(Editor’s Note: This (late) daily devotion is written by Christiaan, one of the board members of TDMI, as William is currently hospitalized. Your prayers for his speedy and complete recovery are appreciated).
Son of man, give your people this message: ‘When I bring an army against a country, the people of that land choose one of their own to be a watchman.When the watchman sees the enemy coming, he sounds the alarm to warn the people. Then if those who hear the alarm refuse to take action, it is their own fault if they die. They heard the alarm but ignored it, so the responsibility is theirs. If they had listened to the warning, they could have saved their lives. But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.Ezekiel 33:2-6 (NLT)
Ezekiel is in a pickle. It’s 605 b.c. … ish. God has given him a message to the Israelites. They’re not going to like it. If they ignore his message it’ll get a lot worse for them. But if they listen, they could be saved. It would be much easier if they would just do the right thing from the beginning but Israel isn’t in exile by choice. They’ve continually rejected the prophets the God has sent them.
What is Ezekiel to do? if he tells the people the truth of what happens, how will they respond? Will they get angry? or potentially worse, will they ignore his warning?
It seems to me that there are few worse things than when you KNOW what will happen, and you warn an individual not to do something, they do it anyway, and the consequences are the same if not worse than what you had warned. As someone who often finds himself in that position, I hate being right, and I often question if I made the right decision, if I wasn’t clear enough. If MAYBE, I had said something else, or worded it a different way, maybe they would have made a different decision. This type of guilt can disable a person. ESPECIALLY if the consequences have lasting effects and affect other innocent people.
So, right after God tells Ezekiel to let the Egyptians know that they’re all about to die, and before Ezekiel calls out the leadership of Israel (again). God gives a message to the Israelites about Ezekiel, which doubles as a form of reassurance to Ezekiel. He’s telling the Israelites that they need to listen to the watchmen that he gives them, and it’s not the watchman’s fault, they can’t blame Ezekiel for the consequences of their actions. But in the same way God is telling Ezekiel, that so long as Ezekiel is giving Israel God’s message, then it’s not Ezekiel’s fault. All he has to do is be obedient, and it’s up to the Israelites to do the right thing, and if they don’t they’re responsible for their own consequences.
But what do we do when we aren’t directly given words by God to speak to a situation, but we’ve been thrust into a situation where there is no clear direction? How can we share the warning, information, or even inspiration in a way that doesn’t alienate people? I know that there have been a number of times, I’ve shared a truth, I felt needed and called to share, but my method turned people away from it. In situations like that, I think we could look to a scene that takes place in the middle book of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Two Towers. If you’re not familiar with it there’s a scene that takes place at a castle type structure called Helms Deep. A major protagonist, Théoden, king of the country of Rohan, has retreated to this keep which had never been taken by enemies. The stakes, couldn’t be higher. They’re outnumbered thousands to one, they’re undertrained, way less prepared, and if they fail, all of Middle Earth will fall to darkness and evil. In the afternoon before the battle this conversation happens between Théoden and another character named Aragorn. Théoden is speaking in a slightly louder voice then normal as they walk throughout the castle as his subjects are preparing the defenses.
Théoden: “They will break upon this fortress like water on rock. Saruman’s hordes will pillage and burn, we’ve seen it before. Crops can be resown. Homes rebuilt. Within these walls, we will outlast them.
Aragorn: “They do not come to destroy Rohan’s crops or villages. They come to destroy its people. Down to the last child!”
Théoden (his voice in an intense whisper): “What would you have me do? Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread. If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end as to be worthy of remembrance!”Théoden to Aragorn, The Two Towers (Movie)
“What would you have me do?”
Théoden’s response is a great example because Théoden walks a balanced line between giving people a hope that isn’t false and obsessing with the despair of their current situation. This balance brings him into conflict with Aragorn, who doesn’t think that Théoden is taking this seriously enough. Aragorn, has seen the army coming to destroy them and Théoden hasn’t. Aragorn has Théoden’s people and Théoden’s best interests at heart, but ultimately the decision was up to Théoden with how to act.
A great comparison is in the movies when Théoden sees the hordes of Isengard and his reaction
and that of Denathor’s reaction at the hordes of Mordor.
Like it or not, we are thrust into situations we aren’t prepared for, without all the answers, and no clear directions. God in his message to Ezekiel makes it clear what our responsibilities are, while Théoden gives us a great example of balance in sharing a hard truth in an inspirational way, without deceit.