Ezekiel 33 • God's Watchman


One of life’s lessons as a parent or friend is that you cannot make someone else’s choices for them. Regardless of having given the most wise, loving advice possible, it’s up to the listener whether or not to put that advice into actual practice to make the “right” choice or to pursue their own agenda.

Paul personalizes this phenomena when he states in Acts 20:26-27, “Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” Paul is stating that to every person with whom he came into contact he shared the truth of the Gospel so that whether or not they listened and applied God’s Word to their life they are without excuse. Paul knew he couldn’t “save” anyone – only Christ can do that; Paul’s job was to ensure that he, personally, had performed his responsibility of communicating the truth.

There’s a curious description in 1 Chronicles 12:32 revealing an interesting role of some of God’s chosen people, “Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command.” Amongst a rolling inventory of tens of thousands of warriors enrolled through the various tribes of Israel we find these men who knew what Israel should do; however, it was still Israel’s choice as to whether or not to follow the terms of such knowledge. The responsibility was in the communication of the knowledge which was no substitute for the people’s responsibility to listen and put it into practice.

As it turns out, this is not a new concept in the “job description” of God’s followers.

Read verses 1-6

Q: What is God’s watchman looking out for?

A: According to v.2 & 3 it’s the coming of God’s judgment.

Q: So what is it that God’s watchman has to be alert for and able to detect?

A: The signs of the coming of God’s judgment. (Note: “Signs” does not equal specific dates and times but rather the fact that there’s still time to repent, to act on the information.)

Q: Therefore, what is the role of God’s watchman?

A: To warn of God’s judgment.

Q: Is this limited to JUST End Times judgment?

A: No. This should also encompass personal judgment, extending into the area of personal accountability for each other. It includes bringing attention to God’s judgment for behavior and/or choices contrary to God’s expressed will, warning that one’s choices or behavior will ultimately lead to disastrous results.

Read verses 7-9

Q: What results does God guarantee for the watchman?

A: None as far as the effects of the watchman’s message, only that it fulfills the watchman’s personal responsibilities.

Q: Therefore, how can we measure our effectiveness as God’s watchman?

A: By our obedience to communicate His message in every situation, to everyone possible. The result is entirely in God’s hand.

Read verses 10-11

Q: Is our role as God’s watchman limited to just non-believers?

A: There is an emphasis in this passage on the accountability of believers. After all, believers would be more tuned in to understanding the significance of warnings concerning the signs of God’s judgment. This role is more of a believer-oriented function rather than evangelism, a call to restore the good relationship one once had with God.

Q: Is there anything that a believer cannot be forgiven by God? Is it ever too late to repent?

A: No. Time and time again God has demonstrated that He relents in immediately executing judgment in order to allow an opportunity to return to Him.

Read verses 12-16

Q: What is the only guarantee that God is providing to both the righteous and the wicked?

A: Salvation through obedience.

Q: Does a lifetime of compiling mounds of sins make salvation impossible?

A: No.

Q: Does a lifetime of righteous acts guarantee automatic entrance into God’s kingdom?

A: No. The lesson for both is obedience.

Read verses 17-20

Q: Can we blame our church, organization or circle of friends for our sins, our failure to be obedient?

A: No. If we’re in a bad environment or running with the wrong crowd, it’s still up to us to run back to God for own sake.

Q: Can we obtain righteousness by associating with a good church, organization or circle of friends? Does our association with righteousness “rub off” on us?

A: No. We have no excuse because we are personally accountable to God and even being in a good environment with righteous friends will not shelter us from our personal choice while amongst them.

Q: Do we sometimes feel held back from a personal commitment to action because we’re waiting on someone else or for the group to “catch up” with us?

A: [Open for group discussion. The point is that we are first and foremost personally responsible to act in the best interests of our relationship with God.]

Read verses 23-26

Background: This refers to the remnant left after the final destruction of Jerusalem that came to Jeremiah seeking God’s direction, but in reality had already made up their mind as to what they were going to do.

