Listen—Jehovah’s Watchman Speaks!
“A watchman is what I have made you to the house of Israel, . . . and you must warn them from me.”—EZEKIEL 3:17.
1. Why listen when Jehovah’s “watchman” speaks?
JEHOVAH’S “watchman” is speaking God’s message right now. Are you listening? Your very life depends on your responding to that message with appreciation and action. Soon, ‘the nations will know Jehovah’ when he sanctifies his holy name by destroying this wicked system and preserving his people. Do you hope to be among them? (Ezekiel 36:23; 39:7; 2 Peter 3:8-13) You may be, but only if you listen when Jehovah’s “watchman” speaks.
2. Failure to listen to God’s prophets resulted in what for the kingdom of Judah?
2 Failure to listen to God’s prophets brought disaster upon the kingdom of Judah in 607 B.C.E. Enemy nations gloated over that desolation at Babylonian hands. But how Jehovah’s name was glorified when he maneuvered the return of faithful Jews to their homeland in 537 B.C.E.!
3. What does the book of Ezekiel contain?
3 Both that desolation and the restoration were foretold by Jehovah’s watchman, Ezekiel. The Bible book bearing his name and completed by him in Babylonia in about 591 B.C.E. contains (1) Ezekiel’s commission; (2) prophetic enactments; (3) messages against Israel; (4) forecasts of Jerusalem’s judgment; (5) prophecies against other nations; (6) restoration promises; (7) a prophecy against Gog of Magog; and (8) a vision of God’s sanctuary. We invite you to read the book as we study it. You will thus see how it affects us today and you will be listening as Jehovah’s “watchman” speaks.*
God’s Watchman Commissioned
4. (a) What did Ezekiel behold in vision? (b) Who were the “living creatures,” and what qualities did they possess?
4 On Tammuz 5, 613 B.C.E. (in the fifth year of Judean king Jehoiachin’s exile in Babylon), the 30-year-old priest Ezekiel was among Jewish captives by “the river Chebar,” a notable canal of the Euphrates River. In vision, he beheld Jehovah’s celestial chariot, attended by “four living creatures.” (Read Ezekiel 1:4-10.) Each ‘living creature,’ or winged cherub, had four faces. (Ezekiel 10:1-20; 11:22) These indicate that the cherubs possess God-given love (the man), justice (the lion), power (the bull), and wisdom (the eagle). Each cherub stood beside a huge ‘wheel within a wheel,’ and God’s spirit, or active force, was able to move them in any direction.—Ezekiel 1:1-21.
5. What does the celestial chariot represent, and how should this view of it affect Jehovah’s people?
5 The chariot Rider was a glorious representation of Jehovah. (Read Ezekiel 1:22-28.) How well the chariot represents God’s angelic spirit organization! (Psalm 18:10; 103:20, 21; Daniel 7:9, 10) Jehovah rides it in the sense of dominating these creatures and using them according to his purpose. The Rider was calm, like the accompanying rainbow, but Ezekiel was overwhelmed. Surely, this awesome view of Jehovah’s glory and power as the Supreme Organizer of his heavenly hosts should make us humbly grateful for the privilege of serving him as part of his earthly organization.
6. (a) What appointment did Ezekiel receive, and how did he view service to God? (b) Among people of what kind was Ezekiel to prophesy, and of what benefit is it to know how God dealt with him?
6 Though reminded of his human origin and lowly estate by being called “son of man,” Ezekiel was appointed as Jehovah’s prophet. (Read Ezekiel 2:1-5.) Ezekiel would go to “rebellious nations,” the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. First, by divine command he ate a scroll containing dirges, but it tasted like honey because he was grateful to be God’s prophet. Similarly, anointed Christians and their fellow servants find it sweet to be witnesses of Jehovah. Ezekiel was to prophesy among hardhearted and hardheaded people, but God would make his face as determined as their faces, his forehead as hard as a diamond. He would prophesy boldly whether they listened or not. It is heartening to know that as God upheld Ezekiel in difficult circumstances, He will help us to bear witness courageously in any territory.—Ezekiel 2:6–3:11.
