September 24, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 18:15-20

Epistle Lesson; Romans 13:1-10

Sermon Text; Ezekiel 33:7-11

A few preliminaries before we look at our text for today. One of them is this. This weekend serves as the 91st Anniversary of Holy Cross Lutheran Church! Can you believe it was already one year ago, on this weekend, that we celebrated the 90th Anniversary of Holy Cross, when we had our last official worship service on Milwaukee Street? Then, we came here, to this room, and we enjoyed the 90th Anniversary Luncheon together. So, here is what this means. We have now been worshiping in this space for one full year! From the first Sunday in October of last year, all the way until the very last Sunday of September of this year, which completes one full year of worshiping here!

Today we focus on the words from Ezekiel, the Old Testament priest, and prophet.

I have some dates that I want to share with you this morning for us to understand what it was Ezekiel was talking about.

       -The first date is the year 722 B.C. That was the year in which the Assyrians, who were the world super power at the time, came and defeated the northern tribe of Israel. (That was the ten tribes of Israel in the north.) They carried them off into captivity, never to return, again.

       -About little over 100 years went by, and in the year 586 B.C., it was now the two tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, who were carried off into captivity by the world's super power, the Babylonians. Judah was destroyed. Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple was destroyed.

       -Ten years before that, Ezekiel, the priest and prophet had been carried off into captivity. Nebuchadnezzar, who was the king of the Babylonians, did this. He took the king into captivity, and the high ranking officials, so that a rebellion would not rise up.

So, here is Ezekiel, the priest and prophet, in captivity. And, he is writing a message to God's people, who were still back home, in Jerusalem and Judea. Initially, it was a message, or warning. “If you do not repent of your sin, this is what is going to happen. You are going to be carried off into captivity. Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, and the temple is going to be destroyed.”

But, it is while Ezekiel was in captivity, Jerusalem did fall. His message changed from a message of warning to a message of encouragement, and hope. “Because that already happened I want you to know you have hope. You have a loving God and you have a forgiving God.”

       -In the eight chapters prior to our text, Ezekiel spent time talking about the nations around Israel. “This is what is going to happen to you.” But now, God tells Ezekiel “I want you to focus on your people.”

That gets us to our text for today, which is taken from Ezekiel, chapter 33, looking at verses 7 – 11.

As for you, son of man, I have appointed you to be a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you are to warn them from me. When I say to a wicked man, “Wicked man, you shall surely die,” if you do not speak to warn the wicked man against his way, that wicked man will die because of his guilt, but I will also hold you responsible for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die because of his guilt, but you will have saved your life. So you, son of man, say this to the house of Israel. This is what you are saying, “Certainly our rebellions and our transgressions weigh upon us, and because of them we are rotting away. How then can we live?” Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Instead I take pleasure if the wicked turn from their way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why should you die, O house of Israel?”

This is God's Word.

In ancient days, walled cities were a very important thing. Now, most people did not live in those walled cities. Most people didn't work inside those walled cities. They lived outside of the walls and they worked outside of the walls. But, up on top of the wall was a watchman or watchmen, who would look off into the horizon to see if an enemy was approaching, or if an invader was coming. If the watchman saw someone advancing, he would get out what was known as the 'shofar', which was 'a hollowed out ram's horn'. He would blow the warning so that people could come running into the walled city. They could close the gate, and be safe. They would be preserved.

So, let's say this. Let's say an enemy was coming. The watchman does his job. He blows the horn. The people come in, and they are saved. Well, the watchman was saved, but the people were saved, as well.

Now, let's imagine if this were to happen. Let's say the watchman looks out into the horizon. He sees the enemy approaching, but he does not sound the alarm.

God here says not only would the people outside of the wall perish, but the watchman would be held accountable, as well, because he did not sound the warning.

Maybe, to put it into present day terms, think in terms of a tornado siren, or a hurricane forecast. Imagine you are a meteorologist who sees a tornado is coming, or you see that a hurricane is coming, and you sound the alarm. What are people to do? They are to go to the innermost, lower room, so that they can be safe. Or, they are to seek shelter, and protection, so they are saved. So are you.

But, now let's say you are the meteorologist, and you know a tornado is coming, or you know a hurricane is coming, but you think, “Oh, it won't hurt the people. It will go on a different track, so I won't warn them, this time, because people always think a meteorologist is wrong.”

If the meteorologist says, “I am not going to warn them this time”, the people don't know the upcoming danger. So, what happens? The people perish because they didn't seek cover.

God tells Ezekiel that he is a watchman, and he is to sound a warning because his people, God's people, were sinning against Him.

God's Word also tells us today that we are watchmen. Parents at home, you are watchmen. Teachers at school, you are watchmen. Pastors at church, you are a watchman. The boss at work is a watchman. Government officials are watchmen. If people are in leadership positions, and they see something that is wrong, they should sound the warning to let people know about what is taking place. That is why what happened a number of years ago at Penn State was such a travesty, when one of the assistant football coaches, Jerry Sandisky, did what he did. The head football coach didn't do anything about it. The athletic director didn't do anything about it. The president of the institution didn't do anything about it. That is why Joe Paternal was fired. That is why Tim Connely, and his contract weren't renewed. And that is why Graham Spanner, the president of the institution resigned, because he realized he didn't do what he was supposed to do. They saw wrong, and they turned a blind eye.

