“As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me.” Ezekiel 33:7
Around midnight on October 15, 1854 the students of Howard College, now Samford University, lay in their beds asleep. No one knows how the fire started but in a matter of minutes the only dorm on campus was engulfed in flames. The first person to notice was a 23 year old slave named Harry. He was employed by the college as a janitor and had a meager room in the 4 story dorm. Without regard for his own safety he rushed upstairs to awaken the sleeping students. As he raced toward the rooms someone grabbed him and told him to leave or he would be overtaken by the flames to which Harry responded, “not before I wake the boys.” He roused the boys to escape the fire and Howard College lost no students to the flames on that night. Everyone made it out except the one who refused to leave until everyone was saved. Harry died a hero and if you are ever in Marion, Alabama you will find the monument dedicated to his memory. He will always be remembered for his statement, “not before I wake the boys.” At the time of the fire, Howard College was vulnerable. It had an enrollment of 30 students, few cash assets and only a small endowment. If the students would have been killed that night, the college likely would not have survived. Today, Samford University enjoys an enrollment of just under 6,000 students and is flourishing in academic advancement, yet it could have closed its doors forever had it not been for the courage of a man named Harry. We don’t know much about the 23 year old slave, we only know his first name. However, much of what Samford is today we owe to the courage of this young man.
In Ezekiel 33, God spoke clearly to the prophet making his role crystal clear. He was to be the watchman on the wall for Israel. In those days the cities were enclosed behind walls of protection, however many agrarian families lived beyond the walls of safety. The watchman’s role was critical. When danger approached he would blow the horn to alert the residents and those living outside the walls of the impending threat. Once the people heard the horn, they knew it was time to get inside the walls of safety. The job of the watchman was of critical importance. Much like the town watchman, Ezekiel’s prophetic role was to call the people into the will of God by alerting them of the coming judgment. His prophecies, if heeded, would keep Israel from impending danger.
As believers in Jesus Christ we have the call of Ezekiel on our lives. We are watchmen on the wall for a lost and dying world. The church must sound the alarm to alert the world of the dangers of living outside the walls of grace. We know of the enemy and his brutality. We know he is defeated, yet he is roaming the world today seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8). We also know of the destination of those who die outside the walls of God’s grace found only in Jesus Christ. So grab the gospel horn and rouse the lost before it’s too late.
The great Charles Spurgeon said, “If sinners be damned at least let them leap to hell over our bodies.” One person dies every 11 seconds in North America, and 3 out of 4 of them die without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Where is the watchman? Did anyone ever blow the trumpet for them?
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14.
God would say to Ezekiel, “if you do not speak to warn him of his way, that wicked person will die in his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood.” Ezekiel 33:8. There are too many Christians today with bloody hands. How many have died apart from Christ because we neglected to grab our horns to warn the wicked? Imagine if Harry would have ran out of the burning building and escaped without awakening the sleeping students. He would have survived, but would have lived with extreme regret for the rest of his life. I don’t want to live with regret for the people God has placed in my path that have died without Christ simply because I didn’t “wake the boys.”
Why did Harry respond the way he did? Why did he choose selflessness instead of leaving the students in peril? We will never know, but we can assume that his strong inner compulsion was to awaken the sleeping as to escape the flames. Like Harry, we are called to “wake the boys”, to lead as many people to the safety of Christ and in so doing they will escape the flames. May it be said of us that we roused as many people as possible to the safety of grace before their eternal separation. It is time for Christians to dust off their horns! The Lord gives us but a few days on this earth to make an eternal difference. How many people will I rouse and awaken today to the reality of eternal life? I want to be like Harry, you should too.
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