Teaching Acts in Prison: Part 10, Watchmen

I ended my series on Acts out at the prison by jumping to the prophet Ezekiel. That might not be "proper" in the eyes of scholars, to jump out of one book to another to make a point, but hey, it's my study and I can do what I want to.

So the call of Acts is to join in the great campaign of sabotage, to join in the resistance movement reclaiming contested space in the world in the name of King Jesus.

And yet, as you'd guess from my last post, this can be hard and lonely work in the prison. Where to find encouragement and comfort when you stand alone on the battlefield?

I had the class turn to Ezekiel.

In the first chapters of Ezekiel the prophet gets his call. And it's going to be hard and lonely work:
Ezekiel 2.1-8
He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.

He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
If anyone knows what it's like to live among thorns and scorpions, it's the men in prison. This passage in Ezekiel is one of the best descriptions of "contested space" in the Bible.

Now, when you're preaching to thorns and scorpions that's a tough gig. The men in the prison live this reality. But the call to Ezekiel continues:
Ezekiel 3.16-21
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.

“Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”
Living as he is among thorns and scorpions, the prophet isn't going to very successful. But the prophet does have to be a watchman. It's lonely work, standing watch on the wall in the middle of the night, but that is the call. The metric of success is faithfulness and speaking the truth. You speak the truth to the wicked and to the righteousness, and that's the only thing you can control. You do your job, and then their fate is in their hands. As a watchman, you've done your duty.

That message buoys the men in prison. The faithful don't see a lot of success around them. Theirs is lonely work.

The faithful followers of Jesus in prison are mainly watchmen, called to faithfulness and speaking the truth in their very dark world.

Keep them in your prayers.

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