The book of Ezekiel is one of the major prophets in the Old Testament. It was authored by Ezekiel who was set as a watchman to the house of Israel.
Ezek 3:17 “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:
The thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel is about how Ezekiel was set as a watchman to Israel and God dealing with “faith only” kind of group from ancient Israel.
Duty of a Watchman
Ezek 33:1-6 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
We notice from the above passage that explains the duty of the watchman which can be explained as follows:
- Watchman blew the trumpet (gave warning to the people).
- People did not take the warning to act on it – not saved, blood will be on his own head.
- People took the warning to act on it – saved.
- Watchman did not blow the trumpet (or gave no warning to the people).
- Citizens was not warned by the watchman – if not saved, blood will be on the watchman’s head
What gets interesting is,
- It is God who sends the sword (or war).
- The people appoint the watchman
- The watchman must warn the people of the coming danger.
- The people must believe the watchman and take his warning.
Ezek 33:7-9 So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
As God explained the duties of a watchman, Ezekiel is appointed as a watchman for Israel. However, Ezekiel here was not appointed by Israel but God. He was also called not to warn against Israel’s enemies but to declare God’s warning to them.
Ezek 33:10-12 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live? Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’
God is revealing His heart. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He always wanted the wicked to turn from his wicked ways and live. God also teaches something very clearly.
- The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him in the day of his transgression.
- The wicked will not fall because of his wickedness in the day he turns from his wickedness.
In short, God does not tolerate sin, even from those who had lived their entire lives in righteousness.
Ezek 33:13-16 “When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. Again, when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.
What does it mean by trusting in our own righteous? As God clearly explained, it is putting our trust on the good works we had done in order to commit iniquity. God doesn’t say good works will not save but rather, if the wicked turns from his sins and does those good works, he will surely live. What God is actually trying to say is, Good works and iniquity are not like accounting. Having lot of good works is not a license to do iniquity. A single iniquity nullifies all the good works you may have done. In the same way, having a lot of iniquities is not an excuse to not repent and do the good works which save.
Ezek 33:17-20 Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the LORD is not fair.’ But it is their way which is not fair! When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, ‘The way of the LORD is not fair.’ O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you according to his own ways.
God is again repeating to be absolutely clear:
- The righteous will die if he turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity.
- The wicked will not die if he turns from his wickedness and does what it good and right.
This is the same teaching Jesus Christ taught.
John 8:34-35 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.
Jesus never tolerated sin. Anyone who sins will be cast out of His house.
Prophecy of Jerusalem
Ezek 33:21 And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, that one who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been captured!”
As we saw in the previous chapter, the 12th year of captivity is 585 BC. Hence, on the 5th day of the 10th-month of 585 BC, the city was captured.
The dates in Wikipedia places the siege in 587 or 586 BC based on other assumptions. But here we placed the assumption on the starting point based on Jehoiachin’s captivity as in Ezekiel chapter 1. We may need to revisit specifically the dates in Ezekiel.
Ezek 33:22-26 Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the man came who had escaped. And He had opened my mouth; so when he came to me in the morning, my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: Son of man, they who inhabit those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one, and he inherited the land. But we are many; the land has been given to us as a possession.’ Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You eat meat with blood, you lift up your eyes toward your idols, and shed blood. Should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you commit abominations, and you defile one another’s wives. Should you then possess the land?
The children of Israel say that the Lord had given them the land as a possession. What they forgot is that, the very reason why God cast out the Canaanites before them.
- Eating meat with blood
- Shedding blood or Murder
- Commit abominations
Lev 18:27-28 for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled, lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
God specifically warned the children of Israel in the law about these abominations and if they do, the land will vomit them out. But the children of Israel trusted on their sword and boasted their land as an inheritance.
Ezek 33:27-29 “Say thus to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “As I live, surely those who are in the ruins shall fall by the sword, and the one who is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in the strongholds and caves shall die of the pestilence. For I will make the land most desolate, her arrogant strength shall cease, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through. Then they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.
Because of the arrogance of those who were spared but did not repent of their deeds but continued in abominations, God is declaring His judgments on them.
- Those who are in the ruins shall fall by the sword
- Those who is in the open field, the beasts will devour them
- Those who are in the strongholds and caves shall die of the pestilence
God is making the land so desolate that no one will pass through.
Listeners and not Doers
Ezek 33:30-33 As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass–surely it will come–then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
When Ezekiel is warning about God’s judgments, the people do hear his words but they do not ‘do’ them. With their mouth, they show much love but with their heart, they pursue their own gain. For them, what Ezekiel is warning is like a ‘love song’.
Today, we have the same problem in Christianity. Have you ever heard of ‘we are saved by faith alone’ lie?
It is important to note that ancient Hebrew does not even have the word ‘obey’. Faith/Believe/Obey – all mean the same. This is why Jesus always taught believing as synonymous to obedience. It is the obedience to what Jesus said to DO will save us.
Luke 12:43-46 Blessed [is] that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for [him,] and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint [him] his portion with the unbelievers.
Neither Jesus Christ nor the Father taught faith alone.
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?