The Role of a Watchman: What Does It Mean for You?



The Bible uses the role of a watchman to describe the work of a prophet among God's people. Is there more to this symbolism than many have understood? The role of a watchman is vital to a full understanding of the work of God in the end time.

God said to the prophet Ezekiel, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me" (Ezekiel:3:17).

Here is one of the most intriguing metaphors used by God in all of prophecy. It is repeated in chapter 33 for emphasis, and sets the stage for the prophet's ministry to the divided houses of Judah and Israel.

Just what was the role of a watchman to an ancient city? How does God use the role of a watchman to warn and teach? What does it mean for the work of God today as this world comes to a prophetic crossroads?

It's vital you understand the answer to these questions as events grow increasingly tense in a rapidly changing world order.

A key figure

In the ancient world of agrarian societies, large watchtowers were placed overlooking the fields. There, in the weeks the crops were ripening toward harvest, men would stand watch, guarding the fields from animals or from thieves who would make off with the crops. With the community's basic food stores at stake, the watchman's role was critical to the townspeople.

We also find several references in Scripture to a watcher mounting the city walls in times of stress to survey the scene outside the fortifications. He was situated on a spot from which he could monitor the approaches to the town. If a threat appeared, he would sound a warning and the town would shut its gates and prepare for battle.

You can also imagine the watcher standing vigil at other times, observing the daily life of the city. He could see much of the activity in the streets and markets. He knew the people, their work, their habits and their lifestyles. If his position was near the city gate, he could also observe the business of the city transacted by its officials (see Ruth:4:1-12).

No wonder God uses this role to illustrate the job of the prophets He sent to comment on society's behavior, as well as to deliver messages of warning and instruction.

Prophets set as watchmen

Focusing on the Old Testament prophets helps us understand the full meaning of the symbolism of a watchman. There may be more than you have noticed before.

We noted at the outset Ezekiel:3:17, where God told the prophet to warn Israel of its sins and His impending punishment, saying, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me."

Notice it is God's message, not Ezekiel's message or any other prophet's message. It is always God's message delivered through the human instrument. The warning comes from God in language phrased to fit the situation and designed to bring people to repentance. Let's keep this point firmly in mind.

Continuing: "When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul" (verses 18-19).

The prophet had the duty to deliver the sobering message: Unless the citizens of Israel and Judah acknowledged their sins, turned from them, repented and began again to obey God's law, they would die in their sins. Regardless of how individuals responded to the warning, if they heard the message, the prophet had done his job and was no longer responsible. Only if the prophet did not deliver the admonition would he be judged along with the wicked.

Verses 20-21 explain another aspect. If a righteous person turned to sin, he would suffer the penalty, but the prophet would also be held liable for not giving him instruction. If the prophet gave adequate warning, instruction and positive teaching, the righteous could understand the consequences of turning from the right path. This could help motivate him to stay firm to the faith, a choice that would vindicate the prophet's work.

You get the sense here that a part of the prophet's message was showing the people how to live and maintain their faith. It was not just a strident message focused only on pointing out their problems. If the goal is to get people to turn back to the Word of God, then the message must also show the benefits of doing so. It must show the positive, better way of life God desires His people to live.

Was the message delivered?

Did Ezekiel deliver this warning message to Israel? Consider this. Ezekiel was among the captives from the nation of Judah taken to Babylon during the first siege of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. He was a contemporary of Daniel. The nation of Israel, the northern 10-tribe kingdom, had been taken away captive into Assyria and Media more than 120 years earlier.

The house of Israel was to hear the message, but their sins had already caused them to go into captivity. They had already been punished. It leaves us with the question: Is there to be a future fulfillment of this prophecy? Was it intended to go to the modern descendants of the house of Israel living in different lands at a future time?

The answer is yes! However, the explanation requires more detail than we can cover in this article. (We present it in our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy .

The question then is, when would these prophecies apply to Israel? And when would they be delivered? Ezekiel was among the Jewish captives near Babylon, and we have no indication he went to the northern tribes of Israel in his day (at that time migrating northwest from Assyria and Media) to give this message. The answer must be that God's message has a direct application to the modern descendants of these ancient people.

What will the watchman say?

Let's look closer at what a watchman is to do by bringing in what Isaiah tells us about those who would preach the gospel of peace.

The role of a watchman is not limited to speaking only about the sins and problems of the society. The watchman was also charged with proclaiming good news about salvation.

Notice this in Isaiah: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion.

"Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God" (Isaiah:52:7-10).

To Jerusalem and the land of Israel God says the watchmen will hold a vigil day and night for the peace of the people. "I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

"The Lord has sworn by His right hand and by the arm of His strength: 'Surely I will no longer give your grain as food for your enemies; and the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, for which you have labored. But those who have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the Lord; those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.'

"Go through, go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway! Take out the stones, lift up a banner for the peoples! Indeed the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the world: 'Say to the daughter of Zion, "Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him"'" (Isaiah:62:6-11).

