14 July 2011

"But if the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any of them, they are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at the sentinel's hand. So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenevere you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me." (vv. 6-7)


Everywhere we go these days there are warnings: burglar alarms, fire alarms, car alarms, flashing lights and public announcements, all giving audible and visual signals of danger. They are there for our safety, whether we like them or not.

In Ezekiel's time there were no such systems. So people living in close communities had their own protections in place. A watchman, or sentinel, would be appointed and his job was to look out for trouble approaching. If there was any fear of danger, or enemy attack, he was to make so much noise that people were alerted to what was happening. Often this was done by blowing a trumpet, as that was the sound that would best penetrate the bustling noise of everyday life.

But once the warning was given, then it was up to the people themselves to take action. The sentinel had no responsibility for anyone's life but his own.

As long as he'd sounded the warning first, he had done his duty But that was a big responsibility. And it's that responsibility that God gave to Ezekiel - not just for one village, or even one city, but for the whole nation of Israel!

Ezekiel had two consolations. The first was that he didn't have to stand on a watchtower looking out for an enemy. The warnings that Ezekiel had to give would come directly from God. The second consolation was that God asked him to do his job well, but as long as he did that, he would not be responsible if the people didn't listen to his warning and take action.

What were the warnings and what was the action that was needed? They were not about marauding warriors riding over the hills with swords, intent on killing everyone in sight. The warnings were about the dangers that people were causing for themselves by their disobedience to God.

Would they listen? Given their past history, Ezekiel must have had grave doubts about that. But, given the fact that we often ignore everyday danger signals because they are so familiar, are we any different?

To Ponder

If we recognise the danger of ignoring warnings, why do we do it?

Why, do you think, are people still not listening to God? What might be done about this? And what might you do?

How do you feel about taking on the responsibility of speaking out against immoral behaviour?

Bible notes author: Marjorie Dobson

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