Ezekiel 33-34
(The Watchman)
September 4th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

"If they hear the trumpet but do not take the warning and a sword attacks and kills them, their blood will be on their own heads."

- Ezekiel 33:4 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

These chapters begin a new section that reiterates God’s faithfulness and blessings for Israel and Judah. The first part of chapter 33 reviews Ezekiel’s role as a watchman, and reinforces the message from an earlier chapter regarding the importance of him taking warnings to people as instructed.

    “You, son of man, are the watchman. I’ve made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked man, wicked woman, you’re on the fast track to death!’ and you don’t speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I’ll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don’t do it, they’ll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life."

    - Ezekiel 33:7-9 (MSG)

Subsequently, the LORD explains that moral trajectories can be reversed. Those who have been living according to God's instructions will be judged if they rebel against their Creator. Meanwhile those who have been wicked can be forgiven if they turn their life around. God anticipates that we will think that this is unfair, so he says that those who go against him are the unfair ones.

The second part of chapter 33 records the arrival of the sad news of the fall of Jerusalem. The news was reported by an escapee of Jerusalem – as prophesized by Ezekiel. On the eve of this man’s arrival, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to begin speaking again.

The LORD tells Ezekiel to remind the people that they have disobeyed the LORD by eating meat with blood, committing murder, and engaging in adulterous activity – therefore they will not possess the land promised to Abraham. The people came to listen to Ezekiel for entertainment, but did not seriously believe him.

The LORD laments that the bad shepherds made use of all of the by-products of their flock, but they did not properly care for them or protect them. The sheep were allowed to scatter and became vulnerable to the dangers of the world.

Therefore, the LORD fired the bad shepherds and re-assumed his role as the Good Shepherd. He will bring them back to safety and good pasture, where he will care for them with tenderness and justice.

He then addresses the flock, chastising those who eat their fill of good grass while trampling on the others’ grass and muddying their water. Therefore, he will judge the members of the flock who have not treated their neighbors with respect. He also announces that David (and his descendants) will be their shepherd, as servants and princes of the LORD.

In the last set of verses, the LORD proclaims a new covenant that promises safety, abundance, and freedom from enslavement. “ ‘Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God.' (Ezekiel 34:30 - KJV).”

Reflection and Application

There is a lesson for all of us in the part of the chapter where God describes the role of the watchman. There may be times when God calls on us to be the watchman who speaks out in public or in small groups or take on the role of a blogger that tells the unwanted truth. If we believe God has called us to say something than we must comply. We need not worry about our chances for success, we only need to fulfill the command.

The wicked can be saved and the righteous can fall. This is the dynamics of the LORD’s plan. Which path are we on? We can get back on the right one right now by confessing our shortcomings and pledging ourselves to God. Else, we will be judged by what is in our hearts.

The people in exile in Babylon did not want to believe Ezekiel. Give then an A for trying to be optimists, hoping that somehow Jerusalem would miraculously turn the tables on Babylon – like David and Goliath. But David was pure of heart, and the leaders of Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s day were not. So God withheld his protection and allowed Babylon to overcome the holy city.

Eventually the people began to believe Ezekiel as his prophecies came true, but in some cases it may have been too late. Pray that we hear and act on the LORD’s word before it’s too late for us. Do we ever catch ourselves thinking of our church services as entertainment and measuring our fulfillment based on how well it pleased us? The LORD warned Ezekiel regarding the people of his generation who fell into that trap:

    As for you, mortal, your people who talk together about you by the walls, and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to a neighbor, “Come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.” They come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they will not obey them. For flattery is on their lips, but their heart is set on their gain. To them you are like a singer of love songs, one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When this comes—and come it will!—then they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

    - Ezekiel 33:30-33 (NRSV)

We should seek to bring all of our best talents to worship, and can enjoy the talents of others, but as we do, we should give thanks to God, listen to his word, open our minds to his message and turn our hearts towards God.

The sheep and shepherds have been a frequent and powerful theme throughout the Bible, including the well-known Psalm 23 and references by Jesus to himself as the Good Shepherd. For example, in this passage from the Gospel of John:

    I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

    But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

    The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

    I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

    As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

    - John 10:11-18 (KJV)

In Ezekiel chapter 34, the LORD reviews the performance of the leaders of Israel and Judah, who were supposed to serve as shepherds for the people, and says he's going to do the job himself, which is essentially saying “You’re fired!” This is not the official translation, but would be the language used if this chapter was translated into modern slang. Or the translator might have said “they were given the pink slip, or made redundant, or terminated, or optimized.”

The examples used in this chapter are timeless. Isn’t this parallel to the story of the Golden Goose? The owner collected the eggs and pushed the goose to produce so much that it died, hence the frequently used term, “killing the Golden Goose.” The LORD’s explanation could be interpreted as saying that the leaders of Israel were killing their Golden Goose, taking everything they could from the people while squeezing them dry.

Even if we are not leaders, we are responsible to be fair to our peers. This is one of the points that the LORD is making about the sheep who trample the grass and muddy the water for the others. Jesus says that the #1 commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. The LORD is saying a similar thing here – if you don’t respect your neighbor then you will be judged accordingly.

"Open the Eyes of My Heart," performed by Mercy Me

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What roles have you had that were similar to a watchman?
    2. What is the job that God has for each of us and how are we doing on the performance review? If he calls us to the board room is he going to give us our compensation package or promote us?
    3. How are we treating the resources that God has given us? Are we using the resource responsibly for long-term viability or do we have a very short-term focus?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that how much you love your sheep. Help us to watch out for our brothers.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Security Guards and Sentries

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Ezekiel 35-37 (Woe to Edom, Hope for Israel)

    Comments and Questions
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