Monday, February 8, 2016

The Watchman

Of all the fears and worries of an evangelist I don’t know that there is any more discouraging than the fear of failure. Young evangelists worry, not without reason that in their inexperience they may fail.  What if I mess this up?  What if I say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and make it worse? Drive people away from God? Wrong motives, wrong methods, wrong message, these are real and powerful concerns. However, if this fear is so paralyzing that she never reaches out, the battle has already been lost.

The experienced evangelist, I am afraid, has a more subtle and powerful fear. What if I do the best I can, if I pour out everything I’ve got, and no one listens. Have I failed God?  She doesn’t fear that someday someone will reject her.  She’s already been there. She has tasted the bitterness of investing hours of loving concern, Bible study and her own physical resources into a person only to have them reject her and God.  Her fear doesn’t paralyze her; it haunts her.  Will she shout and shout and no one listen?


Ezekiel has much to say about this terror.

When Ezekiel was called as a young prophet/evangelist, he was one of the many exiles living in a small community on the banks of the river.  A grandiose vision of the cherubim-powered chariot throne of God Almighty initiated him to God’s service.  The next vision was far more prosaic; God gave him a scroll to eat.  He ingested the word of God.  Unfortunately, this meal came with heartburn.

You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel— not to many peoples of obscure speech and strange language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely if I had sent you to them, they would have listened to you. But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate…Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (Ezekiel 3:4-7,11)

Now that does not sound like an appetizing assignment!

Ezekiel was neither the first or last prophet to receive such a call and such a warning.  Isaiah was told to tell the people to just go on hearing but never understanding, seeing but never perceiving for fear that they might turn and repent (Isaiah 6:9-10).  When God called Jeremiah to courage, Jehovah sounded like an angry Southern Mama.  God told Jeremiah, “Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them.” In other words, he would be brave or God would GIVE him something to be scared of! (Jeremiah 1:17)

How do you think you would feel if God said to you, “I’m sending you on a mission that I guarantee will be unsuccessful.  I’m sending you to people who will never appreciate you and will never really listen.”  

Bitter, angry, maybe even a little rebellious?  Ezekiel too. 

He was so overwhelmed by this look ahead that he just sat by the river, silent and stunned, for a week.  Ezekiel didn’t just fear that he would fail, he knew it from the start.

Then the word of the Lord broke Ezekiel out of his brooding.

Here is where the story takes a really interesting turn.  What do you suppose God told him?  Something along the lines of stop pouting and get busy (Elijah-1 Kings 19:15-18)? Or perhaps “I’m the Almighty Creator of the Universe, I don’t justify myself to you!” (Job-Job 40:1-5)? No…

God instead answered the question that embodies the discouragement and fear that plagues the evangelist. If I try my best to warn the world, and the world won’t hear, have I failed my King?


God compares Ezekiel to a watchman who stands on the highest tower of the city and blows the great trumpet to warn the residents to run because an army is on the way (Ezekiel 33:1-6). When a watchman has blown his horn, when he blew it as loud and a long as he could, did he do his job?  Yes.  Is it his fault if the people don’t run?  No.  

Ezekiel is the watchman on the tower. He will spend his life warning the wicked of the coming judgement of God and the righteous that they should take care not to turn to wicked ways.  However by and large he will not be successful.  He will warn to no avail.  The people will hear his prophecies as if he were spouting poetry on open mike night not as a public service announcement (Ezekiel 33:32).  If the wicked and the righteous, together ignore him, did Ezekiel fail?

No.

Ezekiel’s job was to warn.  Whether or not the people responded to his word was up to them.  As long as he went on warning them, he was blameless. Ezekiel’s job description is the same as ours.  And the answer to his angry week of feeling like a failure is the answer we take to heart as well.   For the evangelist (young and old) success means faithfully saying…

’This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (Ezekiel 3:11)


5 comments:

  1. Good post, Christians are called to courage. Evangelists are often "graded" by how many people they have baptized. I think your post shows that warning people about God is the tip of the spear, even when people won't hear.

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  2. What an excellent post! This reminds me that my responsibility (no matter what my call by the Lord) is to be obedient to Him. The results of that obedience are not mine to focus on. Sadly, it can be easy to judge ourselves by the results of our obedience and forget that obedience is the primary focus. Thanks so much for this! Visiting as your neighbor at #WhatJoyIsMine

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  3. Thanks to both of you. As a person who reaches out to the lost, I am comforted in my rejection by the fact that God did not lay the responsibility for their reaction on my, all He gave me to do was share as sincerely and throughly as I can!

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  4. I also am relieved that I am not responsible for the decision others make about their relationship with God! That would be a lot of pressure on me! Even though my heart breaks when those who hear the gospel still rebel. I can't imagine the heartache the Lord feels when that happens! We all have a calling to share the good news, no matter what the outcome is, though! Thanks for sharing. I came after you over at 3-D Lessions link-up.
    Ann @ Christ in the Clouds - http://christintheclouds.blogspot.com/

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  5. Yes, we are successful when we obey God's call on our hearts. This was a great break down of this truth. Thank you for sharing wIth #TheCozyReadingSpot

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