I want to highlight three roles which are mentioned in the book of Ezekiel. These roles are: the watchman, the hearers, and the shepherds.
1. The Watchman (Ezekiel 3, 33).
The prophet or preacher is compared to a watchman. It is his duty to warn. Many ancient cities were enclosed by walls. Watchmen were posted on the walls to look for danger and warn (cf. 2 Samuel 18:24-33; 2 Kings 9:16-20). The preacher is to hear God’s word and warn of spiritual danger (Ezekiel 3:16-17).
(1) If a spiritual watchman fails to give warning, the consequences are grave. (a) The wicked will have no warning. He will not be saved. He will die in his inquiry (Ezekiel 3:18). Think of the song: You Never Mentioned Him to Me by James Rowe. “You never mentioned Him to me, You helped me not the light to see; You met me day by day and knew I was astray, Yet never mentioned Him to me.” (b) The righteous may not continue in their righteousness (Ezekiel 3:20-21). The message preached may motivate one to stay on the right path. (c) The preacher will be held accountable (Ezekiel 3:18, 20). (2) If a spiritual watchman is faithful to give warning, the results may be beautiful. (a) People may be saved (Ezekiel 3:21; 33:5b). God pleaded with Israel, “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). (b) The preacher may save himself, whether or not other listen (Ezekiel 3:19, 21). Paul exhorted Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine, continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). He also said of his own work, “Therefore I testify that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27 cf. Ezekiel 3:17-18; 33:8).
2. The Hearers (Ezekiel 33).
The hearers also have responsibility. They are to adjust their lives to God’s word. God says, “He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life” (Ezekiel 33:5).Hearing alone is not enough. God told Ezekiel, “So they come to you as a people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them. For with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed, you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass – surely it will come – then they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 33:31-33).
People assemble for all kinds of reasons. For some, it is for culture or family tradition. For others, it is for social interaction. For others, it is entertainment, or controversy – “Let’s see what that crazy preacher says today.” For some, it is about worshipping God learning His word, and edifying the saints.
What do we do with the message proclaimed? (1) Do we test it by scripture? (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). (2) Do we listen in order to put it into practice (James 1:22; Ezra 7:10). (3) Do we listen so that we can teach others (2 Timothy 2:2; Ezra 7:10).
3. The Shepherds (Ezekiel 34).
The shepherds of Israel refer to the leaders of Israel (e.g. Prophets, Priests, Kings, Judges). Israel had a failure in leadership (cf. Isaiah 9:16; 56:9-12; Micah 3:11; Jeremiah 6:13-14; 8:10-11; 23:11; Ezekiel 22:23-31). Far from protecting and properly leading the people, they were much of the problem.
Their sins include: (1) They did not care for the flock, but for themselves (Ezekiel 34:1-2). (2) They did not help the weak or the sick (Ezekiel 34:4). (3) They did not seek the lost or protect the sheep (Ezekiel 34:5-6, 8).
Brother Franklin Camp provides these remarks on Ezekiel 34. (1) Ezekiel 34:2, “These shepherds were abusing the privilege and the authority given to them. No elder has the right to act as though a congregation were his private property.” (2) Ezekiel 34:3, “Elders have the responsibility of seeing that the congregation is fed the milk and the meat of the word… Many congregations are living on a starvation diet. They are being fed entertainment and illustration, but not the word of truth.” (3) Ezekiel 34:4, “Attention needs to be given to the spiritual condition of people. The weak need help, and many times the weakest in a congregation receive the least attention… The average congregation has on its roll backsliders and quitters… How often does a person quit the assembly and then it may be months before any effort is made… to bring him back into the fold?… When a Christian begins to slip, is losing interest in Bible study and Sunday night services, it is time to do something. Delay may be fatal… When elders seek to bring back the lost, in many instances, it is too little and too late.” (4) Ezekiel 34:4-5, “Leadership is far more than demanding that a thing be done.” (5) Ezekiel 34:20, “While the church is a collective unit, it is made up of individuals with all their differences and peculiarities… Elders need to keep this in mind in overseeing the flock… our personalities are different. Our problems are different… The only way to learn people’s personalities and peculiarities is by association.” (6) Ezekiel 34:24, “Here is a picture of safety. A faithful shepherd guards against false teachers…” (7) Ezekiel 34:26, “It is the responsibility of the shepherds to lead those under their oversight in ways that cause them to be a blessing. In the community, Christians are to let their light shine by good works.” (8) Ezekiel 34:27, “A faithful shepherd leads the flock to be fruitful. Elders must lead the church in developing the fruit of the spirit… Fine buildings and padded pews can never be a substitute for joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (9) Ezekiel 34:29, “Faithful shepherds are interested in leading the flock in spiritual growth and development so the church will be respected in the community. How tragic for the church to be so worldly, divided, and back-biting that the world has no respect for it!” (10) Ezekiel 34:30, “One of the great needs in the church is for the Christian to appreciate the value of being a Christian. A faithful shepherd leads the flock to realize that the greatest privilege of life is being a Christian” (Franklin Camp, Principles and Perils of Leadership, p. 54-61).
How are we doing? Let us all do our part.