Looking at Leaders

Ezekiel 33: 7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

Last week I summed up a rather long text with one verse from the New Testament. This week I will do the same. Hebrews sums up Ezekiel’s warning by saying, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Hebrews identified the leaders as those who bring the Word of God.) Like Ezekiel, they had the obligation to follow God’s direction. God commanded Ezekiel to “tell it like it is.” Black is black, not white, neither is it gray and it isn’t up for a vote. It doesn’t matter if it is popular or not or whether or not anyone wants to hear it.

God called Ezekiel a watchman. Now a watchman is not a captain with all kinds of authority, but he is a man of responsibility. Picture a fortified town like there were in the medieval times. A watchman stands on the wall or a tower and his duty is to stay alert and be watchful. At the first sight of an enemy or a stranger approaching he calls out to the captain of the watch.

Now imagine an army approaches and the watchman sees it. But… if he calls out, this will worry the captain and the other guards, it will terrify the citizens and upset the king. It will disturb the king’s casual life style. So, he says nothing. And the town is not ready, the walls are not guarded, the gate is not closed and the bridge is not raised. And the foreign army moves in practically unopposed!

If you think about it, that is a pretty good picture of the USA today. Think of this hymn: My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring!

First of all, do you think those pilgrims would be proud of America today? Remember how super religious they were and straitlaced. Secondly is this the sweet land of liberty? Are you really free to speak your mind and truly share your faith the way we did decades ago? BLM? You can’t say, “All Lives Matter” or these fanatics will try to destroy you, yes even shoot you down in cold blood. Maybe you can say that here in this church or even in this county but what did the hymn say? From ev’ry mountainside! (meaning all over America!) Try saying that in Minneapolis or Chicago or New York City!

Why has it come to this? Because the watchmen have failed to sound the alarm. Almost 60 years ago I was the religion editor of the college newspaper and I had the chance to interview the Episcopal bishop of central Florida. He was disturbed about his church because they were overlooking problems. (they were not being watchmen!) He was really to sound the alarm by leaving that denomination. I lost track of him but that church has changed drastically since that time. There were not enough watchmen to make a difference.

A couple of days ago an old LCA friend called me. We were close friends in the 70’s when the LCA was still in existence. That changed to the ELCA which he joined. Later he and others sounded the alarm and now he is part of the LCMC. Still that alarm was sounded too late. The bridge was still down and the gates were still open (to stay with the medieval concept)

Divorce has gone from very rare to very common. Abortion from illegal to barely legal to now even post term. Language has deteriorated. What was once gutter talk or locker room language is now everyday language and ever so common in the movies. Some of you may have had catechism decades ago when Gosh and Golly were not be to spoken because some pastors felt these were code names for what is now unashamedly and commonly used. Not everyone who calls out, “Jesus Christ!’ is praying to Him!!!

Jesus says, “You shall be My witnesses.” We can rephrase that to match our text. “You shall be My watchmen.” He also said. “Whoever confesses Me before men, him shall I confess before My Father who is in heaven.” But like our text He also added, “But whoever denies Me before men, him shall I deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

St Paul says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming “Back and forth, changing winds.” That is what we see now. Yesterday it was bad. Today it is good. Yesterday it was good. Today it is bad. What is a person to believe?

We believe what our text says, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from Me.” We are to hear and believe the Word of God.’ Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall come and pass away but My words will never pass away.”

Now our text is about the Law but Jesus spoke both Law and Gospel. There is a time for both. The Law must be preached to sinners who are not sorry for their sins. The Gospel must be reached to sinners who are sorry for their sins.

So in what condition do you find people? Smug, self-assured? The Church is wrong, old fashion and out of date? They are espousing things we know are against the Bible? Then we are to tell them plainly and without apology what the Word teaches! They are sorry about their sins? They are confused? They are searching for answers? Then we approach them with the Gospel!

And it is the Gospel that wins people over for “faith cometh by hearing the Word of Christ.” And “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salivation to everyone who believes.”

Now part of that Gospel is: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” We cannot be ashamed to say that either, for maybe 2000 years ago all roads led to Rome, but not all roads lead to God.

I believe this also includes the idea that we must not look the other way at our own members or other Christians when they misuse the Word of God.

So, son of man, daughter of man, watchmen and watchwomen “so hear the word I speak and give them warning from Me.” And as St Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” And maybe that could be tied to what St Paul said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman who need not be ashamed.” How can you be a watchman if you don’t know what you are looking for?


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