The Watchman

Do you want your life to be delivered from pain, suffering, or death? This is a good question that everyone needs to ask themselves. Most would say, “Of course!” Isn’t this what we do as we navigate our lives? I’d say we spend a lot of time doing just that. If we want to be delivered from a crisis, sometimes we need ample warning. In ancient times, this warning came from someone known as a watchman.

The first time we see mention of a watchman in Scripture is in 2 Samuel 13:34 after Absalom killed Amnon for raping Tamar; the watchman saw many people coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. Due to an inaccurate report, David feared that all of his sons had been killed by Absalom. It turned out that only Amnon was dead and David’s other sons had fled for their lives from Baal Hazor; they were seen by the watchman as they returned and David was informed of that.

In 2 Samuel 18, a watchman who was on the roof of a gate reported to King David that he saw two men running; the second man brought news of Absalom’s death. In 2 Kings 9, a watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel and saw a company of Jehu. In response to that, two horsemen were sent separately to ask Jehu if he was coming in peace. According to the report of the watchman, neither of them returned. Upon hearing this, Joram gave orders to get ready to fight. After giving this order, he left to determine the seriousness of the situation. We can see that the report of this watchman was a warning about what he saw coming to the city from afar; this caused a response by the leaders in the city.

Based on Isaiah 21, a watchman kept track of the time. Generally, a watchman warned of danger that approached the city from afar and gave warning so that the people had time to respond to possible physical threats. Ezekiel 33 explains that when the watchman saw the sword coming upon the land, he blew a trumpet and warned the people. This trumpet was a shofar, usually a ram’s horn. Whenever the people heard the shofar, they were supposed to heed the warning so they could escape with their life. If someone did not heed the warning and a sword came and took him away, he would be responsible for his own death (his blood would be on his own head).

Ezekiel 33 explains the responsibility of a slightly different kind of watchman—the spiritual kind. Ezekiel was to hear a word from YHVH and pass that warning onto the people; in other words, Ezekiel was YHVH’s shofar. The job of the watchman is the responsibility of the prophet.

If YHVH spoke to the wicked to tell them they were going to die, Ezekiel was to warn the people so they would turn from their evil way. If they refused to quit sinning, they died in their iniquity. Because Ezekiel warned them, his own soul was spared.

If the people heard Ezekiel’s warning, and asked how they could live, Ezekiel was to tell them to turn from their evil ways, and to do what is lawful and right. If someone was righteous and then committed iniquity, he too, would die in his sin because he turned away from righteousness; he committed apostasy instead of continuing to do what was lawful and right. Ezekiel was basically telling them not to think we have a bank account in which the good can outweigh the bad in order to have life. YHVH will judge all of us according to our own ways.

Recently, I heard someone teach that Ezekiel 33:12 refers to self-righteousness and not obedience to the law. It says, “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: `The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’ If I understood correctly, this person was trying to say that self-righteousness doesn’t bring life just as much as wickedness doesn’t. He interpreted the words “his righteousness” as self-righteousness, and believed that the passage switched back and forth between God’s righteousness and self-righteousness; this is not correct. I think Ezekiel 18:18-20 helps us to see what “his righteousness” means by looking at the opposite scenario.

Ezekiel 18:18-20 says, “As for his father, Because he cruelly oppressed, Robbed his brother by violence, And did what is not good among his people, Behold, he shall die for his iniquity. 19 “Yet you say,`Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Note how Ezekiel 18:18 refers to the wicked man’s iniquity as “his iniquity.” This is the iniquity the man himself committed. In a similar fashion, when Ezekiel 33:12 refers to “his righteousness,” it is pointing back to the lawful and right things someone did by keeping and observing all of YHVH’s commandments, statutes and judgments.

Ezekiel 33:18 uses the same phrase, “his righteousness.” Again, YHVH is not referring to self-righteousness here (doing what’s right in a man’s own eyes OR following the traditions of men); it says if someone turns from doing righteousness (the written law) and commits iniquity, he will die because of it. The key to life is to shema YHVH; we are to listen and obey His commandments. This shows we know and love YHVH.

