|Photo courtesy of Mattox|
If you look in Ezekiel chapter 3, which is where we will spend the bulk of the time from here on out, you will find the commission that God gives the prophet beginning in verse 10. In this verse God tells Ezekiel;
Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely.
In this short phrase I believe we find the second crucial characteristic of a godly watchman: listening. If we understand our duty to be warning God’s people and acting as “voices crying out in the wilderness” then it only makes sense that we must take time to listen for the message that God is trying to get across. For me, as a preacher, this is sometimes difficult because I love to talk. However, if I am faithfully going to communicate the message God has for His people then I must discipline myself to be still before God and hear His voice.
One of my hobbies is amateur radio and with that I am able to talk to people all over the world from my home in North Carolina. As part of being a radio amateur I have done some basic level emergency communications training. One of the things we learn in “emcomm” is that you have to be very careful, even to the point of copying down a message letter for letter, so that we ensure that the correct message gets through. The same principle applies to being watchmen for God’s people. Aside from being able to boldly communicate God’s truth we must take time to listen to what He has to say.
God is clear on this point at the beginning of the verse when He commands Ezekiel to listen to all of His words. It is not enough for us to get the first few lines and then run with them. We must listen and proclaim all of God’s truth. I admit that this can be an uncomfortable proposition because it means we are responsible for the “whole council of God.” We do not have the luxury of picking the good parts or the parts we like. We must share it all, even the unsavory parts about sin and God’s wrath. Anything less and we run the risk of being found guilty of taking away from God’s Word.
This leads cleanly into verse 11 where God gives Ezekiel the bottom-line of his commission;
Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, “Thus says the Lord God.”
As we are vigilant and after we have listened very carefully to what God has to say then we must go and proclaim it. The fact that we are responsible to tell people “Thus says the Lord” relieves us of a heavy burden while at the same time giving us another one. The burden that it lifts is that we are not telling people our opinion or our thoughts on the matter. We are telling them what God has said, and if we do that then the weight of their response does not rest on our shoulders. Ezekiel 3:18-21 make this point very poignantly.
As this releases us from that burden it does add the burden of making sure that what we are saying is actually a word from the Lord. The solution to this problem lies in two places. First, that means we must be voracious devourers of God’s Word. If we intend to communicate a message from God then studying the Bible is not an option, it is a requirement. Secondly, and equally as important, is the directive given in verse 10, listen closely. If we have been called as watchmen over God’s people then He will give us the message if we will simply quiet ourselves before Him and listen.