Here we see the watchman role given to a group of people charged with a prayer vigil for the well-being of Israel. These people, by their presence and their prayers, seek to keep the city from suffering the ravaging effects of evil.

These passages in Isaiah paint an image of godly people who are given unique vision into the world of today and the world to come. They understand the universal application of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. They see that God will bring that Kingdom to earth and will offer salvation not just to Israel, but also to all nations. They see the reuniting of the tribes of Israel in the Promised Land as the beginning of the times of restoration of all things spoken of by Peter in Acts 3.

But they also have insight into the world at the end of this age. They see the dark gathering clouds on the world's horizon that spell the end of Satan's reign as the god of this world and author of all its evil. This leads them to mount the "walls" of society and shout a warning to any who will hear. To say: "God is sovereign. He will bring a time of judgment on the world to prove that He alone is God. All other gods erected by people to hide His truth will be destroyed."

This message includes teaching that will show any who listen the way to personal peace. It will show the true teaching of God and the way to salvation. It is also a message of how one can choose to escape the time of judgment God will bring on the world.

In part two of this article, we will look at those who make up this godly group of "watchmen," how they view this world and what it means for you. GN


charlie1115

charlie1115's picture

Darris,

I found your watchman post to be very insightful. GOD has given you discernment. My one comment would be to encourage you to look deeper. There is more to Ezekiel prophecy than you have touched on. Ezekiel's prophecy is finding fulfillment in our day. It is also connected to other prophecies concerning the watchmen of Ephraim and to the Two witnesss and the 144,000 of Revelation. The Two branches of Judah and Ephraim. There is so much more. Seek deeper.

Charles




dusty

dusty's picture

In no way is the Ezekiel Warning directed to the nations made up of the modern descendants of the Northern Kingdom. God does not consider them now as the “House of Israel” since He totally disowned them, declaring them to be not His people and saying He would not be their God (Hos:1:9, Jer:3:8). They are among the Gentiles as Gentiles (Hos:8:8). And they themselves believe they are Gentiles. From the time God disowned them until Christ returns the Jews are the only ones God considers as Israel or the “House of Israel”.

In v 1 of chpt 3 is the 1st time in the book of Ezekiel the term “house of Israel” is used and refers to the Jews in Babylon. Ezekiel is told to Speak to THEM in this verse and in verse 4. In verse 11 he is told to “…go NOW to your countrymen IN EXILE and Speak to THEM.”

Chpt 8 is further proof that the Ezekiel warning to the House of Israel is meant for the Jews. Consider these excerpts:

“…the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem… He said to me, Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here… So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thin




dusty

dusty's picture

(cont from prev. post)
There are 76 verses in Ezekiel containing the term, “house of Israel”. 48 refer to both Northern and Southern Kingdoms, 27 refer to Judah, and only 3 refer just to the Northern Kingdom or their descendants.

Re Ezek:3:17-19
This passage is the “Ezekiel warning”. Here God sets Ezekiel as a watchman to warn the house of Israel (v 1) located in Babylonian exile (v 11). The warning was to each individual Jew of that day, those who knew the true God and His threats against them (v 18) that, unless they repented, God’s physical protection would not be restored.

However, the message can also be applied to those whom God calls during the church age, and to those who have strayed from His calling, to repent lest they miss out on the future spiritual restoration of all Israel which, in the final analysis is what the book of Ezekiel is all about. This warning is repeated in 33:8-9.




tyler

tyler's picture

If you continue reading the prophets that you sited you will see that Israel is not entirely cast off as God's people. God is faithful to keep His promises even when we are not. continue reading Ezekiel:37:17-27 God restores Israel and Judah into one nation again, this is not just a metaphor for a spiritual restoration.
consider Hos:1:10 Israel is still considered God's people and in the same place that they were cast off they will be restored. Also in Hos 14 Ephraim is restored and casts off its idols. This shows that Israel is not cast off entirely, though at this time he may not be aware of it.
You are right about the universality of Ezekiel's message, for anyone who hears it if they apply it they will see the benefits of turning from whatever sin they find themselves in if they turn away from it God is quick to forgive.
consider reading the booklet mentioned in the article for an in depth discussion of the fate of the physical nation of Israel www.ucg.org/booklet/united-states-and-britain-bible-prophecy/
also consider Romans 11 with regards to the advantage of God casting a people off so that he may save them in the end.




bennett

bennett's picture

This gave me a revelation about my CALLING and what my duties on earth is a "PROPHET". For many years I'd dream and have visions and is always lead to speak to people regarding Warnings of good and bad and while reading the Bible I would always fall upon this word "WATCHMEN" until i dug a little deeper to find out it's meaning. for many years I was always lead to scripture Ezekiel:33:7 after reading a full prophecy in the bible. Thanks this article helped me alot.



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