Alarms come in lots of different forms. Sometimes they are simple, multipurpose instruments, like bells, whistles, lights, or flags that have been adapted for use as a warning that danger is imminent. Other times they are more complex devices whose only purpose is to arrest attention and warn those who may be at risk. Our household fire alarms are a familiar example of the second category.
Smoke detectors had an interesting beginning. They originated from the work of a would-be inventor named Walter Jaeger in the late 1930s. The interesting thing is that he did not set out to develop a fire alarm. His intention was to create a detector for poison gas. What he discovered was that the principle he was basing his invention on was flawed. He had hypothesized that his sensor mechanism would detect the ionized air in the gas and trigger a fluctuation in the electric current running through his detector. The problem was that it didn’t work. The poison gas had no effect at all on his sensor. Confronted with the realization of his failure, he sat back and lit a cigarette to ponder the situation. When the smoke from his cigarette contacted the sensor, he noticed that there was a change in the electrical current. Thus, what would become the ubiquitous smoke detector was born. Now, 93% of the homes in America have one or more of these units installed, and they have saved multitudes of lives since they were introduced. Unfortunately, they are impotent and worthless if their message is ignored, or not delivered at all.
A Tragic Story ~
A news story some time ago served as a painful illustration of that reality. A parent and three children were killed in a fire. That would be tragic on any basis, but the part of this report that made it even more troubling was the revelation that there were fire alarms in the house. For some reason they apparently failed and their message was never heard. Had the smoke detectors done what they were designed and installed to do, it is very likely that those people would be alive today.
Fire isn’t the only threat we face, and alarms don’t always take the form of complex electronic noise makers. Unusual changes in circumstances, for instance, or alterations in the normal flow of things can warn us that a crisis event is emerging. The atmosphere around us can herald the approach of a potentially destructive storm, and physiological changes can signal an urgent need to seek medical help. Whatever form they take, alarms are not intended to be taken lightly. A screaming smoke detector isn’t telling us that fire would make an interesting topic for discussion at the next group meeting. It’s a call to action.
Alarms Can Be Different ~
God is the original developer of alarm systems. From the beginning, He has been designing and implementing mechanisms to warn His people and protect them from danger. Prophets and other emissaries were often sent when His laws were being ignored and rebellious transgressions were about to trigger divine judgment with disastrous consequences. Sometimes His alarms took the form of economic disasters like droughts and famines. Other times He allowed His people to begin to experience the disastrous moral, ethical, and social impact of denying Him and serving false gods. In extreme cases, God allowed outside adversaries to invade the land, strip the nation of its wealth, decimate its armies, and subjugate its people. He used the loss of freedom and personal autonomy to serve as a warning for generations to come of the awful consequences of mocking His principles.
A Basic Intention ~
Whatever form alarms take, their basic intention remains unchanged. They are calls to action, and there are serious responsibilities transmitted to those who hear or see them. It is the height of destructive negligence for those who hear an alarm and choose to ignore it. Apathy and indifference in times of crisis is inexcusable when potential disaster is imminent. Inactivity by those who see it coming places them as much at fault as the source of the impending threat. God made that crystal clear through the prophet, Ezekiel:
Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’ ” Ezekiel 33:1-6 (NKJV)
Watchmen have tremendous responsibilities, but they also have incredible opportunities. They can single handedly deliver their people from impending disaster. They can avert unnecessary death and destruction and deliver their people from untold misery. The followers of Jesus are God’s watchmen. Alarming signs have been visible for several generations now, but the current situation makes them exponentially more evident.
An Alarm Is Sounding ~
The circumstances confronting us today make it clear that if action isn’t taken, especially by God’s people, the result will be catastrophic. The potential consequences we’re facing challenge the basic principles that have guided us since the beginning. These historic days are not just a subject for discussion in our group meetings. They represent an alarm going off, and a call to get personally involved. Both the responsibilities and the opportunities are before us, and if we fail on either hand, the blame for whatever disastrous results unfold will be ours. So when the cultural alarm is screaming in our ears, what kinds of action can we take?
We can recognize the heavy weight that knowledge brings with it and pray with a sense of desperation. We can clear out the clutter and free ourselves to work by confessing and repenting of our own sins. We can admit that our spiritual negligence has contributed to the evils threatening all of us and beg God for mercy and forgiveness.
We can commit to using all of our influence and every means at our disposal to persuade others to act as well. It’s clear that changes with frightening implications could be unleashed on all of us if we remain apathetic and uninvolved, but the message that Jesus sent us to deliver is one filled with optimism and hope. We can refuse to let the noise of potential calamity obscure the incredible promise of deliverance that God offers to those who trust Him.
We can see ourselves like God sees us, as His chosen emissaries to awaken our neighbors and friends and show them the way to avoid imminent, but unnecessary, pain and loss. We may not normally think of ourselves as God’s means to save an entire nation, but that’s precisely what we are.
May God help us to be the kind of watchmen who act and who seize the opportunities that this alarming situation brings with it.
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“God used the loss of freedom and personal autonomy to serve as a warning for generations to come of the awful consequences of mocking His principles (Ezekiel 33:1-6).” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“It is the height of destructive negligence for those who hear an alarm and choose to ignore it. Apathy and indifference in times of crisis is inexcusable when potential disaster is imminent.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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“Changes with frightening implications could be unleashed on all of us if we remain apathetic and uninvolved, but the message that Jesus sent us to deliver is one filled with optimism and hope.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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