The Watchman

“So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked ones, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

“Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ Say to them, ‘As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:7-11)

When the world’s idea of failure happens, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us anymore. Success is simply doing what God has asked, regardless of the consequences. God did not tell Ezekiel that anyone would necessarily repent or even believe his words. What mattered to God, what was “success” to God, was simply that Ezekiel would do what God had asked. His responsibility was to warn the Israelites. What the Israelites then did with his warning was up to them. He might feel bad for what happened to the people, but he could never feel guilty. He would be a failure only if he kept silent. If a building lacks fire alarms and smoke detectors and people die, the building owner will be held accountable. But if the alarms are there and no one heeds them, then those who die in the flames have only themselves to blame.

God, though, hoped desperately that his people would heed the warnings delivered by Ezekiel. God’s happiness comes when people repent and turn from their sins. God derives no pleasure at all when his warnings are ignored. God does not delight in bringing judgment. He delights in rescue. For God, it really does hurt him more than it hurts us.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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