Ezekiel 33. The Watchman and the City.
Key Notes: The ministry of warning. Jerusalem fell, and Ezekiel was allowed to speak again. The exiles appeared contrite but think about money.
Chapter 33 combines two themes Ezekiel has written about before: the watchman (3:16–21), and the message about righteousness.‘:1–30
33:1–9 Here the watchman is in charge of preventing a surprise attack on the city. If he warns the people and they do not take action, it is their fault; if he does not warn them his life will be required of him. It was the ancient custom that the watchman had to be responsible for the city.
The second theme of the chapter, about righteousness, starts out with the first-time confession by the exiles.
Ezek.33:10–11: "Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?" God's response was "turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?"
Perhaps the ministry of warning was having a good effect.
33:21 contains the pivotal word: "The city has fallen." But the remnant left in Israel thought they had inherited the land, and the prophet replied that they were still sinning in the same ways as those who had preceded them, and they too were destined for judgment. Their hearts were set on their gain.
Now Ezekiel’s tongue was loosened and he was free to speak again.
33:30 Those of the exiles who came to hear a word from the Lord from Ezekiel were like people at a concert, listening to the singer and his instrument, but not being moved to action. Evidently Ezekiel had a beautiful voice after a long period of voice rest.
"They sit before you as my people and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with their lips they show much love, but their heart is set on their gain. And lo, you are to them like one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it." ( 33:31)
Music has power over the emotions, and it is easier to be moved and sing along on Sunday than to live on a high spiritual plain on Monday. The exiles had made a confession of sin, and came to hear what the prophet would say, but their minds were preoccupied with “their gain”--making money--as were the survivors in Judah.
The ministry of warning is a very difficult one. Would God be equally demanding of his workers in today’s America? We think of it as a last resort. The evangelist's job is to proclaim good news. No one likes the person who furls the brow and points the finger. Our best example of a NT "warner" is John the Baptist.
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt.3:7)
But he also proclaimed the good news that the Christ was coming (Lk.3:16) and was effective in bringing the Jews to repentance.
How then can Judah live? Making money was on the mind of exile and homeland survivor alike. The problem of sin is baffling. If it isn't lust and murder, but only greed...? How can we then live?