Sermon: Watchman Christians (Ezekiel 33)

Service Notes

Order of Service: Brief Service of the Word

Hymns:
#725, “Children of the Heavenly Father”
#578, “Thy Strong Word”
#923, “Almighty Father, Bless the Word”

Location: Peace, Robbinsdale

Worship Video:

Theme Verse

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 33:7)

Sermon Text

God has called you to be a watchman. That call came in your Baptism. You accepted that call with your Confirmation vows. What does it mean to be a watchman? How are we do to that in our world today?

The watchman patrolled the walls of a city or fortress, looking to the horizon for news. Good news. Bad news. It didn’t matter. The watchman delivered the message to those under their protection. If the watchman failed to do his job, disaster would come. The watchman’s job was one of the most important jobs in the ancient world. And it should be today also.

The watchman’s job is one of the most difficult jobs, but it is also one of the easiest jobs. As Christians who have been taught the Catechism, who are in worship to hear God’s Word and receive the Sacraments, we know what we are supposed to do. What God expects of us. However, we also see the issues that complicate the fulfillment of God’s expectation.

Our world sees watchmen more like watchdogs. Always looking to point out the problems in our world. The political ads in this election year show this greatly. Trump and Biden both claim that they are the only one who can fix America’s problems. They blast each other for their opposing viewpoints. They point out all the errors and problems with each other. They are not being watchmen for the American people. They are being watchdogs, protecting themselves.

Watchmen protect others. “Whenever you hear a word from My mouth, you shall give them warning from Me.”1Ezekiel 33:7 God is the ultimate watchman, having reached out to His people ever since the Fall into sin.2Genesis 3:8-11 As our opening hymn said, “Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.”3LSB #725.4

Seeking to protect our neighbors, we must give them the warning we have received. God gives Ezekiel the most basic warning: “O wicked one, you shall surely die.”4Ezekiel 33:8 Earlier, God had told Ezekiel, “The soul who sins shall die.”5Ezekiel 18:20

Our most basic warning is “The world is filled with sin.” The world sees us as watchdogs because that’s all they hear. That’s all they want to hear. They don’t want to hear the rest of the message. They only want to hear us as judgmental and hypocritical. That way their inner watchdog can rage on against us.

The natural man only wants to hear the Law because he can only understand the Law.61 Corinthians 2:14 We warn people about their sins, but they interrupt us before we can get to the Gospel. They want to point out our hypocrisy. That we’re no better than them. And they’re right! We aren’t any better than them. But we are forgiven through Christ. We struggle so that we can say both the Law and Gospel sides of the warning.

When their inner watchdog comes out, we simply confess that we are sinners just as they are. That is our opportunity to share the Gospel. We say it very well when we prepare for Confession and Absolution: “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”7Psalm 32:5 Then, we tell them that it is available for them as well.

What motivates us to warn our neighbors? What keeps us going when we are shut down by those closest to us? St. Paul’s admonition to the Romans: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law.”8Romans 13:8 Love drives us to deliver the warning to our neighbors. Especially to those who are closest to us.

We have the worst time with them. The closer the relationship, the more difficult it seems to talk about our faith. But we should always pray, as our sermon hymn did, “Give us lips to sing Thy glory, tongues Thy mercy to proclaim, throats that shout the hope that fills us, mouths to speak Thy holy name.”9LSB #578.5 Not just that we have these great gifts, but that we use them all the time. Give us the courage to proclaim our faith no matter the circumstances.

Of course, one question looms like a rain cloud over this whole conversation. “What if they don’t listen?” The simple and most discomforting answer is that they will die in their iniquity.10Ezekiel 33:8-9 Our motivation of love causes us to strive that much harder for them to listen. But some people will never listen! They will refuse to hear and believe the message we are commanded to deliver.

So what if they don’t listen, but they are still alive? What do we do about them? Jesus tells us, “Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”11Matthew 18:17 How does Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors? He loves them. Prays for them. Prays for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts. For Him to “remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” that will listen.12Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26

Then again, maybe you aren’t the one they will listen to. Maybe there is someone else they will listen to. Pray for that person to come into their lives and share the warning. That they will listen and accept God’s gracious invitation.

But this dark rain cloud of doubt should not stop us from trying. Because … what if they do listen? What if they hear and believe you? “Rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”131 Peter 4:13; cf. Matthew 5:21; Psalm 118:24; Isaiah 25:9; 65:18; Joel 2:21; Philippians 2:17-18 His glory is revealed every time He forgives a sinner. Every time He finds the one that strayed away from the other ninety-nine.14Matthew 18:13 Every time you have gained a brother or sister.15Matthew 18:15 The Psalm tells us, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”16Psalm 32:1-2

There are times where we don’t want to warn others. Where love doesn’t spur us on to follow God’s command. Then, we turn to the punishment promised if we don’t warn them. God tells Ezekiel, “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”17Ezekiel 33:8 If you have the charge to warn them, and you don’t warn them, their blood is on your hands.

There are groups that are very good at spreading a fake version of the Gospel. They call it the truth, but it’s not the truth. I’m talking about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons. Most everyone has had an encounter with one of these groups at some point in their life. {Knock} You open the door to find a couple of cheerful, well-dressed people wishing to share their message with you.

They know that most people won’t listen to them. They know that some will not answer the door. They know that some of those who answer the door will shut it in their faces. Does this stop them? Not on their lives! They will go from house to house, regardless of the outcome of the conversations. They’re more interested in keeping a tally of their attempts than actually bringing people to their faith.

I’m not praising them for their message. It’s a complete forgery of the true Gospel. But they give away their forgery with more gusto than most of us who have the real deal. It’s not a matter of keeping score. You may talk to a handful or thousands of people. You give the great message of salvation to those whom God has brought into your life. Whether few or many.

Why do we do it? Why do we risk ourselves to spread the Gospel? God’s promised reward: “Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”18James 5:20 You aren’t saved because you have warned the sinner. You are saved through faith in the message. Salvation by faith alone through grace alone on account of Christ alone. Salvation shown by Christ’s love. “Love is the fulfilling of the Law.”19Romans 13:10 Christ’s love perfectly fulfills the Law. Love He showed in ministry that took on the shape of a spider web. Or the way social media was designed to work.

No one person is able to interact with everyone else on earth. Everyone has their own sphere of influence. Some are bigger than others, but none encompass everyone. In this room, multiple spheres of influence intersect. No one here knows everyone in their neighbor’s sphere. And this is the beauty of spreading the Word. I can’t reach everyone you know. Pastor Jones can’t reach everyone you know. But you can. God has called you to be the watchman over your sphere of influence. God has called you to share His Word with those around you. His Word of repentance and forgiveness should fill you with such joy over what is yours in Christ. Everyone can take the message and send it through their sphere. The joy of forgiveness should radiate from this place through these spheres like a spider’s web. Going out from the center and covering the world.

This joy should bubble over in you so that you cannot contain it. As the Psalm puts it, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.”20Psalm 32:3 Or as Jeremiah says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”21Jeremiah 20:9 This joy is what David talks about in the twenty-third Psalm, where he says, “my cup overflows.”22Psalm 23:5

Your cup overflows from God pouring in His great mercy and love. By sharing His overflowing blessings with those around us, we seek to share them with others. This sharing is our being watchmen for the people in our spheres. The people close to us that we’d love to see in Heaven with us. Therefore we pray. For us. For them. For the message to be spread out along the spider web of our intersecting spheres. As our final hymn says, “Almighty Father, bless the Word which through Your grace we now have heard. Oh, may the precious seed take root, spring up, and bear abundant fruit.”23LSB #923.1 Amen.

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