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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

28 February 2006

Warning the Wicked

Q: Ezekiel 33:8 says, “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” My question is about this part of the verse: “His blood I will require at your hand.” What is meant by this statement?

I Have Set Thee a WatchmanA: The answer comes from earlier verses of this chapter as well as Ezekiel’s original commission from God. In chapter 33, the Lord named Ezekiel Israel’s “watchman,” called to warn the people of the consequences of their sin. God gave His own words (“O wicked one, you shall surely die”) to Ezekiel to speak on His behalf. The verse in question warned the prophet that while each sinner was responsible for his own sin (“that wicked person shall die in his iniquity”), Ezekiel would be blamed if he didn’t speak God’s warning (“his blood I will require at your hand”).

If Ezekiel remained faithful, the Lord promised that the prophet would avoid the sinner’s fate: “If you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not ..., that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. (v. 9)” While God spoke to Ezekiel, the intent remains for all whom God calls to proclaim His Word. Every pastor, each Christian teacher, all Godly parents — anyone to whom the Lord has given spiritual oversight — should heed the warning.

Watchman, Pastor, and FatherThus, as pastor and religion teacher, my call includes warning the sinners (i.e., each of the members) of Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Congregation to repent and abandon their sins, lest each “die in his iniquity.” As a Christian parent, God also charges me to bring up my children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)”

With these warnings against sin, Godly pastors, teachers, and parents also proclaim and model grace and forgiveness, for the Lord willingly and completely forgives the one who repents: “If he turns from his sin ... he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live. (Ezekiel 33:15-16)”

Watchman graphic from Looking unto Jesus.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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