Worship Theme: The Church God Wants: A Church That Guards the Faith of Others

Sermon Theme: What’s the Point of Watching?

In Ezekiel 33:7-11, we see one of the messages God delivered to his would-be priest now turned prophet. Ezekiel knew well the important role that the watchman played for the safety of the people. What’s the Point of Watching? God has called you to be a watchman – to be a person that stands on a spiritual wall and looks out for the safety of others. September 10, 2023.


 A plume of dust began to rise up like a helium balloon just over the horizon until the cloud grew and then dissipated into the hot desert air. Again and again this would happen – first over there and then over here. The distant drumbeat of hooves, many, many hooves could be heard. The sound of iron clanking against iron starting as a whisper but growing alarmingly louder and louder. Others might not have recognized the sounds or the sights, or even been paying enough attention to observe them, but thank goodness the ones who knew what they were observing were there – right where they needed to be! Those who were looking and were listening knew exactly what these sights and sounds were and they knew exactly what do when they observed them. They grabbed for the trumpets and blew the sounds of warning. They had a message to deliver, a vitally important message. An enemy army was approaching!

It was the job of the watchman to sound the warning, to blow the trumpet, to make sure that everyone knew of the danger that was lurking just over the horizon. That’s why they stood on the walls of the city or in tall towers so that they could see what people on the ground couldn’t see. From their high perch, they had an unobstructed view for miles and miles, giving them a chance to see danger while it was still a long way off.

In ancient times, it was not at all uncommon for the people of a city to spend time working, growing crops, raising animals, or even residing in homes or huts outside of the city walls. These people were especially vulnerable to the peril of an invading army, and so they relied on the watchman – standing high on the city wall and looking for danger in every direction. And when the watchman identified an approaching danger, they sounded the alarm – not because sounding an alarm is fun, and not because there was nothing better to do that day, and not because they wanted to disrupt the lives of others. No, they sounded the alarm because that was the way that they could save the lives of the people of their city. When those people heard the alarm, they could retreat into the safety afforded them by the city walls.

Ezekiel lived at a time when they would have been paying extra attention to the watchman on the wall. Judah was declining in power and influence, and nations were lining up to control and conquer them and their territory. The Egyptians had held Judah under their thumbs and exerted their influence over the ever weakening nation. Then the Egyptians themselves were pushed to the side by the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar set his sights on world conquest, which meant he would be coming for Judah. In 605 he laid siege to Jerusalem and carried off some of the nobles and leaders of Judah – including the prophet Daniel. Eight years later, in 597 Nebuchadnezzar came at Jerusalem again, this time taking another wave of captives, including Judah’s King, Jehoiachin, and also Ezekiel.

Priests in Israel began serving when they turned 30, and that’s what Ezekiel would have done had he turned 30 in Jerusalem. But he had a Babylonian Birthday Bash, turning the big 3-0 in captivity, far removed from his homeland and from the Lord’s temple. He was deprived of his birthright of the priesthood and the privilege that he had looked forward to for most of his life. Yet, the Lord had in mind to use him in a different, in a special way. Five years into his time in captivity, the Word of the Lord came to Ezekiel. God was going to use Ezekiel to be his messenger to his exiled people.

And in today’s First Reading, we see one of those messages that God delivered to his would-be priest now turned prophet. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. Ezekiel knew well the important role that the watchman played for the safety of the people. He knew that there were enemies all around and without someone watching and ready to warn that people would be victimized all too easily.

He also knew that there was a greater enemy than the Babylonians lurking in shadows. Ezekiel understood that the devil was hard at work among God’s people sowing his seeds of deception and discontent. He knew that the devil wanted to use the distance between God’s people and their homeland to create distance between the people and God himself. He wanted them to despair, to give up, to be angry with God. And that’s why God put Ezekiel on the wall! That’s why he made him a watchman. God called Ezekiel to sound the words of warning that God’s people needed to hear.

God has called you to be a watchman – to be a person that stands on a spiritual wall and looks out for the safety of others. He’s called you to watch out for others and to sound the alarm when the enemy is near. He’s called on you to speak the truth in loving ways so that others might be saved from disaster and destruction.

