directly affect us.
The second, and probably most prominent reason, is that the average Christian and individual in general has become so defensive and closed minded to anyone speaking anything into their lives that they don't want. The Bible speaks of us trying to save a brother or sister from continuing down a wrong path, but nowadays, those efforts tend to be met with scorn, gossip, and offence. In five years of pastoring, I have acquired the reputation for someone who tells it like it is, who doesn't get run over, and who doesn't take a lot of junk. I've listened as people have heralded those qualities, especially when I had to deal with a problem situation that affected them personally. Yet ironically, when those same qualities caused me to deal with them personally, in every instance except one, the individual(s) became irate and began slandering my character, ministry, and family. Plain and simple, many people tend to turn a blind eye to the sins and shortcomings of others even when they see how it's changing them and setting them up for failure due to the belief that their efforts will be misconstrued and will ultimately result in the watchman being ridiculed and having to experience and have heaped upon them over-dramatic exaggerations and overall hurt to even try.
Where have we gone wrong? Today in the church world, people find themselves looking for a church that preaches and teaches like they believe instead of letting God lead them to a church that may challenge them to open their mind about their beliefs and traditions. The very fact we seek out churches both in our comforted denominations and outside respectively that will teach things like we want them taught shows our bias against being wrong or worse yet, even wanting to be challenged. We'll readily admit we don't know everything about God, but then become defiant and defensive when someone tries to show us another way. We've evolved to a place in our Christianity where discussions typically never take place about disagreements. I can count on two fingers how many times families hurt with a decision I made or something else that may have happened have come together and talked with me face to face in an attempt to reconcile feelings and find common ground and an understanding of the situation. In almost every case, more communication takes place between the offended party and those not even involved than does between the offended party and the one they are offended with. This of course isn't the Biblical way. The truth of the matter is that in many cases those screaming "church hurt" the loudest are sometimes individuals who are not so much hurt by what was said to them, but who instead are in denial about the direction the Word and the Spirit sent their way.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes the watchman is wrong. Sometimes he may think he sees enemy movement when in reality he sees a proverbial squirrel ruffling bushes and branches. Sometimes the advice or the correction isn't accurate, but there are ways to handle that as well. For one, we should lose our pride to that point that we find ourselves at least somewhat grateful that a watchman cared enough to try and make sure we weren't caught off guard by a possible enemy snare. We need to remember that the day before the offence happened, we probably held the other party in high regard. Letting a decision or a single action disrupt a relationship such as this is certainly not pleasing to God and only allows the enemy to accomplish his stated goal, that is, to steal, kill, and destroy.
Second of all, if the watchman is indeed wrong, there is a right way to go about dealing with it. Slandering, criticizing, belittling, and gossiping about him is certainly not Biblical and if happening, reveals the true heart of an individual. I can testify of myself that I've not always gotten situations correct. There were times where I thought something was an issue that later turned out not to be. There have been many other times however where I didn't think something was an issue only to find out it was not only an issue, but a bigger one than I ever imagined. And there have been those fair share of times where despite a history of love, compromise, and support, a single decision was met with immediate rejection and malice unexpectedly with minimal, if any, effort to find common ground and compromise.
The heart of our dealings with one another is found in Matthew 25. Ultimately, we should love one another as we love ourselves. The Golden Rule instructs us to treat others as we would have them treat us. The truth is, we need a return of watchmen. We have allowed too many compromises in our churches and even in our homes. There once was a day where we talked of services where the pastor or evangelist "read our mail." This of course meant that God confronted us about things and we responded with an open mind and open heart. The truth is God can read our mail outside of a service. In fact, if we believe the Bible, we have to believe that God will give direction to those over us in the Lord, (regardless of their age may I add), that is designed to help us and further us. We have to truly get to a place where we don't assume everyone who doesn't agree with us is our enemy. We have to quit jumping to the unhealthy conclusion that everyone who doesn't do as we want them to or see things as we see them are lost, going to hell, unqualified to serve the Lord, and unfit for the Kingdom of God. When we react that way, it only shows that we ourselves may be the unqualified and lost.
We need watchmen to sound the alarm today in regards to national issues like abortion and homosexual marriage. We need watchmen today to sound the alarm to us when they through the Spirit and with the backing of the Word see something in us or a decision we're making that may lead us astray. It's my belief that if we will open ourselves back up to the advice, counsel, and warnings of the watchmen that God puts over us, then their warnings will return and we will find ourselves the better for it.
Jesus said in that in order for us to enter the Kingdom, we would need to become as children. It's important to note that, at least in my opinion, that He said children and not teenagers. There is a distinct difference. Children don't think they know everything. Teens usually do. Children realize their need for their parents. Teens usually think their parents are stupid or at least in the way. Children think their parents know everything. Teens usually think their parents know nothing. When a child gets in trouble, he or she usually looks to reconcile with the parent as soon as possible. When a teen gets in trouble, he or she will usually stomp off to their room, slam the door, utter some unrecognizable phraseology about no one loving them or understanding them, and then seek to do even more wrong. I believe we have to take a good long look at our lives and ask ourselves if we resemble children or teenagers. How we respond to advice or words from a watchman reveals our state of mind. Far too often when we don't get our way in church or something happens we don't agree with, we don't seek reconciliation. We run to our comfort zones, hidden caves, and proverbial rooms, slam the door, begin spreading nonsense about how no one understands and other unintelligible babbling. A child will tend to accept their punishment and correction while a teen always thinks its unfair. Who are we and what do we resemble?
I think we all, me included, could learn a lot more from the watchmen around us if we would learn to behave as a child and be open to the truth that we don't understand everything about God, nor have any of us arrived. God send us and make us Your watchmen that we may save and protect one another, defend and advance Your ministry and Word, and become what You have destined us all to be through the power of Your Spirit and through the illumination of Your Word.