Q: What was wrong with their reasoning?

A: They did not see things the way God sees them in terms of spiritual quality being more important than earthly quantity.

Q: Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the people carried off as God had pronounced. But why was judgment not over?

A: The purpose of judgment is to either change hearts or destroy those hearts that can’t be changed. The remnant demonstrated that they had not learned any of the lessons from God’s judgment. They were like children who “took” their parent’s spanking but did not change their behavior as a result of it.

Read verses 30-33

Q: Were the people coming to Ezekiel because they saw him as the source of God’s Word?

A: No. This was another form of idolatry. Instead of kneeling before their idols they were kneeling before the man.

Q: So in our role as God’s watchman, is it enough that people hear us and even come to church?

A: No. The goal is to point them beyond ourselves to God and to get them to examine the condition of their heart.

(If Leading a Group Study: Do as many of the following as time will allow.)

Read vMatthew 24:42-44

Q: What is the result of being a “good” or “bad” watchman according to this passage?

A: Protection or destruction of one’s personal house; it’s keeping one’s own life in tact by not being surprised when judgment finally comes upon us.

Read Matthew 24:45-51

Q: What’s the chief difference in the role of the watchman in this passage compared to the previous?

A: The previous passage dealt exclusively with one’s own “self” or house; this one involves those for whom we’ve been made responsible by God.

Q: What is the role of the watchman in this example?

A: According to v.45 it’s the proper feeding of the household.

Q: What is the result of being a “good” watchman according to this passage?

A: The good watchman has provided “food at the proper time”. Note how many times “food” is equated with God’s Word throughout the Bible and its association here with being given at the “proper” time, meaning the watchman is attentive to the life and needs of those being ministered to.

Q: What are the characteristics of the “bad” watchman?

A: In v. 48, he knows that time will eventually run out but thinks he has time to do things his own way (he has knowledge but no obedience), and in v.49 abuses the relationships of those in his charge and engages in spiritually bad relationships.

Q: What is the end result for the “good” vs. “bad” watchman?

A: Reward (v.47) vs. judgment (v.51)

Read Matthew 25:1-13

Q: How does the role of the watchman differ in this passage from the previous two?

A: Whereas the previous two deal with our life in the days leading up to Christ’s return, this one deals directly with His actual return or appearance.

Q: What is the difference between the “good” and “bad” watchman?

A: One is prepared, the other is not. The “good”, through their personal preparedness by building a life whose focus and resources are wholly devoted to God, are not taken by surprise by the Master’s return and in need of something they have no more time to obtain.

Matthew 25:14-30

Q: Given our theme of “God’s watchman”, summarize the lesson taught in this example.

A: God has given to each one gifts and ministry for which everyone is accountable – personally, not collectively. Whether God will cause a large, medium or small return to come from its investment is not my concern – only that I am responsible to “invest” it.

Read Matthew 25:31-46

Q: How is the main viewpoint different in this passage from the previous four?

A: This is final judgment. The time leading up to Christ’s return is gone and now the rendering of final judgment for being a “good” or “bad” watchman is clearly portrayed.

Q: What is similar in the actions of the “good” watchman in this passage as compared to the same in Matthew 24:45-51?

A: We are being judged in how we have responded to others, whether we have applied our efforts to communicating God’s message through our actions.

Q: What is the chief characteristic that differentiates the “good” from the “bad” watchman in this example?

A: The “good” watchman makes every effort to reach everyone that comes across their path; the “bad” is making a distinction. Whether or not the recipients of the “good” watchman’s ministry in turn accept Christ personally is not at issue – it’s that the “good” watchman, like Paul, never passed up an opportunity for ministry and did not “hold back”.


In every example the work of the watchman is to be personally ready, discerning of the signs of God’s judgments, but more importantly carrying out the most critical tasks of everyday living in His kingdom: Loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves. In the end we will have done everything required of us by God to minister at every opportunity.