If there is still any question, we can look at a few more verses from the Brit Chadasha (New Testament):

  • 1 John 3:4: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
    This is the definition of sin; it’s Torah-lessness.
  • Matthew 13:41-42: “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 “and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
  •  Matthew 7:19-23: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

YHVH and Ezekiel are not telling the people anything new. In Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses told the people: “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments (mitzvah), His statutes (chuqqah), and His judgments (mishpat), that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” Obedience was and still is the will of the Father!

Eventually, Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon. Some people still remained in Jerusalem until it was captured in the 12th year of their captivity. Prior to this, Ezekiel had been mute but when a man who had escaped Jerusalem came and told him of the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel’s mouth was opened and he was able to speak. The people remaining in the ruins of the land of Israel felt they still deserved the land that had been given to them as a possession. The problem was that they had not been obeying YHVH’s commandments. They had been eating meat with blood; committing idolatry and sexual immorality; shedding blood; and committing other abominations in the land. They did not deserve to remain in the land of Israel; in fact, YHVH intended to have them die by the sword; by being devoured by wild animals; or by pestilence. Because of their disobedience, they suffered the curses of the law Moses warned them about. Note that three of these behaviors that caused cursing are the same things that the Jerusalem council told the new Gentile believers to avoid in Acts 15:19-21. These gave the Gentile believers a place to start until they learned to obey the rest of the Torah they heard each Sabbath in the synagogues.

Ezekiel was not the only watchman for Israel; there were many others and there are even watchmen today who share the same responsibility Ezekiel did. Unfortunately, people respond to them the same way people responded to Ezekiel; they thought Ezekiel’s words sounded wonderful but they did not do what he told them. Please don’t make the same mistake.

Now I want to further explore the meaning of the message of the watchman; normally, this is referred to as a call for repentance. All of the prophets preached repentance including John the Baptist, Yeshua, His disciples, and Paul so we need to know exactly what that is.

Shuv is the Hebrew word for repentance. Two Greek equivalents are seen in the Apostolic Polyglot.

  • epistrepho – to turn back, to return, revert, be converted, be restored.
  • apostrepho – to turn away (from) or turn back.

These Greek words are present in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) but are not translated as “repent.” Usually, they are translated as “turn,” or “be converted.”

When we see the word “repent” in the Brit Chadasha, it is usually translated from the Greek word “metanoeo” which means to think differently or reconsider. It is similar, but does not carry the exact meaning that the translation “repent” has in the Tanach (Old Testament). That’s why we see passages with “turn” or “be converted” which relate to what repentance is in the Tanach.

Here are several examples of verses with these words. Let’s begin with verses from the Tanach:

  • Isaiah 6:10 (quoted in Acts 28:27): “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return (H: shuv; G: epistrepho) and be healed.”
  • Jeremiah 25:5: “They said,`Repent (H: shuv; G: apostrepho) now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers forever and ever.”
  • Ezekiel 18:30-32: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent (H: shuv; G:epistrepho), and turn (H: shuv; G: apostrepho) from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn (H: shuv; G: epistrepho) and live!”

The theme is turning away from evil and returning to lawfulness; there was no other standard for repentance in the Tanach (Old Testament). This is the same theme Yeshua fully preached (plero-o) from the Law and the Prophets!

Now let’s look at verses from the Brit Chadasha. As you read them, apply the correct definitions.

  • Matthew 3:1-2: “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent (metanoeo), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” They knew they didn’t just need a change of heart because they repeatedly asked John, “what shall we do?” in order to turn. John’s responses were based on Torah.  They understood that faith in God without works of righteousness is dead; they needed to prove their metanoeo and faith by doing what’s right.
  •  Luke 13:3: “I (Yeshua) tell you, no; but unless you repent (metanoeo) you will all likewise perish.” Yeshua was trying to get the people to understand that matanoeo was the beginning of what it takes to avoid perishing.
  • Luke 22:32: “But I have prayed for you (Peter), that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned (G: epistrepho) to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Yeshua knew that Peter would deny Him in a time of weakness and fear, but He also knew Peter would return to Him.
  • In Acts 3:19, Peter spoke to the crowd at Solomon’s Porch saying: Repent (metanoeo) therefore and be converted (epistrepho), that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
  • Acts 3:26: “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away (apostrepho) every one of you from your iniquities.”
  • Acts 11:21: “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned (epistrepho) to the Lord.”
  • Act 26:17-20: “I (Yeshua) will deliver you (Saul) from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn (epistrepho) them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent (metanoeo), turn (epistrepho) to God, and do works befitting repentance (do righteousness; obey commands, statutes, and judgments of YHVH).” Note that lawlessness is equated with darkness and the power of Satan while righteousness is equated with light and God.

