In Ezekiel 33:1-8, just like Ezekiel 3:17-21, God explains the responsibility of the watchman. He holds the watchman accountable to warn the people of coming disaster. For a more thorough explanation, follow the link to Day 243.
Obviously, a watchman must warn. However, when the watchman has fulfilled his responsibility, the focus turns to the response of those who hear the warning. Ezekiel 33:9-20 provides God's explanation of the liability of those who hear His warning.
As we have discussed before, repeated use of a word, phrase or idea in a text indicates the importance of understanding its meaning so that we may follow God's instruction correctly. In these eleven verses, Ezekiel 33:9-20, the Hebrew word translated primarily as "turn" is used ten times. The first use of the word in Scripture is found in Genesis 3:19 where God is speaking to Adam, "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The meaning of this verb, translated as “return” in Genesis 3, is a movement back to the point of departure. Just as Adam started as dust, he will again "turn" to dust. In Ezekiel 33:15, the ESV translates this word as "restores."
With that understanding, let's examine the responsibility of those who hear God's warning. In verse 11, God says "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?" The LORD God says turn, turn, turn. How explicit is His warning? Doesn't it seem obvious the basis of the instruction to return to Him is love? 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says, "God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
In verses 17-20, the people accuse the LORD of being unjust, even though He just said: "none of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him." God says, "I will judge each of you according to his ways." If a righteous man turns to wickedness, he will die. At the same time, if a wicked man turns to righteousness, he will live. In Acts 3:19 Peter said, "Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." God's warnings are a cry for man to return to where we started. God is saying, "Come back to Me, as it was in the beginning, and I will restore you and refresh you."
In Ezekiel 33:30-33, God tells Ezekiel why the people do not heed His warning and turn back. The people will gather to listen to the LORD's words, but they have set their hearts on what they think will benefit them now. They see Ezekiel as entertainment rather than as a watchman warning of the coming disaster. God closes His conversation with Ezekiel promising the disaster will come, and the people will realize Ezekiel was a prophet of God, but it will be too late.
Long-suffering, gracious LORD, we make supplication, prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving for all people. We join You in desiring the salvation of all people. Thank You for patience with us as You lead us to repentance. Holy Spirit, create in us a faithful watchman's heart and mouth, to warn those You placed in our lives of the coming judgment.