Whatever our chosen terminology — awakening, revival, renewal — there is one fact upon which we must all agree: We are calling for the sovereign disposition of a Holy God on our behalf. We are seeking God's intervention in our lives. We are pleading for God to move among us, calling us to righteousness and releasing our nation from the powerful vortex of sin which will sweep us to certain disaster.
But is there a role for us to play in spiritual awakening? Is there some way we can be "better positioned" for such a move of God? Is there a disposition of heart and a fulfilling of responsibility which is consistent with revival? I believe there is.
When God appointed Ezekiel a watchman to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 3:17), He required a specific examination of Israel's rebellion. It is a hard thing to examine our country's ruin. An Oklahoma City woman was recently charged with using her two daughters, ages six and nine, in over thirty counts of child prostitution. A New York mother placed her 4-year-old in a crib and starved her to death because "she didn't like her." When those currently infected with HIV now living on Manhattan Island die, they will leave over 50,000 orphaned children.
To speak prophetically you must take a hard look at what is happening in our nation. The enemy is within rather than without. The inner core of the walls of our great republic are rotting.
Additionally, we who have serious concern for an awakening must exercise our Christian responsibility. Watchmen of Ezekiel's day were given two charges: First, they were to "watch." They were to watch over the city for danger from within. And they were to watch out for the city, searching the horizon for signs of enemy attack.
Second, the watchman was to "warn." This warning was to be immediate (at the first sign of danger), intelligible (a certain sound) and insistent (continuing until it was certain all had heard).
In our "Call To The Cross" convocations held on our seminary campuses the question was often asked: "What has happened on our watch?" That is a legitimate question which should probe the heart of every Southern Baptist.
Finally, the watchman was told to expect a certain reckoning. When the watchman climbed the wall to his post, he certainly would have borne the sentence of death within himself. Regardless of personal danger he was required to stay his position and sound the warning.
God reminded Ezekiel that failure to act responsibly, as a watchman who abandoned his post, perhaps seeking his own safety and comfort, would discover the blood of the slain on his hands. (Ezekiel 3:18-21).
The picture is gruesome indeed. One would imagine that if the enemy discovered such a watchman in hiding, he would be despised even by them. It is said that he was punished by a fate worse than death. Once the citizens of a town were slaughtered, the cowardly, self-serving watchman was required to go from house to house, dragging the slain into the streets and stacking them like cordwood to be burned. What torment of soul! See the watchman, half-crazed, staggering through the streets, hands covered with the blood of those he should have warned.
My prayer for Southern Baptists is that God will find us faithful as watchmen in this hour of our nation's peril. I pray that He would find us "at the cross" daily dying to self, staying our posts, crying out against unrighteousness and calling the lost to a living Savior.
I am not sure of all that God wants of us in this hour. But I am certain He does not want us to abandon our post.
Tom Elliff is pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.