Bible authors try to communicate deep spiritual truths to us by using very common illustrations of life; familiar things like a ‘sower’, ‘vine’, a ‘fig tree’, a ‘vineyard and its workers, and many more that will try to show us an analogous relationship to spiritual truths. The 33rd chapter of Ezekiel uses a very common sight to all of the people in the ancient Oriental world where every city of any size had a large wall around it to protect it, and on that wall were a Tower. And on those towers stood a watchman, on duty 24 hours a day watching for problems, watching for enemies, and watcing for invaders. People had seen those those watchmen standing on those towers day after day, week after week, year after year. Those people trusted those men to warn them if there was trouble coming of any kind. It became a daily common occurence of life that those men were up there in those towers watching. And Jeremiah picks up on this very common allusion to the ancient Oriental world to speak a spiritual truth to us. Most people would say that this chapter applies only to preachers, but i don’t believe that. I believe it applies to all believers
As a background, the prophet Jeremiah is the prophet to the southern two tribes of the Kingdom of Judah in the period immediately preceding their Babylonian captivity. There has been one major deportation of people and the three young Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were with the prophet Daniel in the seat of power. Ezekiel has been taken captive and thrown into exile in a place called Chebar with something like 10,000 plus of the people of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar is knocking on the door of Jerusalem, and in this chapter Jerusalem will fall and the temple will be destroyed. There will be no more sacrificial system. There will be no more priests. They’ll be no more Davidic king on the throne of David. All of the Old Testament hopes and promises are going to be shattered by the leveling of the Holy City. The city has fallen, all hope is gone. All the Jews of any kind of educational level, of any level of economic status, of any kind of political savvy are being deported to Babylon. It is a day of national calamity. Ezekiel in Babylon, Jeremiah in Jerusalem, Daniel in the capital city with Nebuchadnezzar is the backdrop of this chapter – these are days of despair and days of hopelessness. One of the Psalms that really breaks my heart every time i read it is a Psalm that talks about these days when it says, “We’ve hung our harps on the Willows of the Trees of Babylon. How can we sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land?” (i.e. Psalm 137:2). It really is indescribable the tragedy the Jews experienced in losing their homeland that God promised them, and losing the Davidic king that God said, There’ll always be man on the throne”, and losing their temple which was the only way for them to deal with sin in their system. They had lost all of those ancient promises. Does God care? Is there any hope? Is there anything they can stabilize their lives with? Everything was in flux – in that context Ezekiel wrote chapter 33.
Now, let me tell you why it applies to you, to me, and to everyone. Who is the watchman? Many people would read this and say, the watchman is the preacher in our day; the watchman is the vocational minister, he is the watchman. But i simply reject that for for these reasons: Number one, if the priesthood of the believer is true, then it is true that the concept of being a ‘watchman’ applies to all believers. Some special words are used for Israel – “Royal nation”, “Chosen priesthood”, “Peculiar possession” (cf. Exodus 19:5-6). Those same words that were used for Israel are used in 1 Peter 2:5-9 to describe the church. As Israel was a nation of priests to bring the world to God, i believe the church of Jesus Christ is made up of priests. I believe that each one of us go directly to God through Christ only. I believe that each one of us is directly responsible to God, and that means we are all ministers; we are all watchmen. The priesthood of the believer does not apply to preachers only but to applies to the people of God. That’s my first Biblical inference. My second inference is, if the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 “…go ye therefore into all the world and make disciples baptizing them…”, is for the Apostles, and i believe that there were more people present that day than just the eleven Apostles. The women were there; a large group of people were there; Paul mentions more than 500 saw the Lord, i think the entire collective body of disciples were there on that day when Jesus spoke to them the Great Commission. Therefore i believe the Great Commission is not given to the vocational ministers, or the preachers, or the apostles, but is given to the church as a whole. I beleive we are commissioned to go into all the world everyone of us. Therefore all believers are all watchmen. Inference number 3 – If in Jesus’ great discourse with the Apostles in Caesarea, Philippi where Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and Jesus says to that group, “Here are the keys of the Kingdom of God” (cf. Matthew 16:19), if we have the message that mankind desperately needs, if we have the potential to share who Jesus is and unlock the shackles of sin and callousness and share with somebody that great truth and they can be eternally saved, then i think the inference is that each one of us is a watchman. Also, if 1 Peter 3:15 where it says, “…let each one of us be ready to give an account of the hope that’s in us…”, if that refers to every one of usbeing willing wo share our faith though everyone of us do nothave the gift of evangelism, if that verse applies to sharing who we are with others, then i believe that the watchman is not the vocational ministers, but the family of God in Christ in toto. All of us corporately is the Watchman in Ezekiel 33. It is based on my firm belief that there are different spiritual gifts, but one body; that there is no spiritual gift higher than any other spiritual gift; that all of us are commissioned by God to share our faith with our sphere of influence, our family, our friends, our co-workers, if that is true, then i believe the Watchman applies to each one of us.