7. Ezekiel’s commission entailed what responsibility?
7 Eating the scroll produced in Ezekiel ‘a rage of spirit’ appropriate to its message. At Tel-abib he dwelt ‘stunned for seven days’ digesting the message. (Ezekiel 3:12-15) We too need to meditate and study diligently to comprehend deep spiritual things. Having a message to declare, Ezekiel was commissioned as God’s watchman. (Read Ezekiel 3:16-21.) The newly appointed watchman was to warn lawbreaking Israelites that they faced divine execution.
8. Who serve as Jehovah’s “watchman” today, and who are associated with them?
8 If Ezekiel failed as a watchman, Jehovah would hold him responsible for the deaths of victims. Although those not wanting him to administer reproof would put figurative cords upon him, he would boldly declare God’s message. (Ezekiel 3:22-27) In our day, Christendom refuses to listen and tries to impose restraints upon anointed Christians. But since 1919 these anointed ones have served as Jehovah’s “watchman,” courageously declaring his message for this system’s “time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Associated with them in this work is an increasing “great crowd” of Jesus’ “other sheep.” (Revelation 7:9, 10; John 10:16) Since the “watchman” class keeps speaking God’s message, surely every one of the anointed and the “great crowd” would want to declare it as a regular publisher.
9. (a) How did Ezekiel set an example for us? (b) What did Ezekiel do to depict the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and what was denoted by the 390 days and the 40 days?
9 Ezekiel next enacted prophetic pantomimes with humility and boldness, setting an example that should move us to carry out God-given assignments humbly and courageously. To depict the Babylonian siege, he was to lie down facing a brick on which he had engraved a picture of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was to lie on his left side for 390 days to bear the error of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, then on his right side for 40 days to carry the sin of two-tribe Judah. A day stood for a year. So the 390 years ran from the founding of Israel in 997 B.C.E. to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. Judah’s 40 years ran from Jeremiah’s appointment as God’s prophet in 647 B.C.E. to Judah’s desolation in 607 B.C.E.—Ezekiel 4:1-8; Jeremiah 1:1-3.
10. How did Ezekiel enact the effects of the siege, and what lesson can we learn from the fact that God sustained him?
10 Ezekiel next enacted the effects of the siege. To denote famine, he subsisted on just over eight ounces [0.2 kg] of food and about a pint [0.5 L] of water a day. His bread (an unlawful mixture of wheat, barley, broad beans, lentils, millet, and spelt baked over dung) was unclean. (Leviticus 19:19) This action showed that Jerusalem’s residents would suffer great privation. But how heartening it is to know that just as Jehovah sustained Ezekiel under difficult circumstances, God will help us to remain faithful and fulfill our preaching commission in the face of all hardships!—Ezekiel 4:9-17.
11. (a) What actions are mentioned at Ezekiel 5:1-4, and what was their significance? (b) The fact that God fulfilled Ezekiel’s enactments should have what effect on us?
11 Using a sword, Ezekiel next shaved off his hair and beard. (Read Ezekiel 5:1-4.) Those dying of famine and pestilence would be like the third of the prophet’s hair that he burned in the midst of Jerusalem. The war dead would be like the third struck with the sword. Survivors would be dispersed among the nations like the third of his hair scattered to the wind. But some exiles would be like the few hairs taken from that scattered portion and wrapped in Ezekiel’s garment to show that they would take up true worship in Judah after the 70-year desolation. (Ezekiel 5:5-17) The fact that Jehovah fulfilled this and the other prophetic enactments should move us to trust in him as the Fulfiller of prophecy.—Isaiah 42:9; 55:11.
12. (a) Ezekiel 6:1-7 indicates that invaders would do what? (b) According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, what is antitypical Jerusalem, and what will happen to her?
