“So you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me” (33:7, ESV).
In that day, the watchman was the one who patrolled along the walls of cities like Jerusalem, constantly on the watch for stirring in the outside darkness beyond the wall by an enemy preparing for attack. He would then blow the trumpet as an alarm to arouse the defense of the city.
God uses this metaphor to instruct Ezekiel to warn his people to repent from their disunity from God:
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel” (33:11)?
Is there a watchman constantly on guard for us today?
In Chapter 34, God identifies a second failed line of defense for his people:
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel…who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?...The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them” (34:2, 4).
God had seen enough of self-serving shepherds of his people. The time was coming for restoration:
“…I will rescue the sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them…I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice” (34:10b, 11b, 16).
Notice carefully now how God is going to do this – he uses a watchman in Ezekiel only to sound the warning of impending judgment against the wicked and disobedient.
Now God HIMSELF will rescue and bring restoration!
“And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them:…and my servant David shall be prince among them. I AM the Lord; I have spoken” (34:23-24).
So how can David be shepherd and prince of all Israel when he has been dead for centuries?
The answer screams out in the New Testament: Jesus Christ, Messiah of Israel, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of David!
But Jesus died, right? And though he will come again in person at the restoration of all things, who is our watchman today?
As we shall see, our watchman today is the Holy Spirit, who is also God, sent by Jesus to dwell in the hearts of believers until he returns. The Spirit is planted in our hearts at the moment we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior – and as God.
Here is where Ezekiel and the other prophets preordain all of this to our time: while in ancient Israel it was the watchman whose failure could result in destruction of the nation, the shepherds of Israel failed to guard the hearts of God’s people, leaving them completely exposed to moral failure.
But today, all believers have the Holy Spirit as watchman over our own hearts, yet we are more susceptible than ever to moral failure in a decadent culture.
Why? This is the entire thesis of my book: Streamside – Finding Peace through Perfect Unity.
Today it is not the watchman or shepherd who fails us, so much as our own willful blockage of the flow of the Holy Spirit, the whisper that flows inward to nourish and enrich, but only if we actively keep this vital artery unblocked.
The key is to recognize more and more how often we block him; to stop right there and pray fervently; to restore the flow of the Spirit into our hearts.
I promise you this is an inward journey that you will never regret.