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. Ezekiel 3:17
I never read obituary notices in the newspaper. That may seem odd. Especially as pastors have the responsibility of caring for the bereaved and conducting funerals for the departed. But the truth of the matter is, I’m more concerned with reaching the living than despatching the dead. That’s not to say I have no compassion for people who’ve lost a loved one. Far from it. It’s just that my energies are directed to matters of life not death.
That’s how God’s wired me. He’s called me to the prophetic task of warning the wicked to turn from sin and save their lives. I can’t do anything else. I’m conscripted, compelled, and constrained. For I know God will hold me accountable for the blood of the not yet believers if I haven’t used my life to make every effort to dissuade sinners from their evil ways. Which is why I’ve got no time to read the obituaries. I’ve only got one life to live and I’m trying to use every minute of it to reach sinners before they die. But then, I’ve heard “the cry of the blood.”
That’s the reality of my life. I live in the shadow of Ezekiel 3:17-19 which says, “So hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.”
I’m not alone. Others have heard “the cry of the blood.” Consider Amy Carmichael’s Things As They Are:
The tom-toms thumped on all night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, and it seemed like this:
That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked but saw no bottom: only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
Then I saw forms of people moving single-file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding onto her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step … it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!
Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly and fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could not call. Though I strained and tried, only a whisper would escape my lips.
Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were far too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of Hell.
Then I saw, like the picture of peace, a group of people under some trees, with their backs turned toward the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them it disturbed them and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. “Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite ‘call’ to go. You haven’t finished your daisy chains. “It would be really selfish,” they said, “to leave us to finish the work alone.”
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get some sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles at the edge.
Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the ‘rules’. And, being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.
Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf: the child clung convulsively, and it called but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which her relatives reproved her, reminding her that no one is that necessary. Anyway the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And they sang a hymn.
Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was – the cry of the blood.
Then thundered a Voice, the voice of the Lord; and He said. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then said I; “Send me.” And He said, “Go and tell this people … Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation … and I will be with you always.” (Isaiah 6:8; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:20).