A long, dark tunnel of work stretched out with no end in view. A tunnel with a rough floor, twists and turns in the dark, protruding rocks for walls, can be a dismal place indeed—and the decision to keep on seems impossible at times, although to turn back is a waste and may turn out to be disastrous.

My husband Fran stood over his two tables, placed together to make a large working space. Spread out before him were sheets, manuscript copies of his original, that had on their wide margins handwritten additions and suggestions made by a number of researchers. Instead of reading down one page, he had to deal with several manuscript pages for each page—ideas had to be considered as the handwriting was deciphered, and decisions made. Would the work ever come to an end? Was it right to start it in the first place? What did he have to put aside to do this? Had he correctly understood the Lord’s leading? Should he continue in this tunnel of work, writing a book and narrating a documentary film on the rise and decline of Western thought and culture so that people could have a Christian alternative to the humanistic documentaries put out on history, philosophy, science, art, music, law, government, and theology? (He tells about this project in the interview elsewhere in this issue.) Or was it all too much? The prayer was. “Show us, Lord; make it clear to us.”

Before breakfast one morning, with the table full of work waiting silently, Fran was reading his Bible and I was reading mine. Suddenly he said, “Listen, Edith, I’ve just come to Ezekiel 33,” and he read the chapter to me. “It seems clear that the Lord is speaking to me. There is no turning back.”

We discussed it. We have read this chapter frequently since then. Each time I read it, it seems to speak with fresh strength in our own moment of history. The marvel of God’s Word is that it was written by God, through men whom he chose and inspired, to apply to all moments of history in a way that no work of man’s limited wisdom could do.

“Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying.…” Verse one makes vivid the fact that God is speaking to Ezekiel, and in verse two, “Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them …,” God is telling Ezekiel to verbalize a message clearly so that people can hear and understand something that is to make a difference to their future.

What Ezekiel is to say is that when God brings a sword upon the land, or judgment, there is to be a watchman who will stand upon the wall and warn the people in time to do something about the enemy, or the coming judgment. That watchman is to blow a trumpet to warn the people in time. In fact, the chapter goes on to make it clear that if the person hearing the trumpet is warned, he will be safe; if not, then he will die. However, if the watchman does not blow the trumpet, the blood of the unwarned people is upon his hand.

Article continues below

The compassionate God of the Old Testament is seen here. This is a chapter speaking of judgment, yet it commands a careful preparation for warning the people in time. A strong responsibility is placed upon those who are to be watchmen: “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die, if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”

“Oh, it doesn’t really matter much,” someone may say. “We’ll all be happy in heaven.” But God does not speak to us without meaning. We may not understand the total meaning of his warnings, but we know they mean something. There is meaning in the statement, “I will require his blood at thine hand,” and the opposite, “But thou hast delivered thy soul.”

That meaning is the background of the following verse: “Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel: Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” The question today is: “If humanism has been a failure, if there is no satisfying answer to life that starts with man, and leaves God out of it all, if the concept of an impersonal universe has brought forth the chaotic situation that surrounds us, how should we then live? What is the answer to life?” The question needs to be placed in men’s and women’s minds to shake them, to make them think. We have a responsibility to do something that people will hear, as they would hear a trumpet blast.

The title of my husband’s book and film was chosen from this verse: “How Should We Then Live?” As he moves through Western history and culture from the time of the Romans until now, it becomes clear that humanism has failed to produce utopia. We pray that every unbeliever who sees this film or reads the book may ask in some way, “How should we then live?”

God’s answer in Ezekiel is one of tenderness and compassion: “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (v. 11). The trumpet sound, the call to stop and consider the judgment to come, was a call to “turn to God.”

Article continues below

Come to the last few verses of Ezekiel 33: “Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that Cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.”

We are strongly told here that covetousness is a barrier, a stopping place, between hearing and doing the Word of God. The Word of God is not to be heard as lovely music and then forgotten. Covetousness of money, material things, time, honor, acceptance, success, a variety of crass or subtle things, can be a sudden wall that stops us from being the kind of people God means us to be, for our own sakes, for his glory, and for the sake of the lost people around us. The question needs to be asked by those of us who are Christians, too: “In the light of all this, how should we then live?”

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.