In this passage, God appoints Ezekiel as a watchman over Israel. A watchman keeps watch for enemies. If he sees them coming, he warns his people so they can prepare for battle. He may also watch for messengers coming from a battle to give news.
But Ezekiel is to watch for the Lord’s warning of judgment. Ezekiel must warn whomever God says to warn. If Ezekiel does not deliver the warning, God will hold him accountable for the death of the one who has sinned.
The first includes the wicked. Ezekiel must warn the wicked of coming judgment. He is not responsible for the outcome, just the warning. If the wicked repents, he shall live. If not, he will die. As long as Ezekiel delivers the warning, he is not accountable to God. But, if he fails to warn the wicked, God will require his blood of Ezekiel. In other words, God will kill him.
It also includes the righteous. If the righteous person strays from righteousness to commit injustice, he will die for his sin unless he repents. If Ezekiel delivered God’s warning, he is ok. If not, God will require Ezekiel’s death. And, in Biblical terms, “live” means not just physical life, but a full relationship with God, flowing from obedience, along with life in the covenant community.”Die” means estrangement from God and from the covenant community. That separated you from the source of life.
This is all part of the covenant between God and Israel. God set it out clearly in Deuteronomy 30:15-20. Obedience to God mean life and prosperity. Disobedience meant death.
Being God’s prophet is a great honor. But it is also a great responsibility. The prophet must be absolutely true to God’s word. Ezekiel had to reproduce God’s word faithfully and accurately.
I believe a preacher or teacher bears a similar burden. He or she must be absolutely true to God’s word. He or she must also warn people who are lost of God’s judgment, and those who are saved if they stray into sin that God is not please and may bring discipline upon them.
3:22 - 27
After giving Ezekiel an appointment as watchman, God again confronted Ezekiel with God’s glory. He sent Ezekiell out of the settlement and out to the valley or plain. Again God presented his glory as he had in the first vision. Again, Ezekiel fell to his face on the ground. And again, the Spirit allowed him to stand and hear God’s word.
God’s instruction this time is to return to his house and stay silent. (24) In fact, he will be bound with cords so he cannot leave his house and he will be unable to speak. (25) So, God will not only dictate the content of the message, but the timing of it. When God is ready, he will open Ezekiel’s mouth to speak.
Again, God emphasized that some would hear and some would not because they were rebellious.
Remember that Ezekiel is in Babylonia, having been captured in a previous attack on Jerusalem in 597 B.C. The Babylonians took 10,000 Jews captive and removed King Jehoiachin from the throne of Judah (II Kings 24:14-16). Jeremiah was still in Jerusalem. The City was not completely destroyed yet. Daniel had been taken to Babylon.
God gave Ezekiel a drama to act out. Usually prophets preach, but here Ezekiel is to act out a play. In this play, he used a brick to represent Jerusalem. He built siege works against it. He made camps around it. He made a battering ram. He pressed the siege against the city with an iron griddle. It was to be a “sign” for the house of Israel.
This, of course, is an enactment of Babylonia attacking the city of Jerusalem, which did indeed happen. Ezekiel is prophesying the attack. Babylonia will again besiege the city. But, the real attacker is God. He is the power behind the attack. Ezekiel represents God in this play, arranging and setting up the attack. And, he placed an iron wall between himself and Jerusalem. He will not hear any appeals for deliverance. They cannot get through the iron wall. He is set on bringing judgment. Ezekiel cannot mediate for them, just as God would not allow Jeremiah to pray for them.
There will be a final judgment for all people at the end of this age. At that time, there will be no opportunity to repent of sin and commit your life to Christ. Those who have not received Christ’s salvation will be thrown into the “lake of fire”. (Revelation 20:15)