“Would You Rather…?” has become a very popular game in the past few years. One of my favorite “would you rathers” of all time is: would you rather have fingers the size of your legs, or legs the size of your fingers?
The Bible seems to present many different “would you rathers”, such as: would you rather live on the corner of a roof or with a contentious wife?
But mostly the Bible isn’t very good at the game. It asks questions like: would you rather spend eternity in hell or in heaven? With Jesus or the Devil?
When I was 18 I found one of the Bible’s most devastating “would you rathers”.
As I was reading through the Bible I came across a passage in Ezekiel 3:17-21 that completely changed my life. Here God is speaking to the prophet Ezekiel. He has just picked him to be his prophet, and has already told him that he is going to be a messenger to Israel; and now he is going to make him his ambassador.
17 “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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”
I don’t think I slept that night as these words kept going through my mind. What does it mean that “his blood I will require at your hand?” Faces of people I spent hours with flashed before my eyes, as the guilt of not sharing the gospel with them overwhelmed my heart. I couldn’t help but admit that my hands were filled with blood.
God designated his messenger. Notice that Ezekiel’s role was clear: God tells him that he is to be his watchman. He will be the guy who warns the people about impending destruction. God hand-picked Ezekiel and chose him to be the one who would deliver the news. The watchman’s role was simple – he had to have his eyes open at all times, and from the tower he was to watch for the enemy and sound the alarm. He couldn’t take a break; he couldn’t sit out a play; he couldn’t fall asleep; he had to stay alert at all times because his life depended on him, his family depended on him, and ultimately the whole country depended on him.
God determined his message. The problem in this case is that the one who is coming to destroy isn’t some immoral enemy, but rather God himself. And God has a specific message he wants Ezekiel to convey to the people of Israel: “If I say to the wicked you shall surely die…”. Ezekiel’s task was to deliver God’s message in its entirety; not to sugarcoat it or to leave anything out.
God declared His mission. Ezekiel’s mission was to be faithful. Faithfulness wasn’t determined by how many people he convinced or by how many people he offended. Results had nothing to do with it. In fact, believe it or not God had already told something to Ezekiel that was mind-boggling. In Ezekiel 3:7 God warned Ezekiel that Israel will not listen to him and that his “evangelism” would bear no fruit! And yet he was still called to this task. He simply had to be faithful to deliver the truth to those God called him to share the truth with. And notice that whether or not he shared didn’t make the people more or less worthy of death. Their sin was the same before God, and either way they would suffer for their sin; the only difference was with Ezekiel, and whether his hands would be filled with blood or not.
The same is true for us.
In a moment of righteous indignation Paul says in Acts 18:6: “And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
Later in Acts 20:26-27, Paul says, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
The passage that he is quoting in these two instances is Ezekiel 3:17-21.
The day that I read through that passage for the first time I realized that I too had been chosen by God. I didn’t know if it meant that I would be a pastor or an evangelist, but what I did know was that at the moment of salvation God had chosen me to be His messenger. He made me a citizen of Heaven but for a time he tasked me with being an ambassador on Earth. He sovereignly gave me a circle of people he placed me in and tasked me with sharing the gospel with those people. And he has done the same thing with every believer, including you.
He doesn’t want us to change the message; he has given us the message already. He doesn’t need our help in making it more palatable for people. He definitely doesn’t need us to come up with creative ways to say things. He simply wants us to share the message He’s given us, and ultimately our mission is to be faithful. When the opportunity presents itself to share the gospel, may we open our mouths and warn people about the destruction that is coming at any moment. Their sin is going to send them to hell for eternity, and the God of the universe who created them is angry with sin and will punish any unrepentant human being.
On the other hand, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7 and says in Romans 10:15 “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
The contrast is staggering: on one hand the unfaithful ambassador who doesn’t share the truth fills his hands with blood as person after person he had a chance to share truth with but didn’t dies in their sin. On the other hand is the faithful preacher who shares the truth and has beautiful feet as he brings the most incredible news ever told to dying men and women all around them.
The task is simple – we are called to be faithful. We are called to trust our Creator with the message He has given us and to warn those around us about the wrath of God. We must lovingly warn them and share with them about the patient, merciful and loving God who has sent us to share the good news of salvation with them. As we are faithful, the Lord will be pleased with us as his messengers. The sad truth is that many of us walk around with blood-filled hands and seem to not care one bit about it. It’s time for us to change, to repent and to be the ones who have beautiful feet. I believe God forgave me for my apathy over the first 18 years of my life, and can and will forgive any Christian who wants to repent and be used by him.
So let me ask you: would you rather have blood-filled hands, or beautiful feet?