In this world under the curse of sin with predators of all sorts on the prowl for prey to devour, animals must be on the alert for danger at all times in order to survive. Even bird populations must watch out for lurking hazards and airborne attacks. One means of protection employed by many birds that stay in groups, such as geese and crows, is the practice of appointing a sentinel—a dedicated “watchman on the wall,” so to speak of which we read in the Old Testament. A “watchman” would be placed on the city wall or tower to watch for and warn of impending danger from an enemy (II Sam. 18:24-27).
In the animal kingdom, one bird is assigned the role of sentinel to warn or alarm the rest of the flock that is foraging or otherwise occupied. In some groups, sentinel duty is rotated, while in other groups, the responsibility is a division-of-labor assignment. In any case, it is the job of the sentinel to watch for danger and to give alarm signals of approaching predators. While their job is protecting the group, they are putting themselves at greater risk, which is something evolutionists, with their “survival of the fittest” can’t quite comprehend. Such behavior doesn’t fit their thinking. I’m sure you have observed that when a flock of geese is grazing on the green grass on a golf course or next to the freeway, at least one of the geese—a sentinel— has its head up watching for danger as the others feed. Crows also appoint one or two sentinels to remain alert, watching out for the rest who are feeding nearby. At the first notice of an intruder, they are to immediately sound the alarm to warn the flock to flee. They are to take their job very seriously, for the wellbeing of the flock depends upon them. In fact, if they should become careless and not sound the alarm, the rest of the flock may viciously attack the unreliable sentries and tear them to shreds in a brief, but brutal battle. Justice is delivered swiftly for their failure to watch and warn. The flock could not afford to tolerate such irresponsibility, and to ensure that the sentries would never again be in a position to jeopardize the flock’s safety, the unreliable sentinels will be swiftly eliminated. The job of sentinels or “watchmen on the wall” is a very crucial one for the wellbeing of the others, as demonstrated by the crows. The sentinels are also more vulnerable themselves from predator attack as they are further from cover than the foraging flock and more exposed to the enemy. They must stay on the alert at all times, and be quick to give the alarm to avoid any approaching disaster. Sometimes the messenger of bad news pays a price for delivering an unwelcome message, but it’s better to sound the alarm—hopefully early enough to prevent harm—than to delay a warning that leads to damage-control problems that grow costlier with time. Jeremiah was appointed by God to warn Judah of coming judgment if they didn’t repent. The people didn’t want to hear it and took out their anger on the “watchman.” Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed coming judgment for 40 years, all the while enduring opposition, beatings and imprisonment (Jer. 11:18-23; 12:6; 18:18; 20:1-3; 26:1-24; 37:11-38:28). Ezekiel was also appointed by God as a “watchman for the house of Israel” (Ezek. 3:17; 33:7). God told him that if he did his job and warned the people and they didn’t listen, then their blood would be on their own heads (vv. 4,5). But God also added, “If you do not speak to warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand” (v. 8). Jesus, during His earthly ministry, often warned of coming judgment if people did not repent. (e.g., Lk. 13:3). He warned of wolves (false teachers) who would come in sheep’s clothing (Mt. 7:15). The Apostle Paul frequently sounded the alarm concerning false teachings and teachers who were introducing heresy into the church. He warned of Judaizers who were trying to place people back under a legalistic system of works. He said to the churches of Galatia, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ…let them be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9). To the church at Philippi, he wrote concerning the Judaizers, “Beware of the dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the false circumcision” (Phil. 2:2 cf Col. 2:11). Paul wasn’t bashful either about naming names of those for whom they needed to watch out. To Timothy he mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander who had “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (I Tim. 1:20). To the church at Philippi he asked them help Euodia and Syntyche to learn to get along, lest they cause division in the assembly (Phil. 4:1-3). Paul warned that “in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these” (II Tim. 3:1-5). The Apostle also warned that “…in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods. which God has created to be gratefully shared by those who believe and know the truth” (I Tim. 4:1-3). As followers of Jesus Christ it is our assigned responsibility to be “sentinels,” “watchmen on the wall,” to sound out warnings to those without Christ to turn to Him for salvation before judgment comes, and to challenge other believers to beware of false teachers who come disguised as sheep, to beware of those who distort the gospel of Christ. As sentinels, we are, as the Apostle Peter exhorts, to “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert, Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in the faith…” (I Pet. 5,8,9). It costs to be watchmen. Not everyone wants to be warned! But it costs much more if we are unfaithful to our calling as “watchmen on the wall,” for then we are accountable for not sounding the alarm to those around. God, help us to be faithful “sentinels” for You, encouraging others to put their trust in Christ before judgment comes upon them.