12 In 613 B.C.E., Ezekiel addressed the land to indicate what would befall Judah’s idolatrous inhabitants. (Read Ezekiel 6:1-7.) Invaders would wreck the high places, incense stands, and altars used in false worship. The very thought of devastation by famine, pestilence, and warfare would make one cry “Alas!” and emphasize this by clapping the hands and stamping the foot. Dead bodies of spiritual fornicators would litter the high places. When Christendom, antitypical Jerusalem, suffers similar destruction, she will know that her calamity is from Jehovah.—Ezekiel 6:8-14.
13. What was “the rod” in Jehovah’s hand, and what was to result from its use?
13 ‘The end was coming upon the four extremities of the land,’ Judah’s unfaithful religious system. A “garland” of calamitous things would encircle an idolater’s head when “the rod” in God’s hand—Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian hordes—acted against Jehovah’s people and his temple. Those belonging to Judah’s “crowd” of buyers and sellers would be either killed or taken into exile, and the hands of any who managed to stay alive would drop from faintness. At the overthrow of their false religious system, they would, as it were, shave their heads bald in mourning.—Ezekiel 7:1-18.
14. What was bribery unable to do for Jerusalem, and what does that indicate for Christendom?
14 Jehovah and his executional forces cannot be bribed. (Read Ezekiel 7:19.) Bribery could not save the “concealed place,” the Most Holy, from being profaned as Chaldean “robbers” seized sacred utensils and left the temple in ruins. Jehovah ‘caused the pride of the strong ones to cease’ when King Zedekiah was captured and chief ones of the Levitical priesthood were killed. (2 Kings 25:4-7, 18-21) No, sinners in besieged Jerusalem could not escape adversity by bribery when God ‘judged them’ as covenant breakers. Similarly, during the imminent desecration of things Christendom holds sacred, she will not be able to bribe her way out of the execution of divine judgment upon her. It will then be too late to listen to Jehovah’s “watchman.”—Ezekiel 7:20-27.
Sighing Over Detestable Things
15. What did Ezekiel behold in Jerusalem, and what effect should this have on us?
15 When Ezekiel envisioned God in glory on Elul 5, 612 B.C.E., ‘the representation of a hand took him by a tuft of hair’ and carried him to Jerusalem by the spirit of inspiration. The celestial chariot had also moved there. What Ezekiel then beheld should make us recoil at the very thought of listening to apostates. (Proverbs 11:9) At the temple, Israelite apostates were worshiping an idolatrous symbol (perhaps a sacred pole) that provoked God to jealousy. (Exodus 20:2-6) Entering the inner courtyard, what detestable things Ezekiel saw! (Read Ezekiel 8:10, 11.) How disgraceful that 70 Israelite elders were offering incense to false gods represented by despicable wall carvings!—Ezekiel 8:1-12.
16. Ezekiel’s vision indicates what about the effects of apostasy?
16 Ezekiel’s vision shows how spiritually deadly apostasy is. Why, Israelite women had been talked into weeping over Tammuz, a Babylonian deity and lover of the fertility goddess Ishtar! And what an abomination to see 25 Israelite men in the temple’s inner courtyard worshiping the sun! (Deuteronomy 4:15-19) To God’s nose they held out an obscene twig, perhaps representing the human male organ. No wonder Jehovah would not listen to their prayers, even as Christendom will seek his help in vain during the “great tribulation”!—Ezekiel 8:13-18; Matthew 24:21.
Marked for Survival
17. What seven men were envisioned, and what did they do?
17 Next, we note seven men—one a linen-clad secretary and six others with smashing weapons. (Read Ezekiel 9:1-7.) The “six men” represented Jehovah’s heavenly executional forces, though he could use earthly agents. Those whose foreheads the ‘man in linen’ marked would experience God’s compassion because they were not in sympathy with the detestable things done at the temple. Execution by the “six men” began there with the 70 idolatrous elders, the women weeping for Tammuz, and the 25 sun worshipers. These and others disloyal to God were killed by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E.
