Israel ought to have been a watchman to all the nations (illustrated, e.g., by Jonah and Nineveh). This is what the Church ought to be to the world. This is what every local church ought to be to its locality. But, in ‘Ezekiel’ where things are bad in the nation, the designation and its meaning apply to the people of God themselves; and in this connection we consider it here. What we say then is, in the first place, to the servants of God.
“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:17; 33:1-9).
This is not an altogether new idea or title for the Lord’s servant. It occurs more than once in Isaiah in an objective and kind of abstract way. No one else but Ezekiel is mentioned as having been specifically appointed to this position. It will be noted that this appointment took place very early in his ministry. What then was the particular function of the Watchman, and what were his essential characteristics?
Firstly, and supremely, he was the custodian of the elect purpose of the people to whom he was appointed. The very existence of those people as related to the Divine purpose was very largely in his hands. In this respect, perhaps one of the most clamant and urgent needs of our time is of this prophetic function. There are Evangelists, whose function is related to the unsaved, and positively not the oversight of a local church. For the Evangelist to get or be put into such a position will sooner or later mean that he frustrates the full purpose of God by keeping God’s people to a very limited and elementary measure of Christ. This is the tragedy of any evangelistic work which stops at itself. It is the tragedy of many so-called Gospel Missions and Mission Halls. They often serve to abort full purpose and spiritual maturity. Let the Evangelist anointed of God do his work, but let him and all others recognize that his work is only relative and not something in itself apart.
The world is now seeing the terrible spectacle of Christians and a ‘Church’ unable to meet and go through the awful fires of testing, and without the tremendous impact of an authoritative witness and message. In a day of spiritual declension or weakness, it is the Prophetic function that is needed.
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