In the previous article’s text (Ezekiel 33:2-6), the expectations of an appointed watchman are outlined (like a guard looking out for an incoming army that was invading an ancient city, or a sentry guarding a military post today).
Now, it might seem unfair that the watchman warns the people, but sometimes they are still killed by the sword. Sometimes, we want the happy ending, where everyone is OK. But verses 4 and 5 make it clear why some of those who hear the warning are still lost:
then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.
Ezekiel 33:4-5 NIV
Why did some of those who were warned still lose their lives? Because they didn’t listen and do something about it. As mentioned in the previous article, I think that the shofar would have been audible throughout the city, but hearing a warning and taking action are two different things.
When the shofar was sounded in an ancient city, I think of running away from a superior force as being a logical response. However, at least one of the commentaries I reviewed also suggested the idea of the soldiers in the city getting ready to defend it. If they get their armor and grab their weapons when they hear the warning, they may overcome the invading force. If they ignore the warning or delay their reaction to it too long, they will be overrun all the more easily.
Here’s a question for you: When you hear the local tornado siren going off (if you live in a region that gets tornadoes and has warning sirens), do you immediately go to the basement, or do you flip on the TV to see where the storm is currently at (and where it’s going)? Or, do you go out on the porch to see if you can spot the tornado coming?
I admit that I would probably prefer to go out on the porch to look for the storm if I was out in the country. In the city, it’s harder to see what’s coming, but I probably won’t take the family to the basement unless the red spots on the weather map are heading right for our city.
Tornadoes are nothing to mess around with, though. If you saw that one was heading right for your house, you’d really need to get to the basement or some other safe place. Like me, you’ve probably seen the aerial videos of houses that have been hit by a tornado, turned into what looks like matchsticks, and while the odds of having a specific house struck by a tornado, it’s foolish to ignore the warnings when they are clear and specific to you.
Still, we sometimes think of warnings as trivial or unimportant. We are probably “over-warned” these days, including a lot of trivial things that will never apply to us. In fact, I’ve heard that having a long list of potential side effects in those medication commercials on TV makes the risks appear smaller (a little “mental advertising trick”).
However, there’s a big difference between the risk of a new drug causing occasional headaches, and an impending disaster that is almost certain to cause us major bodily harm. It bothers me when rescue workers have to risk their lives to save people who refused to get out of the way of a natural disaster for no other reason than their own stubbornness. (It is easier to have compassion for those who were unable to hear or understand the warning, though, or who stayed to help others.)
When an invading army is coming, and the watchman sounds the warning, those who hear it need to do something about it if they can, or whatever happens to them will be their own fault.
Note how verse 6 indicates that sin is the cause of people getting killed. As we learned about previously, the person who sins is the person who will die (see Ezekiel 18:4). God does not have any obligation to keep on warning sinners about the consequences of their sins…yet He still continues to do so (more on that later in this chapter).
So, if you or I hear an important warning, we would do well to heed it. I am not advocating that you worry about things, like becoming overly concerned about every study (or purported study) about what foods are good and bad for you: many of those are so vague and contradictory as to be useless for making personal decisions.
Instead, when you receive a reliable warning that you – your body, mind, or soul – is in danger, I hope that you will not only listen, but also do something about it. This warning might be a lesson that you learn from the Bible, or it might be your conscience. Or, if there’s a tornado coming to your house, please get to safety!
From Sunday School lesson prepared for September 4, 2022
- The Lookout, September 4, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.