In biblical lands in ancient times the role of a watchman was crucial. Invasion, siege, destruction and enslavement were all too common as empires battled for power and plunder. Watchmen were stationed atop towers or the city wall, and if danger approached they were to sound the alarm to alert their fellow citizens to the threat.
A watchman failing in his role all too often meant the difference between life and death—not just for himself, but for those around him.
This is the background for the prophetic commission found in Ezekiel 3. Here God tells Ezekiel, "I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me" (verse 17, emphasis added throughout).
Notice also that it was a message of sober warning: "If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,' but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs. If you warn them and they keep on sinning and refuse to repent, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved your life because you did what you were told to do."
He continues, "But if you warn them and they repent, they will live, and you will have saved your own life, too" (verses 18-19, 21, New Living Translation). God's goal was clear: He wanted people to heed the warning, repent and live.
And here's where the story really gets interesting. The ancient Israelites were divided into two kingdoms—the house of Israel and the house of Judah. When Ezekiel, of Judah, gave his prophetic warnings intended in large part for the house of Israel, its people had already been punished and taken away into captivity by the Assyrian Empire more than 120 years before.
If you've been reading The Good News for long, you probably understand that many Bible prophecies are dual, meaning they have more than one fulfillment. You may also realize that, as discussed regularly within our pages, those ancient Israelites disappeared from the pages of history (becoming known to historians as "the lost 10 tribes") before reemerging in more recent centuries as the peoples of Northwest European heritage, especially the major English-speaking nations.
Viewed in this light, the puzzle of Ezekiel's message makes sense. His warning could not have been for the Israel of his own day, since it was 120 years too late. It must be for the modern descendants of Israel, predominantly today's major English-speaking nations—the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
And if ever a people needed a warning, it is today. Britain and the United States have been the world's foremost superpowers over recent centuries, first with the British Empire ruling the seas and a vast array of peoples and nations, followed by the United States assuming Britain's former role after World War II.
But Britain's empire fell and is now a shadow of its former self. America is rapidly following in economic, social and cultural decline, losing influence daily around the world.
Sobering as it is, this is a primary message of The Good News— that sin exacts a terrible price, whether on a nation or an individual. We're seeing that played out before our eyes. And like Ezekiel, we are sounding the alarm, shouting a warning message to all who will hear and heed. Are you listening? GN