Isaac Cline worked as chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service station in Galveston, Texas. Now, if you’ve been following the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, you know where Houston, Texas lies; you recognize how devastating the flooding gets there. Well, the city of Galveston lies just southeast of Houston, situated literally in the Gulf of Mexico. It looks like a little sandbar and lies just nine feet above sea level. When Isaac Cline arrived in Galveston, he was so sure that no hurricane would ever touch this booming city that he publicly spoke against the need for constructing a seawall.
Well, a few years after his confident assumption, a ship began sending reports of a tropical depression pushing west across the Caribbean islands. A few days later, the island of Antigua warned of a strong tropical thunderstorm. Soon, meteorologists stationed on Cuba warned of a category-4 hurricane (with winds whipping up to 145 miles-per-hour) heading westward towards San Antonio. Isaac Cline received these reports; Isaac Cline disregarded the reports. He believed the storm would boomerang to the northeast. But it did not. When the hurricane warning flags were finally raised in Galveston, it was too late. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in United States history. About 12,000 people lost their lives because Isaac Cline failed to warn the people of the approaching danger.
When you are the watchman who has news for life, you become responsible for the lives of others. Isaac Cline had information that could have saved lives, but did not share that information until it was too late and too much life was lost.
On this Christian Education Sunday, God asks you: How dedicated have you been at being my watchman? Much of our society remains comfortably uninterested in eternity. It can happen that even you and I grow unconcerned about what beliefs have entered our hearts. God gives you his Word and God Makes You His Watchman so that you may warn against sin and share God’s grace.
In verse 7 God says: Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. There it is; you see whom God addresses: Son of man. In this setting God speaks to his prophet Ezekiel— a man, someone’s son. Yet, these words are not only meant for him; our gospel reading connects these words to you. Matthew 18:15 reads: If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault. God no longer talks to Ezekiel; he speaks directly to you.
You are “sons” and “daughters” of man. That is saying more than: “You have a mom and a dad.” Being a “son of man” reminds you that you are different from a “son of God.” You are mortal. Your life has a beginning and an end. People who are mortal have a job: you are watchman.
In ancient times, a watchman marched along the towering city walls, scanning the region for any sign of danger. The very instant he caught a glimpse of the enemy marching towards the city, he blasted the trumpet, warning the military to take up arms and alerting citizens to take cover. (1) The watchman recognizes danger. (2) He sounds the alarm. (3) He does everything in his power to keep people safe— because he holds people’s lives in his hands.
Yet, God does not instruct you to climb a wall, march around, and scan the horizon for invaders. He explains what you, as a watchman, do. Hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. The ‘Word’ God has spoken are the Words that make up the Bible. The Bible teaches this one reality: one day you will stand before God Almighty. It can happen at any moment. You may close your eyes in death today and meet your Maker. Or your Jesus could rip the heavens open, slam his golden throne down on this earth, and send out hundreds of thousands of angels across the entire world to gather all people before him. Only those who cling to the saving work of Jesus are able to stand before him without fear.
You know this message, right? You learned it in Sunday School, in catechism class, in Sunday sermons, and in Bible class. And if you heard this message, then it means God has spoken his Word to you. And if God has spoken his Word to you, then it means God has Made You a Watchman for the special task of warning against sin.
Yet, why you? Out of all the people on earth, why are you made a watchman? I mean, you didn’t sign up for this, did you? After all, that’s Pastor’s job. You pay him to talk about Jesus and heaven and hell with people. No one’s paying you to approach a friend about their lifestyle. In the end, it’s really none of your business, right? If someone wishes to be an alcoholic and dabble with drugs, then that’s their right. If your son wants to live with his girlfriend outside of marriage, then he should be free to do so! If your child doesn’t want to worship, but still believes there is a God, then that’s good enough. If your friend thinks worshipping God out in nature is enough to enter heaven, then who are you to say otherwise? Why meddle? Why warn against sin?
Do you want to know why? Because God has Made You His Watchman. He makes you responsible for the spiritual lives of others because he has put his Word into your life. You have the knowledge of what is going to happen on the Last Day. Not everyone knows. Not everyone is overly concerned about eternity. When [God] says to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and [God] will hold you accountable for his blood. The devil has led much of present-day society to label exposing sin as “judgmental.” Quite frankly, the devil just wants no one to point out sin so that more will join him in hell. And if he can get you and me to say nothing, then he has won.
My friends, the reason to warn against sin is not to look morally better than someone else. The reason to warn against sin is not to shame others. The reason to warn against sin is not to pat yourself on the back for not struggling with the same addiction and habit as someone else. The reason to warn against sin is to warn against the eternal consequences of sin! To warn against eternal death separated from God in hell.