God, in our text for today, tells Ezekiel, as a priest and a prophet, that he is a watchman. He is to tell the people of the upcoming dangers.

Well, instead of looking for the danger, Ezekiel was to listen for the danger, and listen for the enemy. Do you know who the enemy is? The enemy wasn't the Assyrians. The enemy wasn't the Babylonians. The enemy was sin. Sin was the enemy of the people. It was Ezekiel's job, and his position to point out the sin of the people. If they listened, he has won his brother over, and he saved them from death. But, if he doesn't warn them, he is just as accountable, as they are.

Now, you might be looking at our text for today, and say, “Pastor, where is the specific law in our text? Where is it?” In a sense, you might say, “It's not there”. The reason is because of this phrase. In Catechism Class, with the Seventh and Eighth Graders, we talked about 'Sins of Omission'. A 'Sin of Omission' is 'not doing what you are supposed to do'. That is the sin Ezekiel is pointing out in our text for today, 'Sins of Omission'.

If you know somebody who is doing something that is wrong go, and talk to them about it. It is a 'Sin of Omission', Ezekiel is talking about. That means we are just as guilty, as the person who is sinning, if we don't go, and talk to them about their sins.

The people in Ezekiel's day were so cut to the heart that they said,

“How then can we live?”

“How can we live? Here is the doom, and destruction you were telling us about. We didn't listen to you, and now our city is destroyed. Our temple is destroyed. How, then, can we live?”

Ezekiel has some good news he wants to share with the people. Do you hear it in our text for today? Do you see God in our text for today? Do you see Jesus in our text for today? Well, He is there, because in verse eleven it says,

The Lord God declares, “I take no pleasure in your death”.

Oftentimes, as I am preparing for a sermon, I will look in our catechism to see if the portion of scripture I am looking at is a 'Proof Passage' in our Catechism. One of the 'Proof Passages' in our Catechism is the last verse in our text, Ezekiel 33:11. It is found under this question:

“Does God want anyone to be condemned to eternal death?”

The answer is, “No”. Here is the answer in the Catechism.

“God does not want anyone to be condemned, but desires that all should come to Him and live.”

Then it shares verse eleven, from Ezekiel 33,

“As surely as I live, declares the Lord God,

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Instead I take pleasure if the wicked turn from their ways

and live.

Turn back, turn back from your evil ways,

for why should you die,

O house of Israel?”

Then a second 'Proof Passage' is 2 Peter 3:9.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise.

He is patient with you,

not wanting anyone to perish,

but everyone to come to repentance.”

Then it says you have to go back, and see one more question. Go back to the very first question in the book, in the Catechism. The question is,

“What is God's Will?”

The answer is,

“God wants all people to be saved

and to learn from Him what to believe and do.”

The Proof Passage there is another familiar one from 1st Timothy, 2.

“God wants all to be saved

and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

You see Ezekiel was talking about the importance of being a watchman. If you see somebody sin, point it out. And, when Martin Luther was looking at the portion of scripture he wrote, “Since this is my duty to be a watchman, I will point out sins, not only of the poor, but also of the rich, and rebuke them for these, without paying attention to their complaints, when they say, 'Look here. You are defaming me.' For if I held back, I would make myself guilty of your sins.”

Then, he concludes with this sentence. “Why should I go to Hell for you?”

And so, there is a warning there, as a watchman holding on to God's Word. If we see someone who is sinning, to point out their sin. Now, that is not a very popular thing to do, is it? But if I don’t do it, I am just as guilty as they are.

The people were cut to the heart. They said, “How then can we live?”

That is when Ezekiel changed his message from warning, and changed it to encouragement. He changed it to hope. God says, “I take no pleasure in your death.” God takes no pleasure in your death, and this is not talking about physical death. It is talking about spiritual death, which is separation from God for all eternity. God takes no pleasure, when people are separated from Him for all eternity.

So, you know what God did? In His grace, and in His mercy, and in His forgiveness, God 'built a bridge'. And, in His grace, and in His mercy, and in His forgiveness, God saved us from death, so that we wouldn't be separated from Him for all eternity. He did that when

He sent His Son.


-who is full God,

-truly God,

-100% God,

lowered Himself to also become a human being.

       -Jesus took our place. Jesus lived for you and me.

       -Jesus was beaten for you and me.

       -Jesus was crucified for you and me.

       -Jesus rose from death for you and me, because God takes no pleasure in your death. It is through Jesus, our Savior, that you and I receive God's grace, and His mercy, and His forgiveness. Instead of receiving destruction and separation, we see life, and eternity with Him in Heaven.

So, you are called to be a watchman. I am called to be a watchman.

At the very end of his epistle, James, in The New Testament simply closed by saying this, which ties in with our text.

“If one of you should wander from the truth,

and someone should bring them back,

remember this.

Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their ways

will save them from death

and will cover over a multitude of sins.”

Thanks be to God for the forgiveness of sins that He has given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let us be watchmen for Jesus!