Ezekiel 33

This morning I didn’t feel much like reading, especially not the book of James that I’m go slowly through with the help of a study guide. Instead I opened my bible randomly at Ezekiel 33 and a few things jumped out at me:



In verses 1-6, the Lord explains a metaphor, that a watchman is charged with the security of fellow citizens. Should the watchman blow his trumpet to warn of approaching danger and others ignore him, those who die are responsible for their own deaths. But should the watchman see danger and not blow his trumpet, he is responsible for their blood, having prevented his fellow citizens from saving themselves. In verse 7 the Lord charges Ezekiel with this duty: 


“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, the wicked man will die for his sin and you will be accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.”

For me this is a sober reminder to Christians to share the Gospel, God’s saving power for all people, or be responsible for the blood of the world.

I do, however, want us to remember the context here – that Israel was already God’s people and as God’s people they were called to a standard of behaviour (and sacrifice to cover where they had not) to remain inside his covenant relationship. No one in the world can today be saved by following the law given to Israel (and nor were the Israelites – they were saved first and told to obey second). As such God is not calling people to a standard of behaviour but to turn back to God and be in relationship with Him, enabled by Christ’s sacrifice paying for our sin.


No pleasure in death

Verse 11:

“Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”

I saw an atheist accuse God of ethnic cleansing on TV the other day. The God of the Old Testament is, in their view, barbaric, evil and arbitrary in His judgement and takes pleasure in smiting people. As such they view Him as having a lower standard of morality than their own. And as Christians we often cringe, perhaps thinking they might be right. But here we see the God of the Old Testament saying what we see in the New Testament, in 2 Peter 3:9:


“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

We can see that in the previous section about watchmen – the Lord provides a warning so that people can turn back to Him. If all He wanted to do was smite, He’d smite without warning. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New.


Then they will know

Ezekiel is written as Israel is in exile – Jerusalem has fallen to the Babylonian empire.


v24: “Son of man, the people living in those ruins of the land of Israel are saying ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the [promised] land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’

In other words, ‘we shouldn’t be in exile – we should be in our land because we have the strength (in numbers) to defend it’. In v25-28 the Lord details their rejection of Him (not keeping the law, worshipping idols, relying on their strength rather than the Lord’s, infidelity) and his punishment for that sin:


” … those who are left by the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured and those in the strongholds and caves will die of a plague. I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end …”

Why? v29:


“Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of the detestable things they have done.”

Again, the LORD’s punishment is not for his pleasure, it’s for Israel’s instruction, that they would repent and come back to Him. For the world we see is not all there is – it’s better to endure correction, training and suffering in this world and turn to the LORD than to live in pleasure but ignorance of God.

The other thing that struck me was a thought – ‘How can they not know that the LORD is the LORD?’. After all, this is the same God who took them out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land. Then I remembered the time difference and checked the dates – the exodus from Egypt was in around 1440 BC and Ezekiel is written during the exile in 593BC – it’s almost 1,000 years between these events. And it pays to remember that not even the Israelites who were personally saved in the exodus from Egypt remembered and honoured the Lord – they made a golden calf and worshipped it, and didn’t trust the Lord that they would safely enter the promised land (hence their 40 years in the desert). And so this is a reminder for me – just as the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day were to remember what the Lord had done for them, so are we to remember what Christ has done for us. For 2,000 years is not long in biblical history and as Peter says:


“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”