God Makes You his Watchman so that you can warn against sin. God is serious about punishing sin. Yet, as serious as he is about removing sin, God Makes You his Watchman so that you can share his grace.
“Grace” means “undeserved love.” God hands youa message of warning so that people may avoid judgment. Yet, for all those times you did not want to sound judgmental, all those times you turned a blind eye to a lifestyle you know was wrong, God would have every right to judge you.
Yet, your Sovereign Lord [declares], “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” You God wants all people saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and so he sends Jesus. Jesus does not ignore your failures; he suffers for them. He dies for the times you are too ashamed to warn anyone of God’s judgment. He suffers your judgment in order to stand you before God his Father forgiven!
The reason God has Made You His Watchman is for you to share his grace. Yes, you! You may be an elderly watchman—70, 80, 90-years-old or older! If you ever ask yourself: “Why am I still alive? What does God want me to do?” then find a purpose for life in our verses. God makes You His Watchman!
Just think of it—you have worshipped God for 70, 80, or 90 years—and you still come here! Why? Don’t you know everything already? Don’t you already believe in God? Don’t you know the Christmas and Easter stories forwards and backwards? Don’t you know all about heaven and hell? Of course you do! And yet, you realize that trouble does not go away as you get older. You still need to hear that God will not send you to hell because of the foolish choices of your youth. You still need to hear that God is in control of the world— including wars and natural disasters. You still need to cling tighter to grace— to be sure that God forgives you free of charge! You have worshipped here for years because you want to be reminded against and again just how much God loves you.
So, what can you do at your age and at your stage in life? There are those who think they already know everything the Bible has to teach. God uses you (and your life experience) to encourage those younger than you to remain in worship. God is using you as his watchman to share his grace with your fellow believers.
Maybe you are an empty-nester watchman. The kids are no longer kids; they are adults. Your son grew up, got married, lives right around the corner, and has a family of his own—with children who have yet been baptized! Your sister once worshipped with you. She lives five miles away, but doesn’t make Sunday a priority anymore. She travels around Michigan on the weekends. She stays up late Saturday night and sleeps in Sunday mornings. She worships with you only when the family is in town. Perhaps you ask your child: “Where’s God in your life?” As his mother, you want to see him in heaven. You’re afraid by the things he has said and the way that he lives that he considers forgiveness to be “fluff” and “unnecessary.” Tears well up in your eyes because you did not raise your child this way.
What do you do? Sound the warning as the Watchman God has Made You. God instructs: 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. Do you see the job God gives you? God does not say: “You must turn him from his ways.” He simply says: “You warn.” God assures you: If you warn and they ignore you, you are not guilty for their unbelief. As long as that child or sibling or friend is in your life, God uses you as his watchman to share his grace.
Your kids may be growing up right now. If God has made you a parent, then it means God has made you responsible for the wellbeing of that child. So, you take care of them. You feed them, take them to school, enroll them in events; you shower them with so many blessings. Yet, as parents, you want your child to want to come to worship. You want child to spontaneously wake up early Sunday morning and come here. And sometimes they do— and what a blessing it is to see the Holy Spirit move their hearts in this way! Sometimes they don’t— and what a responsibility you have to crush the devil’s temptation raging in their heart to despise worship.
As parents, sometimes you may have to make children come to worship with you. I would love for Clara to want to get shots because they keep her healthy. But she’s five-years-old. She does not want shots. I know shots are best for her wellbeing— and while she may not like me for bringing her to the doctor, I bring her to a person who will help her life.
You bring your child to worship so that they can know Jesus better. If you desire for your child to want to worship, then talk about worship. What did you hear in the sermon that stuck out? How does it apply to what your family faces now? How does it give you comfort? Share it! Explain why you are here (when their friends are sleeping at home). Why do you worship in this church (and not somewhere else)? Explain to your child how God’s Word lights up the path to eternal life. Be the Watchman God makes You as you share the love of Jesus with your child.
Isaac Cline had information that could have saved lives, but did not share that information until it was too late and too much life was lost. You have information that leads to eternal life. While this world continues, it means you have time to warn against sin. Sin is rebellion against God. It tries to remove you from him; it seeks to throw you in unbelief. It is that serious.
Yet, as serious as God is about punishing sin, he more serious to forgive sin. He uses the Bible to tell you: “You are forgiven.” Forgiven by his grace, his undeserved love alone. Use the time you have now to share his grace with young and old and family and friends.
Be the watchman God makes you. Someone to warn that unbelief results in hell. Someone to warn against sinful lifestyles. Someone to share God’s forgiveness. Someone to share the joy of growing closer to God. God Makes You His Watchman to warn against sin and to share God’s grace.
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