The Misconstrued Task of the Watchman … Reading the Text sans Presuppositions …

I read a blogger recently who suggested much of those considered “emerging” offered reading recommendations from the past 100 years and many much more recent. He suggested he would stick with those that have “stood the test of time.” Despite the fact many have looked to works prior to the sixteenth century to learn from, what was really being suggested was the need to stay with literature from that era in order to avoid error. I tire of this. I know, God only spoke in the wake of posted theses and attempts at theocracy. I have read and enjoy many form that era, and others as well.

Growing up with the obligatory “revival” seasons in an SBC church led to the regular reference to be a good “watchman.” The reference from Ezekiel found a new context – guilting people to tell “lost” people they must heed the “word of God” or face judgment. The goal of course was to avoid being held accountable for the blood of the guilty for failure to warn. I admit we must do some warning. There is little doubt we need to warn. The question remains, “Of what do we warn?” In those revival meetings “evangelists” warned of the evils of individual sin. The standard fare was a diatribe against the evils of alcohol, the pitfalls of promiscuity and the harmful effects of rock ‘n roll and “R” rated movies. Eventually we would hear about wounded relationships but this really formed more of a footnote as opposed to a headliner.

Treating the text of Ezekiel in this way is akin to treating church history as only residing in the sixteenth century; mining it for our presuppositions. Or, we may say, an idea in search of a text. Now surely those who hold to a “high” view of Scripture would never succumb to the temptation to eisegete. Yet, those who came traveling through championed the “inerrant, infallible” word of God only to lift the valuable metaphor from the clutches of the work of the prophet so we could motivate with guilt and fear.

So, exactly how does Ezekiel 3 and Ezekiel 33 read? In the first instance where the metaphor of a watchman is employed God tells Ezekiel he is sending him to the “House of Israel.” The second reference records the charge for Ezekiel to tell the people to appoint watchmen for themselves. If we approach the text reading the story of Ezekiel with the history of Israel and the people of God as the backdrop, we may conclude (read, “must” for you who require certitude as an evidence of conviction) one of the chief task of the prophet was to speak for God to the people of God charging them to live as the people of God before the peoples of the world so God’s blessing might be both expressed and experienced “in the world.”

Now, to make the watchman metaphor work for modern evangelistic crusades requires universalism. The text assigns Ezekiel’s task to the “House of Israel.” It is not a call to the Babylonians, it is to the people of God. There really is no good way to hold a “high” view of Scripture and make the metaphor found in Ezekiel work for “evangelism.” The people of God have lost their way and what it means to be the people of God in the world. Welcome to our world.

We need to appoint people to be watchpeople among us to remind us constantly to be the people of God. Criticize what you may of many of the “emerging church’ movement, but one consistent message I heard oft repeated is the need for the people of God to be the people of God. This means we warn. We warn of injustice in the church. We warn of injustice practiced among the people of God. We warn of an indifference to poverty. We warn of the perils of materialism. We warn of a latent racism in the church. We warn of an all too often overt racism in the church. We warn of the indignities produced by intense individualism. We warn of neglect. We warn of the insular nature of the “mega” and the “techno.” We warn the people of God of the crisis to come when we fail to be the people of God. The world misses the blessing of God. We bid safe passage to Hell.

We can no longer afford to misconstrue the text … regardless of what we come to the Scripture holding …

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.