God warns Ezekiel that he must share God’s words or face severe consequences; Jerusalem is destroyed.
Ezekiel Chapter 33
Lessons from the text
We Are All Responsible In this chapter, God makes it clear that the man who has been called to share God’s word is responsible for the souls of the people; if he fails to share what he has heard from God, he will be judged according to the sins the people commit. If we fail to do what God has called us to do, God will judge us according to the consequences of our failure to do His will.
If you are told by the Holy Spirit to witness to your neighbor and fail to do so, God will hold you accountable for any sins that your neighbor commits. This is because if you fail to witness, if you fail to share with others the saving power of Christ, then you have denied that person the opportunity to be saved. This is no light matter. Every action God asks of us, no matter how small it may seem, has eternal consequences. If that thought scares you, you are having a healthy response to truth; this is the fear of the Lord that Scripture encourages (Heb. 10:31, Prov. 1:7, 28:14, Deut. 6:24, Ps. 25:12, 128:1-4).
This fear reminds us that life on this earth is not about us; it is about helping our neighbors, selflessly giving of our time and hearts to help those around us. This can be as simple as smiling. After all, you never know when a smile may bring the conviction in another’s soul that turns that person to Christ. Every Christian can fulfill this purpose of God by being completely surrendered to the Holy Spirit; when a Christian is truly obedient to every instruction of the Holy Spirit, then he is God’s hands, feet, and mouth to the living, showing the lost how to come home.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1 Leaving the judgments against the nations from the previous chapters, God gives Ezekiel an analogy to help the Israelites understand Ezekiel’s role towards them.
2-6 The watchman’s purpose is to warn the people of a coming danger. If he fails to warn the people, he is responsible for any harm that comes to the people. If he warns the people and they ignore the warning, then the people are responsible for their own harm because they did not believe the watchman. In the same way, if a man of God fails to proclaim God’s word, then he is held responsible for the sins of the people, but if he warns the people and they do not listen, then the people are responsible for their own sins. It is an extremely serious matter to serve God; once called to be a servant to God, one is the spiritual watchman of the people. Such is why a preacher should hold the utmost humility and seriousness to his calling and why the congregations should hold the utmost respect and give the utmost attention to the preacher.
7-9 God expands the analogy. The person who is ignorant of his sin will be judged as wicked, and Ezekiel will be held responsible for failing to warn him that he was in sin. The person who hears Ezekiel but fails to turn from sin will be judged as wicked, but Ezekiel will be clean in God’s eyes. Compare with James 4:17 and Romans 10:14-15.
10a God pleads with Israel. Now that Jerusalem is about to fall, God knows that the Jews will become aware that they are under God’s judgment; the Jews will wonder if there is any escape from God’s wrath. God addresses this legitimate concern before it arises by stating that He does not desire to pass judgment; God would much whether see them repent and live. Jerusalem has not yet fallen, yet God addresses the emotional stresses that the people will experience. The Father says that He hears His people’s prayers before they are spoken (Isa. 65:24). How amazing is God who prepares a cure before the illness! How He provides for the needs of His saints!
10b-11 Each person determines his own eternal state, whether it will be eternal death in hell or eternal life in heaven. A person determines this by either continuing in a state of sin or turning away from wickedness by surrendering to the righteousness of God through Christ’s atoning blood. See Romans 10:1-13.
12-16 God plainly states that if one sins, one will die the death of the wicked, regardless of whether or not one was righteous in the past. Likewise, one who repents from one’s evil will be die the death of the righteous, regardless of whether to not one has sinned in the past.
17-20 The people complain that God is unjust for condemning a person who was righteous but later committed iniquity. In response, God repeats that He will judge each person according to that person’s ways; if a man dies in his sins (has committed a sin and did not repent of it), then he is judged as wicked, and if a man dies having repented of all of his sins, he shall live. This is just because God will forgive any man who asks for forgiveness and will not forgive any man who does not desire forgiveness; to ignore God’s plan for forgiveness by failing to repent is to willingly choose evil over good, to choose damnation over eternal life (I Jn. 1:9, Isa. 1:18, 43:22-28, Deut. 30:19-20, Heb. 2:3).
21-22 According to God’s prophesy, Ezekiel’s mouth is opened so that he can once again speak freely (Eze. 3:26, 24:25-27).
23 The people arrogantly believe that they are more important than Abraham because they are many and Abraham was only one man; they falsely believe that their bloodline is the foundation for receiving the inheritance of the promised land; in reality, faith is the prerequisite, for by faith Abraham obtained the promise (Rom. 4:13-16).
24-27 Falsely believing their righteousness with God to be secured, the people have lived a careless life; believing God will bless them, they do not consider that God will judge them if they do wickedly. Because they have sinned, God will pour out His wrath on the nation, giving them over to other nations and to the land itself (they are now susceptible to diseases and attacks from wild animals).
27-29 God repeats that He passes judgment to humble the prideful and make people aware that He is the true God (Eze. 32:15).
30-31 Despite how clearly God explained the importance of listening to the man of God, the people reject Ezekiel’s words and refuse to repent (v. 9). Compare with Isaiah 29:13. 32-33 The people listen to Ezekiel with hardened hearts; they hear him with their ears but do not take to heart anything he says. Compare with Ezekiel 20:49 and Isaiah 6:10.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word. Please comment below to share what you learned from today's lesson.