18. (a) Who is the modern-day ‘man in linen’? (b) What is the “mark,” who now have it, and in what will possessing it result?
18 The antitypical ‘man in linen’ is the class of anointed Christians. They go from house to house to put a symbolic mark on those who become part of the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep.” The “mark” is the evidence that such sheep are dedicated, baptized individuals with a Christlike personality. They ‘sigh and groan over detestable things’ done in Christendom, and they have come out of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 18:4, 5) Their “mark” will make it plain to God’s executional forces that they should be spared during the “great tribulation.” They can retain that “mark” by sharing with the anointed ones in marking yet others. So, if you have been ‘marked,’ share zealously in the ‘marking’ work.—Ezekiel 9:8-11.
Fiery Destruction Ahead!
19. What does the modern-day ‘man in linen’ scatter throughout Christendom?
19 The linen-clad man went between the wheels of the celestial chariot to obtain fiery coals. These were tossed over Jerusalem, giving advance notice that its destruction would be an expression of God’s fiery wrath. (Ezekiel 10:1-8; Lamentations 2:2-4; 4:11) In Ezekiel’s day, Jehovah’s anger was poured out by means of the Babylonians. (2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Jeremiah 25:9-11) But what about our day? The antitypical ‘man in linen’ scatters God’s fiery message throughout Christendom as notification that divine anger will soon be vented upon her and the rest of Babylon the Great. Of course, those refusing to listen to Jehovah’s “watchman” have no hope of survival.—Isaiah 61:1, 2; Revelation 18:8-10, 20.
20. (a) How should the harmony between the celestial chariot’s wheels and the cherubs affect us? (b) What were some princes doing, and to what did they wrongly liken Jerusalem?
20 Attention is drawn again to the celestial chariot, God’s heavenly organization. Noting the harmony between the chariot’s wheels and the cherubs, we should be moved to cooperate fully with God’s earthly organization. Out of loyalty, we should also protect it from treacherous men. (Ezekiel 10:9-22) There were such men in Ezekiel’s day, for he saw 25 governmental princes plotting revolt against God’s executional forces with Egyptian help. They likened Jerusalem to a caldron, and themselves to flesh safe inside. But how wrong they were! The “sword” of Babylonian “strangers” was to kill some of the schemers, whereas others were to become captives. This was to occur as God held the Jews accountable for breaking his covenant. (Ezekiel 11:1-13; Exodus 19:1-8; 24:1-7; Jeremiah 52:24-27) Because Christendom claims to be in a covenant with God but puts confidence in worldly alliances, she will perish under assault by Jehovah’s executional forces.
21. What happened after Judah’s 70-year desolation, and what comparable development affected the anointed remnant?
21 Though Israelites had been ‘scattered among the lands,’ as in 617 B.C.E., God was “a sanctuary,” or refuge, for repentant exiles. (Ezekiel 11:14-16) But what else could be expected? (Read Ezekiel 11:17-21.) After Judah’s 70-year desolation, a remnant was restored to the cleansed “soil of Israel.” Comparably, after a Babylonish captivity, the anointed remnant was delivered in 1919, and under the guidance of God’s spirit, the once desolate “soil” of spiritual Israel has been cleansed. Hence, those ‘marked’ for preservation are now enjoying divine favor along with the restored remnant of spiritual Israel. And if you keep on listening to God’s “watchman,” you may be among the survivors when Jehovah unsheathes his sword.
As time permits, the conductor should have italicized citations read during congregational study of this article and the two that follow it. Bible highlights in the Theocratic Ministry School can also be drawn from these articles in current studies of the book of Ezekiel.
Do You Recall?
□ Why listen when Jehovah’s “watchman” speaks?
□ What was represented by God’s celestial chariot?
□ Who serve as Jehovah’s “watchman” today?
□ What apostate acts did Ezekiel see in Jerusalem, and how should this vision affect us?
□ Who is the modern-day ‘man in linen,’ and what is the “mark” he puts on foreheads?