The job description is pretty easy, but carrying out the role is a different story altogether. Today’s Gospel points out one of the ways that you can be a part of guarding the faith of others. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” Lovingly, gently, humbly point out sin that is lingering in the life of a loved one. Help them to see it if they aren’t living in a way that honors God. Point them to their sin so that you can in turn point them to their Savior and his forgiving love. God calls watchmen like us to take time, to pour out energy and sweat and tears in an effort to warn and win back our brothers and sisters in the faith. If they don’t listen and don’t appreciate our efforts, try again, take 1 or 2 more with. If they don’t listen, get more help, get the Church if necessary to sound the warning with you.

And that is hard. Why is it so hard to be a watchman? Because the devil who put others in danger with his temptations also aims his arrows right at the watchman. He’s got you in his sights! And it makes sense why. If there are fewer watchmen, fewer people speaking the words of God, then the devil will gain more success and more ground in his war against souls. And so he whispers “Who do you think you are? You’re going to tell another person how to live their lives!?! Why don’t you just stay out of other people’s business? Who are you to judge others?” He fills us with fear that if we speak up, that others will crack back at us exposing our weaknesses and failures. He lies to us with his convincing argument that peace is the most important thing. All means to same end. The excuses are varied. The results the same. People are quieted and he continues to win the battle for more and more soul.

How do you overcome the temptation to be worthless watchmen? How do we become stronger than the temptations to shy back in silence? It really boils down to one word – love.

The fireman runs, runs into a burning building because he loves the people inside, e Even if he hasn’t met them. The soldier fights and risks his life so that the lives of others can be preserved. And how about the one who did more than that for us? And to preserve more than just physical life, but to save our souls? Jesus ran straight into fires of the wrath of God, even though those are fires that rightly deserve. He risked his life for us – and more than risked - he willingly, knowingly, gave his life, he became a sacrifice so that we could be his. As a perfect watchman he saw the danger that was threatening us, and stepped into action. He did better than warn of the danger, he stood between us and that danger. He fought the evil one and sheltered us from his fiercest blows. He neutralized our sin, by paying its penalty and bearing its curse. He won those battles for us so that we could have victory and life.

And life is what God wants us all to enjoy. ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!

 Our Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. That’s why he sent his Son to die in our place. Our Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. That’s why he sends watchmen to lovingly warn those who are trapped in sin. He wants people everywhere to repent and experience the fullness of his love. He wants people by his power to turn from their ways and live.

Ezekiel didn’t jump up and down begging and pleading that God make him a watchman. In fact, I would guess that most watchman didn’t campaign for the position or lobby to be selected. But when asked by another to serve in that role, they accepted – because they knew how important a role it is. When Ezekiel was called into service by the one who served him so wonderfully, Ezekiel was glad to accept and serve the people in this important task.

You probably didn’t jump up and down begging and pleading to be a watchman, either! But God has come to you and given you this important calling. It’s a vitally important role – with lives, eternal lives, on the line. God has put you in the lives of many who need your heart of love and selfless desire for the salvation of their souls. God has called you and equipped you for this important task. And you can go, thankful for the love that has been freely given to you and eager for an opportunity to show that love to a person who really needs to hear. We can go with God and his promises. You can be a watchman!

No parent shies back from telling their kids that it’s not OK to play in the busy street! And they don’t shy away from speaking sternly when those words of warning are ignored. The price of silence in that scenario is unthinkably high! So they speak.

A Christian brother or sister need not shy back from speaking God’s truth…even when it’s going to prick a conscience…even when it’s going to hurt the one who hears…even when it might not be well received. A Christian brother or sister need not shy away from speaking, even strongly at times, when words of warning are being ignored. The price of silence is unthinkably high! So we speak.

What’s the Point of Watching? It might seem like a difficult or dangerous task. It might seem like it will never work. It might seem like a losing proposition. But it’s not and it never will be! Speaking the truth in love is never futile. Seeking to restore the straying is always worth the effort. Be bold, my watchman friends, and speak! What a privilege it is to be called to be a watchman. And what a joy to know that God uses people like us, equipped with his powerful words, to turn hearts back to him. Love and life in Christ, and letting both shine…winning hearts for the truth and souls for heaven. That’s what it’s all about! That’s the point of watching! Amen.