1YHWH’s word came to me, saying:
2Human! Speak to the children of my people, and say to them, “Suppose I am bringing a sword against a country, and the people choose someone from among them and appoint him as a guard. 3He sees the sword coming, and he blows the trumpet (Shofar) and warns the people. 4Someone hears the sound of the trumpet, but he doesn’t pay attention to the warning, and the sword comes and takes him. His blood is on his own head! 5He heard the sound of the trumpet, but he didn’t pay attention, his death is his own responsibility. He could have saved his life. — Ezekiel 33:1-5
Sometimes we can learn important spiritual lessons from the small things of life. â€œOne who is faithful in the smallest thing is faithful also in what is greater; one who is unjust in the smallest thing, is unjust also in the greater thingâ€ (Luke 16:10). I think that principle can be applied both ways. The large spiritual lessons can also be applied in our daily lives in little things. In fact, if we apply the big spiritual lessons in our daily lives, we’ll find that when the large spiritual conflicts come up, we are in practice and we apply the right thing as a matter of habit.
Anyone who has performed an important task under pressure knows the importance of good habits. When I was in the Air Force there were moments in my job when dozens of things had to happen almost at the same time. If I stopped to think about those things, and order my priorities at that point, I would never get done what was necessary. But when those moments came, I had practiced so many times in various simulations and exercises, in times of less pressure, that I did what was necessary automatically. Success didn’t result from brilliance. It resulted from good habits, thoroughly ingrained. In fact, those who know me well know that I don’t like having to make more than one decision at a time.
Ezekiel gives us a kingdom principle in our passage. In fact, he gives us more than one. The first one is the principle of responsibility. You are responsible for your call, for your area of action. He will go on to explain that if there is no alarm given, then it will be the watchman who will be held responsible for the deaths that result. Ezekiel has a great deal to say about the individual in a time of corporate rebellion, because he lived in just such a time.
But I’m more interested in the second one, listening to the warning itself. Note that the warning that is to be given is because God is bringing the sword. This isn’t a warning about random events. It’s a warning to a rebellious country that God is about to take action. The question that God is addressing here is whether people will act when they hear the trumpet sound.
The other day I was driving on Highway 29, and an ambulance came up from behind. Traffic was heavy and nobody was paying attention, so the ambulance was required to weave through the traffic to find a path to keep moving forward. Nobody was listening to the alarm. I pulled off on the shoulderâ€”I was conveniently located in the right lane, and suddenly behind me a dozen or so other cars decided to pull off the road as well, creating a path. I don’t know for sure that I was first, but someone broke the spell and started everyone on the right path in response to the alarm.
There are many things that might make someone ignore an alarm. One possibility is that we get into the habit of ignoring alarms. We’ve heard too many of them, or at least we think we have. Another is that alarms are a bother. After any tornado or even after hurricanes, there will be someone who didn’t heed the alarm to evacuate. Some may have stubbornly decided to ride out the storm. But others will simply have waited until it was too late. The first hurricane I experienced after moving to Pensacola was Hurricane Erin. I dithered about leaving town. I had the money, my vehicle prepared, and a good place to go, but I didn’t want to do it. Finally I decided to leave. I managed to get about five miles from home and realized that the hurricane was going to hit before I made it out.
In our daily lives there are constant warnings. Some we pay attention to. Others we don’t. When we get into the habit of ignoring warnings, however, we can come to the time when the storm is coming and it’s too late for us to move.
In our spiritual lives, if we constantly reject warnings that God sends us, we can get into the habit. Then when the big spiritual storm comes, we’re likely to hold off on any action until it’s too late.
Are you in the habit of hearing the trumpet?