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Most of the articles on these WebPages have been written by godly men with a central belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. However as with most of us, they may have different beliefs concerning some particular doctrines. These articles have been made available for the purpose of “gleaning the good” where good can be found. I do not necessarily endorse all that is written by others, anymore than I expect others to endorse all that I write.

   Morning Thoughts by Elder Philip Conley

Ezekiel 33:7, "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me."

This morning, different areas of Scripture are more sobering to our minds than others. Some passages speak to the comfort of our souls in declaring the mercy and grace of God, while others declare plainly what our responsibilities are with the associated consequences. When we investigate passages about our responsibility, we need to understand, first and foremost, that the consequences for our behaviour here do not stay with us in the world to come. Our blessedness in faithfulness here does not garner any higher status in the glory world, but neither do we enter heaven with blood on our hands for our misdealing and underhanded behaviour. Yet, even with that concept firmly in view, our consequences here can bring the direst of statements as they did from David when he begged the Lord to restore the joy of Thy salvation. (Psalm 51) David felt the arrows of distress for murdering his neighbour after taking his wife, and the state of David's life
continued to worsen as four sons were taken from him for his conduct. Therefore, may our minds be attuned to our responsibility not only for the sake of ourselves, but to those around us as well, and ultimately for the name's sake of our Dear Master who loved us and gave Himself for us. (Galatians 2:20)

Ezekiel 33 is still one of the most sobering passages (or should be) for any minister of the gospel of our Lord. The Lord declares plainly to Ezekiel that His purpose was for him to be a watchman for His people, and today, the minister of the gospel is a watchman unto the Lord's heritage as His undershepherd. Part of the minister's responsibility, while not altogether pleasant, is to warn the people of impending danger. We must, at times, address things that we would rather not, but failing to do so leads to consequences of the direst variety. Failing to exhort the flock in love about the danger on the horizon yields consequences that a minister will live with for the rest of his life, and the correlation between a natural watchman and a minister's duties have some interesting parallels.

A watchman on the gate of the city is in a position to see things that those in the city do not. This does not mean that he is an elevated ruler, but rather, the nature of his position gives him a viewpoint that sees things afar off. Today, it is not a stretch of mental gymnastics to understand that the ministry generally knows more of what is happening in a church sense than the congregation due to travels, communications, and interactions. It should also be that the minister understands a problem within the body before it comes before the church. Should the minister be the last one to know, his duties as watchman are not being fulfilled in faithfully ministering to the sheep to understand those that are in need. Yet, a watchman on the wall can see danger coming (as the previous verses indicate) when they are far off on the horizon.

Now, there are times when the minister sees things on the horizon that may or may not ever approach the city. The crying of the watchman should not be for everything that crosses his line of vision, for there are things that pass without ever approaching the walls. Second to that, he should not be concerned with telling everyone of things that never bothered the city. Yet, when the watchman sees that danger is approaching, either from without the city walls or within the building, he needs to cry aloud and spare not. (Isaiah 58:1) The moment that he understands that danger will not be deterred, the warning needs to go forth.

Look at verses 1-6 of this chapter. The sobering thing for the minister today (or the watchman of old) is that two different scenarios are laid out for the people's destruction. The first scenario involves the alarm being sounded and the people not listening. The Lord plainly declares that should this be the case, the watchman is free from the burden of consequence as the people heard the alarm, failed to respond, and their blood is upon their own heads. But, the second scenario involves the watchman not crying and the people being destroyed. Notice the end result is the same. Yet, in the second scenario, the people are still destroyed, but the watchman is responsible with their blood being upon the watchman's head. Paul encouraged the Hebrew brethren to pray for them that have the rule over you, for they must give account as those that watch for your souls. (Hebrews 13) One cannot just look at the outcome and say that the situation is similar,
for the Lord requires stewards to be found faithful (I Corinthians 4:1-2), and lack of faithfulness yields different consequences (even with the same outcome).

Another parallel between the watchman and the minister is the time put into the effort. As one that watches over the city, many times, he must watch while the others sleep. It takes diligence of effort to keep up the eyes of service for the welfare of the people. This does not negate the people's responsibility to watch, but our watching and praying as ministers is such that we need to be more attuned to certain situations. Consider the sheep and shepherd analogy. While the minister is still a sheep of God's chosen, he is referred as one taking the oversight while Christ is the Chief Shepherd. (I Peter 5:1-4) Therefore, as an overseer, the minister needs to be more acquainted with dangerous terrain, treacherous shadows, and lurking predators, while the sheep need to not blindly put their feet into the crags. Many times, the minister watches alone with only the Lord as His strength to comfort His soul during the lonely hours of solitude and

Finally, and most importantly, the motivation of the watchman and the minister is the same. The Lord goes on in the verses following ours to say that His pleasure is not in the destruction of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his wicked way. (verses 8-11) Many instances and passages in the Bible refer to the wicked as the hated non-elect. Yet, this passage refers to the house of Israel as those wicked that the Lord has no pleasure in their destruction. It is noteworthy here to contradistinguish the difference between gleeful emotion and pleasure of purpose. When we speak of the Lord's good pleasure to take vengeance on the wicked non-elect and receive the righteous elect, that is not some giddy emotion by the Almighty. His good pleasure and purpose is that He act justly and righteously as that is the nature of His Person. His pleasure is to do justly: for He is just and right. He does not warm His hands to the task like a young boy
anticipating a sporting event, but He acts in complete harmony with His righteous character to do the goodness of His pleasure. Therefore, since it is His pleasure to ultimately destroy the wicked in torment that knows no end, those wicked in Ezekiel 33 cannot be referring to such.

We understand from our own experience, much like Israel's of old, that we act wickedly and do iniquity. During these seasons, we need the faithful rebukes and reproofs of those that love us, for it is not the Lord's pleasure that we fall into the pitfalls of life and are destroyed by them. While we do suffer for our sins, much like Israel was led into captivity for their continued disobedience to His commands until there was no remedy (II Chronicles 36), the Lord does not delight in our sufferings here. His desire is for us to turn from our wicked way, and the faithful words of His watchman are for that very reason. Therefore, the watchman should not have the attitude of "beating up the flock." He should not look at reproof in some masochistic way, for his desire should be as the Lord's for the people to listen, heed, and be spared.

Without getting too high on a hobbyhorse, I am always pained to see ministers of the gospel crack the whip of reproof without showing the congregation that they do indeed care and love them. Further still, I am pained when they do it without any mention of hope and peace that comes from the Prince of Peace: Christ Almighty. Our faithful reproofs as watchmen of the city should be out of fervent love for the people that they die not in transgressions. Our faithful warnings should not be done with the mentality, "Well, I have done my duty, now they better get moving." Faithful warning should have the same diligent consistency as the faithful watching that preceded the faithful warning. The long, sleepless nights should be borne out of love, not duty - though it is a duty, and the blowing of the horn in Mount Zion should be borne out of love for the sheep's welfare.

May we call these things to mind, for as ministers, we need to faithfully watch and warn. As members of His body, we need to faithfully pray for all those that watch for our souls. Say a prayer tonight for the servant that watches over you, and servants say a prayer tonight for those that the Lord has called you to watch. Truly, our love for Him and one another should spur us to even more faithful service than we have ever exhibited, for the Lord's desire is for our welfare. Thanks be unto Him that our welfare in Him is forever secure, and may we pray that our steps here take us in paths of righteousness that He would have us walk in, for that is the only good way in this life that we will find rest for our souls. (Jeremiah 6:16) May we be found so walking, watching, and praying.

In Hope,

Bro Philip