Some describe repentance as making a U-turn; they say it means to stop sinning and start doing right. From a Greek New Testament perspective, repentance (metanoeo) is to have a change of heart; however, that needs to be combined with apostrepho and epistrepho to capture the full meaning of the Hebrew for repentance. In other words, not only do people need to change their hearts, they need to turn away from Torah-lessness (lawlessness) and turn to Torah-fulness (lawfulness); that’s true conversion or repentance. If they don’t, they are just turning away from obvious wickedness and turning to self-righteousness; this would be turning to the traditions of men; doing what’s right in the own eyes; or an unholy mixture (syncretism) of paganism and Torah. The correct meaning of repentance must be maintained throughout the Scriptures or cursing and death will result as people attempt to put that meaning into practice.

I still see Christians have a huge problem putting that full definition into the correct perspective. A few problems exist:

  • Most Christians refuse to accept the Scriptural definition of sin. As mentioned previously, based on 1 John 3:4, sin is lawlessness (Torah-lessness). Righteousness is lawfulness; it’s obeying YHVH’s commandments, statutes, and judgments.  The definition didn’t magically change from the Old to the New Testament.
  • They misunderstand Colossians 2:14; the law itself was not nailed to the cross. Our trespasses (the “bill of charges” or “handwriting of requirements” that were against us) were wiped away or removed from us, and nailed to the cross!
  • They reject Romans 7:12: “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good.” We need to see it that way!
  • They ignore Romans 3:31; this teaches the law has not been abolished because of faith.
  • They overlook James 1:25 and James 2:12 and don’t realize that according to Psalm 119:45, liberty is a result of seeking (and obviously obeying) YHVH’s precepts. James 1:25 says, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 2:12 says, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”
  • They’ve been brainwashed with an improper interpretation of Romans and Galatians which results from a lack of the proper foundation of Torah; the lack of the correct cultural and historical background of that time; and generations of repetitive errant teaching. Before this can be addressed, they need to accept the positive things Paul said about the law, and repent of rejecting the law, so their hearts will be open to discover what he really meant.

There’s no question what will happen to the wicked at the judgment, but what will happen to Christians if they don’t figure this out? Consider these verses:

  • Revelation 2:5: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works [what’s lawful], or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place– unless you repent.”
  • Revelation 3:1-3: “These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”  If they were told to repent, their imperfect works equate to Torah-lessness.
  • Revelation 16:9,11 “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory… 11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
  • Matthew 13:41-42: “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 “and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
  • Matthew 7:19-23: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”  Good fruit and the will of Yeshua’s Father is righteousness, not lawlessness.

From the beginning of the Scriptures to the end, it is clear that lawfulness (righteousness) as defined by Torah brings life. Yeshua confirmed that when a rich man asked Him what he had to do to in order to have eternal life. The first thing Yeshua told him in Matthew 19:17 was to keep the commandments; if something else had been more important, that would have been his first reply. Yeshua told him being perfect required more.

Don’t think in terms of which commands to follow. Take time to study all of them; keep them all before you in their proper context; and learn the principles behind them so you can make proper application. They are not too hard for you; they are your life.  It’s the traditions of men that were “too hard” to bear.  Yeshua’s yoke is Torah; His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Shed the old wine skin or mind-set that rejects Torah; create a new one to put the correct interpretation of Scripture (that embraces Torah) in. Seek truth; walk in the Spirit; and don’t give in to the desires of the flesh.

Remember what Yeshua said in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

The narrow gate is repentance; the way which leads to life is righteousness.

Listen to the sound of the shofar!

Go; as you obey, walk out your salvation with fear and trembling.

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