The Word of the Watchman
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul (Ezekiel 3:17-19).
The prophets of Israel were called to bear the word to Israel. Usually it was a call to repentance. It could be a word of coming judgment, or it could be a word of tenderness, seeking to woo Israel to return. In either case, the call of the prophet was to bear the word of the Lord to Israel, to call God’s people back to Himself. And, as is clear from today’s passage from Ezekiel, this was not optional. The Lord required the prophet to speak, even when he would rather not. Which was often.
To put it in the language of our day, the role of the prophet is to speak the word of the Lord to the church. Not to the world, at least primarily, but to the church. When the church is right, the world sees her testimony, for she makes the Gospel plain in her words and her deeds. The prophet is called to the church. And, again, this is not optional.
Abortion is a matter that much of the church would prefer to forget. It is grisly and ugly, and the word condemning it brings on the wrath of the world in an unusually powerful manner. Thus there is a tendency in our churches, and particularly for pastors, to sideline abortion, particularly in our speech. Sometimes the motives are understandable—we don’t want to put a stumbling block in the way of someone who needs to know Christ, and abortion is a lightning rod that may drive people away. Sometimes we would just rather not stir the pot, and thereby save ourselves from dealing with the anger and resentment and confusion that result when abortion is addressed plainly.
The Lord’s word concerning abortion is not just a word of judgment. It is a word of forgiveness and new life; it is a word of grace and peace to the weary and heavy laden. And it is a word actively lived, seeking to bless those in need and to serve those who are wounded, even when those wounds are self-inflicted. But it is also a word of judgment. Abortion leads to death, and the call of the prophet is to make that plain. The Lord abhors the shedding of innocent blood, and will not turn a blind eye to those who shed it—whether that be a person or a nation. As those given to speak the word of the Lord, it is not our prerogative to decide what we will speak and what we will not.