The Watchman's Burden

“Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.” (Ezekiel 33:2–4, ESV)

The watchman has two primary burdens: to watch and to warn, and those who scan the horizon watching for the earliest signs of trouble perform a critical service for their community. The watchman needs a high observation platform, good eyesight, an attitude of alertness and knowledge of what an enemy activity might look like. He might also take advantage of intelligence — reports of imminent threats or the probable approaches of the enemy.

In a way, the watchman has the cruelest job. He does not get the satisfaction of looking at a completed project after his workday. Instead, he must motivate himself to remain alert through long hours of boredom, scanning this same horizon over and over, hoping to see nothing — yet desperate to be of use. And although his presence on the watchtower might give the citizens comfort, his words give them distress — because they are often a call to arms! So, if he raises the alarm in truth, he causes distress for his people (albeit appropriately). But if he misses the approach of the enemy, then he is at fault for not sounding the alert.

If the watchman were hypersensitive, however, he might sound the alarm too early or too often, and such a person loses credibility. He can be seen as the Boy Who Cried Wolf — or better yet — Chicken Little scrambling around in manufactured panic. So, finding and maintaining the proper tone for a voice of warning is no mean task, and some very accomplished people have suffered from this lack. You see, the watchman must continually guard his speech, lest he confuses his community, and here is why.

When a carpenter dines with a group of friends, it is obvious that he is not building a house. During dinner one does not look at the carpenter and wonder, "Is he building a house?" That would be silly since he is simply eating and talking. For a watchman, however, the scenario is forever different. Since his craft involves watching and speaking by way of warning, he must guard all his speech so that his casual conversation will never be confused with an official call to arms. In this, a carpenter enjoys his casual conversations more than does the watchman — the person to whom we look for information.

Today’s world has many watchmen, persons whom we trust to scan the horizon and watch for trouble. In the secular world, they might be statesmen, journalists or philosophers. In the religious world, they might be pastors or high-profile Christians. But the watchman’s job actually belongs to every Christian, because every Christian should know his Bible — and the Bible is God's intelligence briefing. As such, a Christian knows better what to look for than the secular watchmen who cannot understand spiritual threats. Therefore, every Christian carries the watchman’s burden. We must judge carefully, and we must guard our speech to maintain its credibility.

Since Satan’s hordes dwell among us, today’s watchmen must proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is both the warning and the solution to every person's greatest threat — hell. Hell is on the horizon; it is approaching fast — and it will consume all who have not found shelter in Jesus Christ. If you are saved, then you are the watchman — tell the story! If you are not, find shelter in the Savior today — and I will pray that you do. But the watchman’s power ends there—at the praying, telling and pleading. So, to those who continue to refuse God’s mercy, the watchman can only say, consider yourselves warned.

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