“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.” - Ezekiel 3:18
It is now possible with satellites to track a developing hurricane heading for a densely populated area and to calculate accurately the estimated rainfall. Given this information and the means to communicate it, great loss of life can be averted—provided the people listen and take action.
In Ezekiel’s day there were no satellites but there were prophets—God’s special gift to his people, although the people did not always regard them so highly. A prophet was a watchman, appointed to warn the people of impending danger, so his messages were often full of foreboding. But people don’t always like to hear about judgment, so they often ignored the message or abused the prophet.
God gave Ezekiel a message of impending judgment for the people of Israel, and he told Ezekiel that he must deliver the message, even if the people would not listen (3:17, 27). How did God impress on Ezekiel the urgency of his message? The well-being of countless people was at stake, and Ezekiel was responsible for whether he delivered God’s message to them: “If . . . you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs” (3:18). Not that he bore all the responsibility alone—the people were responsible for how they responded to the message.
There is a parallel between the ancient prophet/watchman and the modern-day believer. Once a believer’s eyes have been opened to the truth in Christ Jesus—truth that includes the appealing message of sins forgiven and the unappealing forewarning of judgment to come—that believer is responsible to share what he knows with those who don’t know. This can be unnerving—there certainly is a challenge involved—but the believer should see his role as a gracious appointment, a privilege as well as a duty.
Ezekiel was dramatically bound with ropes and his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth once he had received his commission (3:24-26). The only time Ezekiel could speak was when God gave him a message for the people (3:27). The believer today should not anticipate such treatment. The point for both Ezekiel and the believer is this: don’t rush out and say whatever comes into your head. Wait until the impulse of the Spirit directs you, and then tell those in your sphere of influence what he has told you.
If people can say to me, “You never told me,” I am responsible. If on the other hand the truth is that they never listened, the responsibility is all theirs.
For Further Study: Ezekiel 3:16-27